COLLIDE International Award application

Below is Jennifer Moon and laub's application for the Arts@CERN COLLIDE International Award 2016. For more information about Arts@CERN and COLLIDE, please visit Arts@CERN.

Project Title: 3CE: A Relational Love Odyssey (The CERN Adventures of Jennifer Moon and laub)

Synopsis: The “cultural significance of science” goes both ways. There is little doubt that science generates changes in the moral values and basic philosophies of mankind. Simultaneously, these changes in the structure and behavior of society influence how we learn and practice science. When we enter the world of science, we do not shed our cultural practices at the door. What are these cultural practices that influence science and how can we expand scientific practices to include ALL of humanity, specifically those of marginalized and underrepresented communities? The questions we are interesting in exploring in our proposed project is akin to what science historian James Burke asked: “If you’re looking to assess the future performance of an artifact or a human system within the envelope delineated by the factors involved, then what is the envelope, and how much of it are you aware of when YOU yourself are in the envelope?”

Our proposed project for COLLIDE is a continuation of our sciart, docufiction, video mini-series titled, “3CE: A Relational Love Odyssey,” where we explore and question this envelope, which keeps us contained within a 4% universe, so that we can begin to access the dark matter and dark energy that constitute 96% of the universe. This is the power of art: to stimulate the public to question our overarching macro and micro systems, the envelope, which determines how we perceive and interact with the world around us, and, hence, shift and expand our relationship to reality.

Our invitation to engage with the scientists at CERN will “[push] the traditional forms of collaboration between the artistic and scientific fields” by bringing into question the very systems that created a traditional form of collaboration between the two disciplines, namely concepts rooted in hierarchies, binaries, and capital.

As artists, we (Jennifer Moon and laub) draw from the extremely personal, blending a delightful mix of vulnerability, revolutionary principles of love, political theory, science, self-help, popular culture, and fantasy to create whimsical videos that will ask the following questions: Can science incorporate the questioning of oppressive systems into their practices? How can we use unadulterated forms of love to access dark matter and dark energy? In what wonderful and unforeseeable ways will science expand reality if it can incorporate queer, feminist, postcolonial, and critical race theory into their practices? If, and when, we are able to engage with dark matter and dark energy and, even, extraterrestrial life, how can we avoid our usual tendencies of colonization?

As with the COLLIDE residency, our proposed project of three ten-minute video episodes will bring the most disparate elements together, the most unlikely combinations, in unexpected ways to create new worlds that will carry us out of this 4% universe.

Description: The primary project we (laub and Jennifer Moon) are proposing for COLLIDE is to continue our life-art, love-revolution narrative at CERN and FACT, creating at least three additional, ten-minute episodes of our sciart, docufiction mini-series, “3CE: A Relational Love Odyssey.” In these episodes, we will collide complex narratives of particle physics, quantum mechanics, and the entanglement of matter and meaning with revolutionary principles of love and queer, feminist, postcolonial, and critical race theory to question the ways we generally perceive and process information. These challenging collisions ultimately reveal how differences get made and unmade and expose the artificial boundaries we forgot we invented that keep us contained within a 4% universe. By adopting the format of an easily approachable and whimsical television series and utilizing various social media platforms, our broad objective is to increase the accessibility of science to ALL of society so that it can once again become, as Carl Sagan would say, a “human enterprise.”

As artists, we (Jennifer Moon and laub) follow the lineage of life-artists from the dawn of conceptualism, such as Lee Lozano, Stephen Kaltenbach, Linda Montano, and David Hammons, among others. As with these artists, our life becomes our art and art becomes a tool for living so that it is unclear what is art and what is life. We are interested in blurring these artificial boundaries, exposing them so we may investigate our complex relationship to borders. As artists, we are committed to dismantling all the macro and micro systems that keep us separated from one another, locked in a binary and hierarchized, where capital becomes our primary point of connection. We believe that this is where art and science intersect, in this pursuit of deeper truths, in our ability to question everything, and in our faith that imagination will expand our reality further than knowledge.

