The Death of Science

We have here an impressive piece of kit; an elaborate array of sensors, configured to detect minute quantities of organic materials. By using the interchangeable monitor units (expertly calibrated by our space-age technicians) you can adapt the machine to identify Semtex, nitroglycerine or other common explosive materials.

The instrument can also be configured to locate projectiles such as rubber bullets, uranium warhead units, or even golf balls.

The death of science: four convex walls to represent the huge reactor vessels painted with a grey micaceous iron oxide finish. Beneath the paint lie hidden dozens of pages from the Aldrich catalogue of chemicals, all the technology that was promised but never used.

Dark grey pipes hang in the sky, leading to the ruined warehouse.

You can’t see them in the original photograph, but in front of the wall the disused railway tracks lie in the ground. These would carry vast lumps of machinery and tanks of resin across the frantic hive of Trafford Park, ready to become engines. The steel from which these tracks are made is hard and corrosion-resistant, designed to last but difficult to fabricate.

In Manchester we have several University-based research departments working on diverse projects: aerospace, materials design, biotechnology and graphene nanomaterials. These different areas of work often produce visually compelling images, such as ornate structures of lab glassware, immense test rigs, or electron microscope pictures.

It might be useful to routinely give part of an art gallery (such as HOME) over to a display of scientific research. Each project would show the test procedures being carried out, and the results obtained, and a discussion of the relevance to everyday life.

This kind of exposure would raise awareness of the research projects underway and reassure the public that ‘scientists’ are actually normal people engaged in useful work. And that many aspects of research work are aesthetically fulfilling…

Do members of the ‘scientific community’ ever need to seek inspiration? If you are carrying out research into rhenium-paracetamol complex formation, then you will carefully scan through every publication featuring either of these two substances.

This will carry you along the same pathways as all the other chemists in this field.

However, to achieve a real breakthrough, one should consider exploring different areas of work. And having the senses assaulted by hundreds of diverse and dramatic works of art may stimulate some unexpected and original trains of thought.

Manchester Open Exhibition, HOME Gallery, 18 Jan 2020 – 29 Mar 2020.

A remarkable collection of works – photographs, drawings, landscapes, portraits, naturalist and abstract, sculptures and textiles. Curated by Bren O’Callaghan, this exhibition is a wild festival of ideas produced by local artists from the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester.

It would be interesting to find out what lines of discussion could be generated if a group of technical specialists came to a show like this and then tried to apply artistic ideas to their work.

The work which appealed to me most in the exhibition was the picture by Ged King showing the Derelict Police Headquarters at Bury.

230 derelict police

The station functions like a department store
With menswear situated on the ground, and
Soft furnishings relaxing on floor three. On
Five is where the truncheons live, just

Waiting to deliver justice. But high up there on storey eight
Is where we find the Emperor, who makes the rules
That people must obey but never be
Allowed to read.

A concrete bookshelf eight floors high;
Who knows what tales of brutal disappointment
Were hard to tell or hard to tell apart
Behind the ribbed-glass windows of this place?

A deck of cold grey slabs
Can just about support the memories
That occupy the pushchair girl. Around the corner
Just out of sight, a young man shuffles his feet

Waiting for her to arrive.
Viewing this construction I can’t quite tell
If it depicts an office being built, or
A ruined building being taken down.