Expanding the notions of mystery

Pro Helvetia South America, Art+

Remartga: Questa artitgel è disponibla unicamain per englais.

After takin part in the Simetría residency, hosted by CERN Laboratory and ALMA Observatory, artist Patricia Domínguez (Chile) continued her investigation on mysticism and science during a research project

For more than a decade, artist Patricia Domínguez (Chile) has been investigating the interspecies relationships we establish on Earth and how those connections are affected by the digital age and climate change. Drawing inspiration from myths, rituals, and healing traditions, she creates shrine-like imagery derived from a visual vocabulary that spans plant life, the digital world, and mass-market goods.

Her investigation took another step in 2021, when she spent a few weeks at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Geneva, for the Simetría residency, in which she took part alongside Geneva-based artist Chloé Delarue. The programme was organised by Arts at CERN and Corporación Chilena de Video, co-hosted by CERN and ALMA, the Southern Astronomical Observatories in Chile, with a view to foster exchanges between artists and scientists in Switzerland and Chile (the dual residency, now known as Connect Chile, has evolved into the Connect collaboration between Arts at CERN and Pro Helvetia).

Circle of lights and machine at the centre
Image taken at CERN by cinema director Emilia Martín, Patricia Domínguez collaborator

‘The residency meant travelling to the furthest possible place, both in physical and conceptual terms. These days provoked a deconstruction and a reformulation of my notions of reality; they were a portal,’ the artist stated at the time. The experience, as she recalls, led her to rethink her vocabulary around the invisible and reflect on organic technologies, what we can find in our bodies, since we’re all made up of energy.

Colourful drawings on black background
Logbook compiling the artist’s experience at CERN in 2021 and presented at the 15th Media Arts Biennial in Santiago. Watercolour on paper ©Patricia Domínguez

At CERN, Patricia also started working on ‘Tres Lunas Más Abajo’ (Three Moons Below), a speculative, ancestral, and futuristic video that explores mysticism and ritualism while navigating fundamental science and cutting-edge technologies. It reflects on the interconnectedness of spiritual and quantum realms, in search of re-coding our perception of reality.

Set of two pictures showing woman with robot bird on the shoulder and circle of light around them
Analogue pictures (raw material) for Patricia Domínguez’s film ‘Tres Lunas Más Abajo’ (Three Moons Below)

In the film, a woman, guided by a robot bird, embraces different machines and technologies to acquire their capabilities; they are artefacts of connection to the cosmos, to the Earth and to the irreducible reality. Shot on ALMA’s radio telescopes, the La Silla’s telescope and CERN’s neutrino detector, the video should premiere on the second half of 2024.

Picture of woman wearing helmet and a robot bird on her shoulder
Video frame of Patricia Domínguez’s film ‘Tres Lunas Más Abajo’ (Three Moons Below) shot at one of CERN’s ProtoDUNE detectors in 2021

Patricia’s connection to this research, however, did not end with her Simetría residency; it later unfolded into a new project. The idea now was to delve into the experiments at the Larger Particle Collider in Geneva to produce a publication and a series of watercolour paintings based on the organic decoding of invisible information.

Two woman in front of a particle collider
Patricia Domínguez during the shootings of ‘Tres Lunas Más Abajo’ (Three Moons Below) at CERN ©2024 CERN

For that, she headed back to Geneva, in January 2024, for a research trip. Over the course of two weeks, she got access to the laboratory’s experiments, where she documented everything through video and analogue photography; resumed shooting her ‘Tres Lunas Más Abajo’ film; attended CERN’s Art and Science Summit ‘Unveiling the Universe’, joining the panel ‘Scientific Imaginations’; and interviewed scientists for an upcoming publication. ‘The dynamics of the interviews covered the whole spectrum of the process that goes on around the colliders. From the more technical to the more speculative aspects,’ the artist explained.

People on a stage participating in a panel at CERN
Patricia Domínguez (in green) during CERN’s Art and Science Summit ‘Unveiling the Universe’ in February 2024 ©Noemi Caraban Gonzalez

‘It was an immersion into the invisible and infinite world of the physical aspect of the fundamental particles. It entailed expanding my notions of the mystery, precision and subtlety needed to study these particles that make up all that exists. I was deeply impressed by the level of abstraction, imagination, speculation, and open-minded thinking that scientists live with, while working with the largest, most precise, and advanced machines in existence today. The residency in 2021 and the research trip in 2024 were both a gateway, a before and after. I returned full of emptiness and curiosity.’

Biography

Patricia Domínguez is an artist, organic technologist, and Earth defender born in 1984 in Santiago (Chile) and now based in Puchuncaví (Chile). She is the founder of Studio Vegetalista, an experimental platform for ethnobotanical research. She holds a MFA from Hunter College, NY (2013) and a Botanical Art Illustration Certificate from the New York Botanical Garden (2011).