As artists and fancied scientists, ours is also a love story for revolution. We are lovers, domestic partners, and collaborators who are constantly questioning these roles in order to avoid becoming a closed system. Within our multi-dimensional relationship, we often collide with one another. These collisions, along with trust and honesty, allow us to question love: how it began, where it originates, and what it is made of. In our current 4% universe, we are constantly measuring love, forcing it to choose a position. As with particles in quantum mechanics, the act of measuring love forces it to relinquish all of the possible places it could have been and select one definite location where you find it. And, in return, love loses its momentum. Can we imagine the possibilities of love if we stop measuring it and allow the momentum of this undetermined wave of uncertainty to continue? The momentum of love could lead us out of this 4% universe into dark matter and dark energy, into the unknown and the unimaginable, expanding our reality. In this simple, yet difficult, act of letting go of measuring, love becomes revolutionary.

As temporarily-titled life artists and love revolutionists, our work takes on many forms from the ways in which we intra-act with one another in the privacy of our home to performances and exhibitions in artist-run spaces and museums. The primary project of this COLLIDE proposal is a continuation of our most recent show at Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles, titled, “Phoenix Rising, Part 3: laub, me, and The Revolution (The Theory of Everything).” This exhibition, presented as a grade-school science fair complete with tri-fold science displays, “packs loads of information into a readily accessible format” (Pagel, Los Angeles Times) and consists of three main components: 1. a “Cosmos”-inspired video, “3CE: A Relational Love Odyssey”; 2. a whimsical, large-scale sculpture of the Large Hadron Collider, “JLS (Jennifer laub Smasher)”; and 3. a fecal microbiota transplant laboratory of curiously shaped glass vessels (all mouth-blown by laub), “GFT (Gut Fairies Transplant).” For the purposes of this project description, we will focus on the “Cosmos”-inspired video, “3CE: A Relational Love Odyssey.” However, it is significant to note that a playful grade-school science fair exhibit similar to this one, containing all new information gathered from our two-months at CERN, is something we can offer during our stay at FACT.

Our plan, during our two-months at CERN, is to listen, learn, intra-act with as many human and non-human actors who make CERN possible, and collect as much data in the form of transformative information, footage, and recordings to create two ten-minute episodes for our on-going sciart, docufiction mini-series, “3CE: A Relational Love Odyssey.” The third, ten-minute episode will correspond with our stay at FACT.

“3CE: A Relational Love Odyssey” is a direct reference and play on the popular science series “Cosmos.” This first episode of “3CE: A Relational Love Odyssey,” reenacts the opening and closing scenes of the first episode of the rebooted series, “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. In these scenes, Tyson recalls Carl Sagan and pays homage to the original Cosmos series, “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.” By reenacting these scenes, and replacing Tyson’s dialogue with our own unique content of quasi-scientific explorations of love, we not only pay homage to both Sagan and Tyson but offer a post-structural reconstruction of the world where the viewer begins to question how meaning is made and transports them to a fantastical yet viable world where what at first may seem ironic is in fact sincere. In between these opening and closing scenes, this episode asks the question, “how can we use love to access the dark matter and dark energy that make up 96% of the universe?” It also presents the idea of parasitic belief entities and urges us to move away from relying on the brain in our head to connecting with the second brain in our gut.

This video has been described by art critics as “…a TED talk gone nutty. It marries the language of self-help charlatanry to the style of popular cosmology and the no-nonsense authenticity of backyard tinkering” (Pagel, Los Angeles Times). Matt Stromberg of Daily Serving wrote, “The work has a lighthearted tone, but there is no irony as they implore us to ‘surf the empathic waves of relational love.’ The sincerity of their welcoming and expansive revolutionary vision is compelling.” This collision of disparate genres and stylistic techniques with sincerity, vulnerability, and authentic revolutionary explorations of love is what we plan to instill in our videos produced while in residency at CERN and FACT.

