Phase Four: Production Launch  +  Science Seminar

SEPTEMBER 17, 2021

(Jump to November Seminar)


Location: Online / Pacific Standard Time

1:30 Introduction to the Project: Ingrid + Randy
1:45 TRIUMF Overview with Q+A – Marcello Pavan
2:15 Physics Presentation I: Forces: Visible and Invisible – David Morrissey
2:35 Q+A
2:45 Physics Presentation II: Invisible Forces Redux – Jess Brewer
3:05 Q+A
3:15  Break
3:25 Point/Counter Point: Open Conversation – All physicists invited to participate, and artists/scholars invited to join in with questions throughout this session
3:45 Ingrid and Randy
3:50 Team introductions and Break out session (time permitting)

Invisible Forces Central Repository is a shared file where documentation of works, presentations, and other resources will be stored for all participants to access.




David Morrisey: In/visible Forces
Jess Brewer: Unfamiliar Forces

In/visble Forces by David Morrisey

My line of work is particle physics, which means that I study elementary particles – the things we think are the basic, indivisible building blocks of everything else. For me, forces correspond to how these particles interact with each other. We know of five types of forces: electromagnetism, strong, weak, gravity, and Higgs. These forces are often said to be “visible”, in that we’re able to measure their effects directly and we have very good (mathematical) theories to describe them.

Invisible forces for a particle physicist mean new forces that haven’t yet been detected. We have many reasons to think such new forces exist, but the main one is dark matter. Astronomical observations indicate that there is much more matter in the universe than we can explain with the known elementary particles and forces. The missing matter is usually called dark matter for the simple reason that it doesn’t give off any light as far as we can tell. Our best explanation for dark matter is that it is a new kind of particle. There are many proposals for what dark matter might be, and in a great number of them the dark matter particles interact with each through new invisible forces. Searching for dark matter and invisible forces is one of the leading research directions in modern particle physics.

But even for the visible forces, there are many “invisible” aspects to them. Our theories that describe these forces (and that are enormously successful at explaining what is observed in experiments) are based on even more elementary particles, called force mediators. The picture that emerges is that forces come about from exchanges of mediator particles. For example, in electromagnetism, two charged particles attract or repel each other by throwing photons – “particles of light” – back and forth to each other. Since the theory is fundamentally quantum mechanical, this implies that in any single scattering it isn’t possible to say how exactly how many photons were exchanged or when they were. Instead, all we can do is add up all the possibilities and predict how probable different types of reactions are. In this sense, the exchanged photons are invisible, even though they make up what we call light. Since we can’t see them, they’re often called “virtual photons”.

One other very beautiful aspect of the known fundamental forces is that they are all based on symmetries. These symmetries control how the forces operate and distinguish them from each other. In the theories we write down to describe fundamental forces, the symmetries give order to what would otherwise be mathematical chaos. In quantum mechanics, to predict how likely something is to occur, let’s say the probability for some initial system A evolves into a final system B, you need to add up all the possibilities for how to get from A to B. However, in doing this you’re only allowed to include the possibilities that respect the symmetries. Going back to the example of charged particles tossing virtual photons back and force to each other, the symmetries of electromagnetism only allow certain kinds of photon exchanges, and this ultimately controls how electromagnetism works.

Unfamiliar Forces by Jess Brewer

Since the first time someone saw a lodestone stick to an iron sword as if by magic, we humans have marveled at “invisible forces”.  What we usually mean by that, of course, is UNFAMILIAR forces.  Gravity is every bit as “invisible” as magnetism, but we are used to it and think we understand it.  In truth, gravity is no longer considered a “force” at all by those who know it best.  Perhaps this will someday be true of ALL the “forces” we teach our Physics students about — that would be elegant!  But for the time being we still use the term “force” to describe most known interactions.

