On listening in to the scientific mundane: Parameters for understanding uncertainty and political indeterminacy

Rebecca Collins*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Scientific discovery often makes for a spectacular image or news story, as recent photographs of Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole at the centre of our own Milky Way, evidence. However, the everyday processes of scientific research with their bureaucratic nuances, unsolvable conundrums, coffee breaks, reporting, meetings and seemingly inconsequential details are often undocumented. Since January 2022 Rebecca Collins has been artist-in-residence in B14, an office at the Institute for Theoretical Particle Physics at the Autonomous University in Madrid. Over the past twelve months she has attended to the everyday rhythms, atmospheres and affects circulating amongst those who are trying to understand what took place in the first three minutes of our Universe. Anecdotes and autoethnographic writing from the situated and subjective experience of the author aims to understand how institutions and individuals dedicated to the investigation of new physics enable the extraordinary and the utterly mundane to coexist.

In Spain, international teams of physicists use specifically designed technological apparatus and laboratories to look for dark matter, an abundant yet elusive undetected particle present in our everyday lives. Field notes from visits to the Canfranc Underground Laboratory, situated below the Pyrenees mountains and the Laboratory of Acoustics for the Detection of Astroparticles, positioned 2.5 kilometres below the surface of the Mediterranean sea serve to further reflect on the process-driven efforts of research into new physics. Findings from a seminar for artists aimed at attuning to the scientific mundane, via somatic practices and deep listening exercises, further complement critical reflections. Ultimately, the article aims to consider how interdisciplinary encounters, anecdotes, conversations and site-based accounts constitute a practice-based research methodology that strives for collective practices of uncertainty and a politics of indeterminacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-138
Number of pages9
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • art-science
  • mundane
  • performance
  • planetary studies
  • listening
  • dark matter
  • physics
  • creative/critical


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