Pamela Breda presents an extensive new online exhibition Orders of Signification developed as a part of larger research project The Quintessence and her PhD in Visual Arts at Kingston University. The Quintessence is an artistic research project exploring the visual imaginary of outer space and the construction of contemporary astrophysical knowledge from sky observation in order to discover how images of space tell a story. Developed over a time span of three years, the research lead to the development of artworks in multimedia forms, namely experimental films, photographs, site-specific installations, audio recordings and an artist’s book.
Moving forward from the traditional representation of the scientific world as a fixed domain of knowledge, the project presents the domain of astrophysics as an evolving system, which evades the fixity of truth-encompassing statements. Through crossovers and original methodologies of enquiry, visual representations of the universe are approached as complex narratives constructed through the combined agency of technological apparatus and human intervention.
Archival research on visual representations of outer space provides a contextual frame of reference, complemented by a series of theoretical discussions pinpointing the research. Audio-visual documentation generates a sensorial representation of highly secluded scientific laboratories usually not accessible to the general public, thus providing a first-hand impression that would not otherwise be accessible. A series of audio interviews conducted with scientists provides an intimate portrait of astrophysicists’ unique background knowledge, ideas and creative intuitions.
The research tests how and to what effect artistic practice can generate new and original insights on the modalities through which astrophysics represents and narrates itself. The related artworks act as a series of experiments looking at subjects (outer space visual representations, research labs), agents (scientists, technological apparatus) and contexts (theoretical frameworks of reference) and demonstrate the tension between the visible and the invisible shaping the present development of cognitive-visual knowledge about outer space.