New discoveries during our stay at CERN and FACT will undoubtedly alter the course of our proposed episodes; however, as of now, the following is what we are envisioning for the three episodes:

Episode 1 @ CERN: A Higgs boson of mass ≈125 GeV has been tentatively confirmed by CERN on 14 March 2013. This mass neither confirms nor denies supersymmetry or the multiverse. This episode will investigate and question both theories within a binary, hierarchical model and offer possibilities of simultaneity through revolutionary principles of love, abundance, and continuous expansion.

Episode 2 @ CERN: Using feminist physicist Karen Barad’s concept of “intra-action,” we will engage with as many human and non-human actors who make CERN possible. This includes physicists and engineers, technicians, secretaries and accountants, janitorial staff, the LHC itself, the particles being collided, the elusive Higgs Boson, and even the World Wide Web. This quirky cast of characters will demonstrate the notion of intra-action, which “queers the familiar sense of causality…and more generally unsettles the metaphysics of ‘individualism’” (Barad in an interview with Kleinmann, Mousse), so that we can begin to act as one from “within” instead of “among or in the midst of.”

Episode 3 @ FACT: This episode will focus on how to increase accessibility of science to ALL of society so that it can once again become the “human enterprise” Carl Sagan envisioned. We will investigate and begin to dismantle the artificial boundaries that have historically placed science within a White European, post-Enlightenment enterprise. It is our belief that until science becomes a human-community endeavor, we will never expand beyond this 4% universe into the magical realms of dark matter and dark energy.

Motivation: Our ultimate motivation is unadulterated forms of love and faith, discovering instances of love free from hierarchies, binaries, and capital. We maintain faith that we can expand beyond this 4% universe and discover ways to engage with the dark matter and dark energy that constitute 96% of the known universe. This is our number one motivation. However, in order to do this, we must all come together as a human community.

In a fan-movie adaptation of the multiple award-winning science fiction novel, “The Three-Body Problem,” by Chinese writer Liu Cixin, it suggests that the only way humanity can communicate with the extraterrestrials described in the novel is by breaking down the numerous barriers and boundaries that separate us, which create false notions of “individuals,” so that we can realize our connectivity and come together and act as one collective entity. This is the same with dark matter and dark energy. The only way we can communicate with dark matter and dark energy is if we similarly come together as one.

This is no small feat as it simultaneously requires “the Halls of Power,” as feminist physicist Karen Barad describes it, to invite and welcome underrepresented voices of women, queers, trans, and people of color (POC) into great research institutions such as CERN and for foundations such as FACT to focus on increasing the accessibility of seemingly inaccessible sciences, like particle physics, to the popular public. This is the motivation of this proposed COLLIDE project.

We take great inspiration from Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a theoretical astrophysicist and the 63rd Black woman in American history with a physics Ph.D. in 2010. Through numerous collisions and struggles, Dr. Prescod-Weinstein is merging her cultural identities of being Black, queer, a physicist, an activist, and also a certified Pilates instructor in beautiful and inspiring ways. Not only is she an early universe cosmologist, focusing on “multiple problems in particle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology, including understanding the hypothesized axion particle (a dark matter candidate), the aftermath of inflation, and technical issues in quantum field theory in curved spacetime” (from Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s website), she is also simultaneously working with underrepresented minorities to expand participation in physics, to ensure that everyone has equitable opportunity to participate. Discovering revolutionary people like Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is also our motivation.

And lastly, we are motivated by our unique abilities to establish intimate relationships and intra-actions with people based in honesty, trust, open communication, and unadulterated forms of love. We are motivated by our drive to form intimate bonds with the inner workings of CERN and FACT in order to foster accessible information for ourselves, the people at CERN and FACT, and the human enterprise at large.