June 2, 2017 - Berliner Festspiele - Berliner Festspiele
June 2, 2017

Berliner Festspiele

Evelina Domnitch & Dmitry Gelfand, Orbihedron, 2017.

Berliner Festspiele
Immersion Programme 2017
July 1–31, 2017


Artists: Ed Atkins, Mona el Gammal, Lundahl & Seitl, Rimini Protokoll, Chris Salter & TeZ, Vegard Vinge / Ida Müller, Jonathan Meese / Bernhard Lang / Simone Young

Limits of Knowing – Arrival of Time
With Rana X. Adhikari, Evelina Domnitch & Dmitry Gelfand, William Basinski and Rainer Kohlberger

What does an ant understand of quantum physics, the curvature of space time near stars, or the expansion of the universe from a singular explosion? Certainly nothing. It is simply not concerned with things outside of its range of perceptions, and rightly so. We may further enquire about ants imprisoned in two-dimensional ant “farms” for the amusement of children. Not only are their movements restricted to left/right and forward/back movements, but those dimensions are quite small compared to their natural size. For ants born into such a restricted expanse, we can wonder how they imagine the universe.

Certainly it may seem comical to consider this situation. But why shouldn’t we imagine that we are in our own ant farm, and that we have already revealed all the deep truths about nature? Astronomical observations over the past 50 years have shown that over 90% of the contents of the universe remain invisible to us. Our intuition tells us that space is empty and that we move through it without resistance. By definition, there is nothing in empty space. Or so it once seemed.

Just as time can slow down on the surface of a heavy star, it can also come to a complete standstill. If enough mass is added, time freezes and not even light can escape the gravity of the star. This ultimate curvature of spacetime is called a black hole.

After some decades of building increasingly sensitive instruments, a project in the US called LIGO was able to detect the gravitational effects of two black holes colliding from one billion years ago. These waves of gravity, fluctuations in empty space, distorted space and time within our instruments. It arrived in the form of a beautifully musical vibration with an upturning lilt, as if the warped spacetime from the past was sending a question out into the greater universe.

Until that moment in September of 2015, the inhabitants of planet Earth had no way of communicating through spacetime or sensing the gravitational cacophony that fills the emptiness between the stars. But what does it really mean to say that spacetime fluctuates? Is it just some mathematical effect? The curvature of spacetime is just that: an imaginary grid of lines that fills space is being distorted. The length of time it takes to travel from one grid point to another has changed.

We are now living in the most exciting time in all of human history. Our understanding of reality and our access to exquisitely sensitive measurement techniques has brought up the question, “What are the molecules of space and time?” We are now able to formulate the questions, and our imaginations are free to spread in all dimensions.

One can only imagine the transcendent joy felt by the ants when they find the first cracks in their glass menagerie.

Excerpt from “Incipient Cracks in the Glass Menagerie. What gravitational waves do to our consciousness” by Rana X. Adhikari, Professor of Experimental Physics, LIGO Caltech


The text appears in a catalogue on the occasion of the interdisciplinary programme “Limits of Knowing” by Berliner Festspiele / Immersion. From July 1 to 31, 2017 artists and scientists will be exploring multisensory approaches in artistic positions and talks at the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin. The exhibition Arrival of Time was curated by Isabel de Sena in collaboration with Rana X. Adhikari.

Further information:
Giannina Lisitano
T +49 (0) 30 +49 30 254 89 701 / presse [​at​] berlinerfestspiele.de

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