Listening to Dark Matter

In the exhibition Listening to Dark Matter, artist investigator, Rebecca Collins (1982), invites engagement with scientific uncertainty by staging a series of imaginative encounters with dark matter, an invisible yet abundant particle present in our everyday lives.

Notoriously difficult to detect, scientists use technologically engineered advanced conditions to filter interference from light and other particles. Cosmic silence is achieved at Canfranc Underground Laboratory, situated 800m below the Pyrenees, to isolate dark matter from cosmic radiation. Acoustic detectors, at depth, within the Mediterranean Sea listen to collisions between ultra-high-energy particles.

Field visits to aforementioned laboratories inform the content of the exhibition and Collins’ wider investigation ‘Parametres for Understanding Uncertainty’.Sonic-inflected clues inspire the medium in which the exhibition’s work is created. Sound art, with its proclivity for the imagination, can assist in extending engagement with elusive nondescript energies, the nonhuman, and the unknown. In dialogue with host physicist, David Cerdeño and his Dark Matter Research Group at the Institute for Theoretical Physics, Collins became interested in how dark matter, an ongoing enigma for new physics, is readily available all around us. Whilst we are unable to directly detect, or feel these invisible energetic particles, the presence of dark matter, using artistic means, can be rendered more resonant. Listening to Dark Matter invites us to resist making sense of science, for science already has a plethora of excellent sense-makers, and incites sensorial engagement.

A central tenet of ‘Listening to Dark Matter’ is to think through how sound operates in the depths of its presentation, rather than as surface representation. The lived and situated experience connected to the processes of sonic-driven scientific experiments remains undocumented in contemporary accounts. To address this in Listening to Dark Matter Collins builds on eco-feminist Donna Haraway’s concept of ‘situated knowledges’ (1988, 581) by privileging reflexive engagement thereby attuning to acts of scientific experiments as experience. Lend an ear, listen in, and make any other necessary corporeal adjustments to ready yourself for the detection of dark matter. Suspend certainty, engage in the experiential, or at the very least be present to witness the slow arrival of the elusive.