The green tatami mat occupies all the space, and there’s an irregular prism made of black marble ceaselessly floating and spinning in the center (“its spinning is due precisely to that irregularity", he explains). It’s a meditative dimension in a science, sensory and performative lab. Luca Pozzi's studio is an experience in itself, like everything else he does.
The tatami modules are similar to the structure and symmetry of wall works. It looks like nothing’s left to chance, but actually nothing is been built according to a preset order: experience, performative and creative act and the dimension of space-time seem to be floating in a magnetic field, just like the black prism on the tatami mat does!
LF: There’s an apparent paucity of work tools, then he pulls out a screwdriver, a fishing line, a box cutter, the famous ping-pong balls, magnets, telling an anecdote for every item. But the most widely used tool, in my opinion, is science.
How do you approach the research of scientists and mathematicians that you use as a basis for your works? How do you choose them?
LP: I came to know them thanks to my readings. I discovered divulgation books, the great classics like “The Road to Reality” by Roger Penrose, “The Elegant Universe” by Brian Greene, “Time Reborn” by Lee Smolin, “The Lightness of Being” by Frank Wilczek and “La realtà non è come ci appare” by Carlo Rovelli, to name a few. Then one day I realized that scientific research was taking many different roads, some of which were not very “consistent” with each other. Points of view based on subjective criteria and faith - rather than on experimental data - started spreading and it surprised me that scientists were actually aiming at raising doubts rather than celebrating knowledge. So the only viable option was to meet the authors of these books. In this way I could know who was hiding behind the divulgation strategies, beyond the policies of institutions and universities. I chose the murkiest issues, the most visionary experiments, the most speculative conjecture, the most promising ones which faced the boundaries of imagination and the annoying inconsistencies of the period head-on. First and foremost the thorny issue of the incompatibility between general relativity and quantum mechanics in areas where the space-time curvature requires a quantum theory of gravity. Loop quantum gravity, string theory and noncommutative geometry seemed to be the most appropriate ingredients for a likely future theory of gravity after Newton’s and Albert Einstein’s. I identified the opinion leaders of these approaches and I wrote them e-mails which allowed me to meet wonderful people in places that are essential for the contemporary research, such as the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, Columbia University in New York, Albert Einstein Institute in Berlin, the Penn State University in State College and the CERN in Geneva. The idea that I’m a viewer and an operator of such a big revolution drives me crazy! We’re right in the middle of it, a new theory of gravity is emerging and a new era of astrophysics is opening up new prospects, new ways of seeing old things: gravitational waves, dark matter, gamma rays and neutrino may be able to reveal what happens to the remaining 90% of the universe, what we currently can’t figure out.
LF: You said you don’t have in mind an "end point" in Finger Crossed and that, apart from the support — an accurate space-time diagram that you picked up from a research and transferred to your computer — it’s in this particular space that you insert the events. Can you tell me how do you do that?
LP: Generally, I try to work on a concept of space and time which allows non-linear experiences, namely that it does not move forward from the past to the future through the present, but it bounces around from time to time unexpectedly, like an electron in the orbitals of an atom. The “Fingers Crossed” are aluminium tread surfaces that follow a space-time diagram invented by the theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli, to whom I have the honour to talk friendly. This simple drawing, that kind of reminds me of a flying swallow, shows how a past event and a future event can switch places if you slice, bend and glue it back together the space-time continuum, reversing the notion of cause-and-effect. The ping pong balls are on a collision course but they’re permanently suspended; they represent the events in question, but we can never know their possible deviations. They're bound together between the polarities of aluminium rods folded by hand. This is the least controlled part of the process. I choose the shape of the support, its color (obtained electrochemically) and the color of the ping pong balls. I plan the quantity of events and their distribution, but I can’t predict the curvature of each module. It’s like doing gymnastics, it’s like rolling the dice.
«Generally, I try to work on a concept of space and time which allows non-linear experiences, namely that it does not move forward from the past to the future through the present, but it bounces around from time to time unexpectedly, like an electron in the orbitals of an atom.»
LF: There’s a perceptible order in this studio, but through a transparent sheet we can see a bunch of boxes, objects, huge panels and papers; there are plenty of wrinkled papers popping out of a little red cloth bag, which contains the last 10 years of your works. If you had had a chance to design something in the company of one of the greatest scientists of all time, who would you have chosen? And what would you have produced?
LP: We are always in a precise situation for a specific reason, as shown by Woody Allen in “Midnight in Paris”. I’m more than happy to work with Carlo Rovelli, Francesca Vidotto, Abhay Ashtekar, Laurent Freidel, Luca Latronico, Daniele Oriti, Raymond Aschheim and all the other researchers that feed my curiosity.
If I had to choose one great mind of the past, like Gulliver in front of the magic mirror, I’d choose Paul Dirac! When I was at the Academy, one of his sentences connected me to physics and math. He was answering a question about his findings on new laws of nature. He responded: ”I play with equations, and different ways of writing the same equation can suggest very different things, even if they are logically equivalent”. That sounds to me like a declaration of war on dogmatism through the invincible weapon of beauty and elegance that can be found in his formulas. I don’t know exactly what we could create together, but I’m sure the final outcome would have a great deal of kaleidoscopic symmetry.
LF: There’s something alchemical about seeing you sitting on the tatami, while you put pressure on the “string”, with paper patterns filled with numbers by your side. Your work is clearly inseparable from your life: intersections, relations, dualisms that historically influenced each other, like science and philosophy, psychoanalysis and physics, math and music. How important the interaction between more “worlds” is for your job?
LP: I’ve got a tatami in my studio because art requires training, dedication, humility and reflection. I don’t exist and maybe the particles of my body don’t even exist. In 1940, Sir John Archibald Wheeler talking to the famous mathematician Richard Feynman on the phone said: JAW: “Feynman, I know why all electrons have the same charge and the same mass!” RF: “Why?” JAW: “Because they are all the same electron!”.
This is one of the bravest conjecture I have ever heard! Maybe there’s just one electron bouncing back and forth through time, from the beginning to the end of the universe. There’s just one electron and probably what you call “me” and what I call “you” is the way in which the interconnected dimensions of time manifest themselves. Perhaps there are only monologues between that electron and itself, and we are more or less complex sentences of this poem. If so, the other person is me and I’m the other person, and the communities that we call with specific names are only manifestations of the same thing. Getting back to this lost unity, maybe that’s why I try to assimilate different languages and I interact with communities that would hardly talk to me — divided as we are by our different priorities, contingencies and objectives. I’m not saying that Wheeler is right, but I take comfort in this prospect of unity.
LF: Luca! Tell me a sound or a noise that... (He doesn‘t let me finish the sentence, he already knows what I’m going to say!)
LP: In 2009 I went to Thailand with Elisa (my partner). One day, we were at the nature preserve of Khao Yai, we were walking in the rain forest… At a certain point, the guide told us to follow him and to keep quiet. We got closer to some giant trees, so we looked up and saw an entire community of gibbons on top of us. They began to sing deafeningly in a matter of minutes. Elisa and I looked at each other, we were excited, not for the natural phenomenon itself, but because we both saw the relationship between those frequencies and another frequency that was even more primitive: that produced by the gravity waves created by a black hole. In 2009 there were only computer simulations of this sidereal sound, but now, seven years after the first detection announced by LIGO (February 11, 2016) I can say that the two forms of communication are indeed very similar…
I’m sending you the track I recorded mixing the two sound sources!