The scientific search for understanding the unknown is pushing at the fabric of our known existence and stretching the boundaries of our comprehension. New discoveries by particle physicists for example, have led many to believe there are indeed other dimensions that differ from the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension of time we are familiar with. Superstring theory has proposed that not only is our world made up of eleven dimensions, but that all matter is actually the result of the vibrations of ultra-microscopically tiny strings – infinitesimally small loops of energy. These new developments are questioning the foundations of our known physical reality and as they are becoming more amorphous, the human mind is forced to attempt new levels of comprehension.
As more and more of the unknown becomes known, horizons of human comprehension are eclipsed and new vistas of curiosity are created. Though now eclipsed and considered a superseded scientific theory, the aether was believed to be a medium that filled all of the regions of space. The concept of the aether was born out of the belief that nothing can affect anything else unless through contact. The nothingness that was thought to be space must therefore be something, and this something must be a substance that fills all of space and acts as a medium through which the effects of one celestial body can be transmitted to another body. Through various methods, the effort to quantify and define concepts not understood has always been a central function of the human mind.
More recently, wonderment of the unknown has led the collective capacity of many scientists to look to the infinitely small and the infinitely large in search of a unifying truth – an underlying definition of all matter. While particle accelerators are smashing ultramicroscopic particles together at conditions reminiscent of the Big Bang, the collection and processing of increasingly enormous amounts of information has required the use of increasingly complex systems to bridge the gap between data and comprehension. One of the driving factors in this search is faith in the idea of a grand theory, a unifying theory of everything, a theory that would explain all of the known physical phenomena. This is an essential mode of the human mind: to fill the unknown with what it perceives to be a known truth, thereby giving structure to the aether of the unknown. It is in this space between knowing and not knowing that the probability of the development of new personal mythological structures is most ubiquitous.
It is my intention that viewing this work will relate to an exercise in being at exactly that space between the known and the unknown and having the wonderment to peer into the aether of both.
Brian Harper: Strings in the Aether
Solo Exhibition in the Ronald L. Barr Gallery, Indiana University Southeast, New Albany, Indiana
wood, sheet metal, iron oxide, 124' drawing