Inspired by stories of space weather research from Dr Sophie Murray from DIAS Dunsink Observatory and Brendan Owens, Chandrika created poems about the everyday moments of change and innovation in their research lives.
Written and performed by Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan Sound design by Denis Clohessy Motion Graphics by Farouk Alao Science Gallery Rapid Residency Mentors and Advisors: Brendan Owens, Erica Villa, Grace Enemaku, Stefano Giovanardi Special thank you to Aisling Murray and Mitzi D'Alton for their support as part of the Science Gallery Dublin team.
Created as part of the Science Gallery Dublin Rapid Residency 2021, and funded by the Arts Council of Ireland. Supported by DIAS Dunsink Observatory.
Premiered at Future Human, Dublin, 11 May 2022
Read the poems and their backstories
In the machine, the cycle of things The writing, the publishing, The thin white papercut of it, The printing, the pulping, the new Word Document of it.
And then, a fissure: A moment where the machine has faltered, and You are turned mechanic. There is an unexpected comfort of The tools in your hand and the Clarity of a headlight, and now comes
The setting down of a mantle, The taking up of a toolbelt. You understand the cogs, the Nuts, the bolts, the conveyer belt Of ideas, the Doing of Things, The burning bright goodness of it and
The papers are left bleaching in a sunlit room While you sit, connected, electric, Elated and alive, and The machine is you And it is yours.
This poem is inspired by Dr Sophie Murray talking about how she shifted careers. She was in the cycle of publishing papers and applying for grants, and one day she had to apply for funding but the financial staff were on holiday, so she had to manage the more practical side of the proposal herself. She found that it came easy to her, and realised she was far more suited to the practical side of things, where she can make projects happen, work with software, and utilise her unique combination of skills in a space that is more collaborative and exciting. She has successfully carved out roles made just for her from that moment on.
In the thin moments between a thought and a breath When a spark pushes through We breathe into it, tentatively, Coaxing it to life, until
A roomful of exhalations sets the blaze flickering Across a hundred open hands and smiling eyes. Praise is coating our skin like honey; We are friendly gods, and we revel in it.
The fire settles, The seeds pop open, And now there is the slow bake of Embers glowing, pulsing, burning our hands.
Can you feel the warmth of it?
This poem was inspired by Dr Sophie Murray telling me about how she and her research partner discovered a breakthrough about ‘ensembles’ in solar flare research. They then attended the American Geophysical Union Meeting to present their findings. They were worried about talking to an unfamiliar audience and that their very niche research wouldn’t be received well. However everyone in the room loved their research, and they were practically mobbed after giving their talk and have made huge connections and progress through the people they met that day. It was a pivotal point in Sophie’s research career.
One or two Guinnesses down The promise of ‘We won’t talk about work’ long broken. We huddle around the smallness of something, The closed doors of it, The integrity of its structure.
But the liquid has us loosened and The walls fall away, The realisation that the idea is Liquid, not solid, It is an ocean and not a pebble, And what we needed all along was not a fortress, But a fleet.
This poem was inspired by Dr Sophie Murray telling me about her and a fellow solar flare researcher meeting in a pub, and after a few drinks they realised their research would be best progressed through a citizen science project called Sunspotter. Sophie mentioned that she was not big into public engagement as a student, and this researcher brought those ideas to the table. From their informal conversation a new large-scale project was born.
Further Research Is Required
It’s a Christmas-fresh morning The anticipation, the readiness, the Excitement of finding yourself to be At the centre of things, at the pinpoint of the universe For one split moment, the euphoria, the
Absolute Lack That awaits you.
The absence of Evidence Correlation Confirmation.
It is Christmas morning and there is Nothing under the tree.
This poem was inspired by Dr Brendan Owens, Open Science Coordinator at Science Gallery Dublin, and an astrophysics researcher. As part of his thesis research on solar flares, he had set up a telescope to work alongside X-rays, hoping to find a correlation between the two. This poem is based on his memory of the morning when he went to check his results and found that his hypothesis was wrong, and his entire thesis has essentially resulted in nothing.
