When Anish Kapoor opens up a rift in our world view

One wonders what issues are hidden behind this endless search for new, darker materials, and why British plastic artist Anish Kapoor has taken on board them.

Black, light and infinity, three universal quests

Darkness, light and infinity, for scientists, are enduring questions. Si dans la station spatiale internationale, Thomas Pesquet tourne la tête à l’opposé de la Terre, il ne reste plus que l’espace, infini, noir et parcouru par des lumières dont le rayonnement fossile issu tout droit du big pour bang, imperceptible his eyes.

As we’ve seen earlier, American astronaut Storie Musgrave has turned this side and shared his experience of space, darkness, these lights, and this infinity. He beautifully described how his damaged perception changed in these unique moments.

A black body is perfect in physics

In physics, the interaction between light and matter is at the heart of many fundamental research. Two French Nobel Prize winners, Serge Harroch and Claude Cohen TondoujiThey have spent their scientific lives studying this question. It is at the center of quantum information that surprising new applications are expected. The black quantum body theory Because of Max Planck revolutionized at the beginning of XXe Century understanding the interaction between light and matter. In physics, a black body defines something perfect that completely absorbs all the light it receives. Absorption of this electromagnetic energy causes it to heat up and to re-emit light whose wavelengths are determined only by the temperature of this black body.

Vantalblack, blacker than black.

On Earth, the received light is essentially visible light. The light emitted back at room temperature is infrared light, which is invisible to our eyes. From this black object according to this definition, nothing visible to our eyes comes. If the environment of the object reflecting the light is visible, then the contrast only makes it possible to determine the location of the black body in space. There is a flaw, a kind of black hole in our reality. Moreover, our eyes are detectors with limited performance, and a black body even without being perfect can show us such a black hole. As far as we can tell, Anish Kapoor has been playing for years and more recently with Vantablack.

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Projects like developing Vantablack have very clear motivations in the fields of aerospace, science or the military. The work of absorbent screens lens flare he is one.

Vantablack combines forests carbon nanotubes that traps light and plays on all the absorption mechanisms at the same time. As a result, 99.965% of the incident light is absorbed. It’s unusual but a simple little red laser pointer that sends out a massive amount of photons per second. Vantablack still comes back a lot. 99.965% is not 100%. This difference is important for some applications! MIT reported 99.995% in 2019. The race is on.

Black, light, and infinity also occupy artists

The painter who perhaps most explored light in space in his work is Pierre Solage. His preoccupation with black is well known and at the heart of his work. But this has nothing to do with the perfect black body.

On the contrary, he is interested in very real black surfaces that present very complex interactions with light. You just have to look around to find it: most of the black roofs reflect grazing light. Some of them reflect a lot of light in these conditions.

Pierre Solage plays light on black in all of these variations. I spent many hours at all times of the day and seasons in front of the greats Outrenoir From the exceptionally illuminated Grenoble Museum. Drawing of Pierre Solage I Outrenoir In 1969. Today he continues down this path for the sake of our happiness.

But this is not a search for the effects of absolute black in painting. There is, I believe, no connection between the artistic approach of Anish Kapoor and that of Pierre Solag. Anish Kapoor is closer here to astronaut Story Musgrave than to Pierre Soulages. Story Musgrave insists on experiencing this absolute blackness that he “saw” in space through the window of the space shuttle. The regions of space, infinite and black, in front of him, send no light to him. As a scientist, he knows it is empty. But his perception is unknown…

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the work Get off to Limboa black hole of our perception

The media hype around Vantablack indicates a great condition. The impression is that scientific and technological progress has radically opened up new possibilities for artistic creativity. Perhaps this combination of the arts and sciences was needed to look at these “blacks” in this way?

However, Anish Kapoor did not wait for Vantablack to create and showcase great artwork that explores these questions and this work. What do we see when there is no light for our perception? What is in front of us in this case?

Anish Kapoor is the one who created the installation Get off to Limbo (Maybe in reference With mantegna coating) in 1992. Long before the black Vantablack principle, he will then start many businesses. The device for this work is quite simple: a hole is 2.5 meters deep and about 1.5 meters in diameter. Its shell reflects very little visible light, and makes this hole unreal through misleading perception.

In the collection of interviews with the ironic title I have nothing to say Published in 2011, back before the invention of Vantablack, Anish Kapoor also talks about a very dark blue paint and adds: “The color blue happens to produce a more intense darkness than black because we don’t see the color with our whole eyes. Eyes are the tools of the mind even we perceive colors with our mind.” »

He said that he was so delighted with the anger of the visitor that, instead of the hole which at the end was a very dark blue, he saw only a black carpet … and fell into it.

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The perfect black body and our humanity

Finally, the intersection between arts and sciences is noticeable here. A perfect black body in physics is perfect. The material absorbs all incident light. This ideal black body for physicists does not exist.

To our eyes, yes. Anish Kapoor creates these situations in which, to the eye, everything is absorbed and nothing appears as it seems. This is the ideal situation in terms of our perception, but obviously not for physics. Then Anish Kapoor explores his potential for us. Still in the same group, he says: “It is the vision of darkness. Fear is a darkness in which the eye loses itself, the hand stretches towards it in the hope of contact, and only imagination escapes from it.”

And Story Musgrave will add in Dana Rana, In Front of the Blacks of Space: “It’s going to be something with your hands, you know, something you can feel with the hands. Something you can feel flowing through you, something that might be a little squishy. They both tell us that the ultimate ‘black’ It is shocking.Outside the planet, it confuses us until we get lost.

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