IMNERHO, there is no such thing as a “visible” force.  We imagine that our feet pushing on the ground is a “direct” force; but that is only because we cannot see the electrons and nuclei attracting or repelling each other at a distance, much as the magnet under the table causes the iron ball bearing on top of the table to move mysteriously.  That microscopic (nay, nanoscopic) world is “out of sight” by virtue of being too small to see, and therefore pragmatically “invisible”.  Physics shows us that the electrons are moved by electromagnetism: “action at a distance” (albeit no longer “spooky”) just like Newton’s gravity.  The same is true (albeit on an even smaller scale) of the weak and strong nuclear “forces”, which are “carried” by virtual vector bosons and gluons, respectively, much as electromagnetic forces are “carried” by virtual photons of light.

One can argue equally well that, because virtual “force carriers” are emitted and absorbed by the particles they bind or repel, ALL such “forces” are truly “direct”, in which case there is no such thing as an “invisible force” except in the sense that the “vertices” where the creation and destruction take place are too small to ever “see” directly, although we keep trying with more and more powerful accelerators.

Let us then be content to use the term “invisible” in the colloquial sense: we can’t see what’s going on with our naked eyes.

This still allows us to put some pretty weird stuff into that category: Higgs “forces”, the undiscovered interactions of Dark Matter, the pressure of Dark Energy and the theoretical actions of 26-dimensional “strings”, to name a few.

Listen to the Seminar

November 19, 2021

In/visible Forces Artist’s Seminar for Physicists

This Seminar is designed to extend the ideas presented at the September 17 Science Seminar. Presentations are more granular, metaphorical, utopian, speculative and impossible. We hope to take up how Invisible Forces might translate and unfold as affect, animacy, attunement, contradiction, conversation, energy, haunting, insensible, intra-actions, interactions, relationality, unfamiliarity and so on. The Breakout session will be composed of a mix of participants outside of current team groupings.


1:30  Welcome with Randy Lee Cutler + Ingrid Koenig
1:40  Randy Lee Cutler Invisible Forces / Ghostly Matters
1:55  Sanem Guvenc – Meandering In-Visibility
2:15  Q&A
2:30  Break
2:40  Mimi Gellman No Divide/Pondering the Intangible
3:00  Q&A
3:10  Mixed Breakouts: Discuss today’s presentations, team communications, emerging thematics and/or strategies for
group/individual artwork. If possible, please post meeting notes in repository folder November Seminar Notes.
3:50  Open Q&A + Final Thoughts
4:15  Close of program

Invisible Forces Central Repository is a shared file where documentation of works, presentations, and other resources will be stored for all participants to access.


Invisible Forces / Ghostly Matters by Randy Lee Cutler
Meandering In-Visibility by Sanem Güvenç

Listen to the Seminar

Sanem Güvenç is a sociologist based in Vancouver and teaches Critical Studies at Emily Carr University of Art and Design where she focuses on posthumanism, the Anthropocene, and philosophy of science and medicine.  Her previous research areas were eugenics in 1930s Turkey and neoliberal governmentality in contemporary Turkey. Her articles were published in journals such as Social History of Medicine, New Perspectives on Turkey, and Comparative Studies on South Asia, Africa and the Middle East.  She is the co-editor of 2019 “Natural Sciences in the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey: Formations, Practices, Intersections.” She’s also written on political theory within the context of Turkey’s 2013 Gezi movement and on Michel Foucault’s governmentality. Currently she is working on a book manuscript titled “Topologies of the Void”.

No Divide / Pondering the Intangible by Mimi Gellman

Mimi Gellman’s interdisciplinary work explores her interests in phenomenology and technologies of intuition through an embodied practice of walking and mapping and through works and installations that point to the existence of the animacy and agency of objects. The cross-cultural dialogue exemplified in her work suggests a pre-existing connection to the other-than-human worlds. It is her cosmological orientation, in other words, her Ojibwe/Métis worldview and the language that expresses it that predisposes her to be open to the reality of the spirit and life of objects and their ability to communicate across diverse thresholds.