Reinventing the Wheel
An incredulous look Shared in good humour Amongst the bafflement, the ‘Why on earth would you do it that way?’
And the settling of the moment, The way it all falls apart, The way things as you know them are burnt away Until you are Weightless Singed to a crisp And then
Glowing as you step into a New realisation Baptised in the cool waters of the ‘Yes’ The ‘I see now’ The raw shine under the scabs Where etched under the pink skin It is written ‘This Is How We Make It Work.’
This poem was inspired by the story Dr Sophie Murray told me about when she met with a Met Weather forecaster, and presented forecasting information based on data about solar research. To her dismay the forecaster told her that her way of going about her research was 20 years out of date. That was the turning point when she realised if she used the technology and processes of everyday weather forecasting, rather than research specific to solar research, she could completely change the way she did her job, and she hasn’t looked back since.
CREATIVE TEAM Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan is a Dublin-based writer, performer, and cultural consultant from India. Her work has been published in Writing Home: The ‘New Irish’ Poets and Local Wonders from Dedalus Press, the Irish Chair of Poetry’s Hold Open the Door anthology, Queering the Green by Lifeboat Press, Banshee, Honest Ulsterman, and Poetry Ireland Review, amongst others. Chandrika has been selected for the Irish Writers Centre’s XBorders programme twice, and in 2021 was a Poetry Ireland’s Introductions poet and a Science Gallery Dublin’s Rapid Residency Artist. She was also editor of Poetry Ireland’s Trumpet issue 9, and is a book reviewer for Children’s Books Ireland’s Inis magazine. Chandrika is also on the Board of the Irish Writers Centre.
Denis Clohessy has been creating music for film, television and theatre for more than 20 years including some of Ireland’s most memorable film and stage productions from the last two decades. Some of his most notable work to date includes His and Hers (Venom films), Older ThanIreland and Under The Clock (Snackbox Films), The Irish Pub (Atom Films) and the recent Covid lockdown hit Abbeyfeale Good (Atom Films). He has also composed for a multitude of television productions including the Limits of Liberty (South Wind Blows) performed by the RTE Concert Orchestra. Over the last two decades Denis has become established as one of the leading composers in Irish Theatre and Dance having worked with many of the country’s leading companies including The Abbey, The Gate, Rough Magic, Fishamble, Junk Ensemble, The Corn Exchange and many others. His theatre work has been performed throughout Europe and the United States as well as Australia and China. His awards include honours from the Irish Times Theatre Awards, The European Short film Biennale and The Underground Film Awards.
Farouk Alao's style is ever-evolving. By trying to make sense of the world around him through his work, he hopes he can help others understand theirs. He focuses his work on humanity, questioning the things we think we know about ourselves. He previously worked at the M&C Saatchi offices in London for several months after a 4-week placement as a Graphic + Motion designer. He currently work at Stink Studios London as an Art Director.he is also the creative ambassador of Limerick, and the Co-Founder of Somint.art, an art marketplace for all that uses NFT and Blockchain tech to enable people to take control of their talent.
RESEARCH Dr Sophie Murray is an expert in space weather at Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS), with over a decade of experience in research and project management. She work with scientists, forecasters, and policy makers to develop operational space weather forecasting tools. As a Technical Officer at DIAS Dunsink Observatory, Sophie also supports research activities and public engagement activities for the Astronomy and Astrophysics Section.
Brendan Owens is a researcher at Trinity College Dublin, former Open Science Coordinator at Science Gallery Dublin, and Royal Observatory Greenwich Astronomer Emeritus. Brendan's background is in astronomy communication, having worked at the Royal Observatory Greenwich in London for almost a decade. His previous projects have ranged from designing schools workshops, to community collaborations, curating exhibitions and overseeing the installation of a new telescope facility. He holds a B.Sc. in Physics and Astronomy and M.Sc. in Science Communication, both from Dublin City University and remains closely tied to astronomy and astrophysics as Astronomer Emeritus for the Royal Observatory. He is passionate about technology, stargazing and exploring where other people's passions and needs intersect with science and art.