Cherenkov is an installation created for the exhibition Here to Become at the Bridewell Studios, Liverpool for the 2023 Independents Biennial exploring the prophetic quality of Plutonium-239.
When light passes through water its speed is reduced by around a quarter. A charged particle emitted by a radioactive substance may have a speed greater than that of light in water. The resulting ‘sonic boom’ causes the emission of a characteristic blue light – Cherenkov radiation – named after the Soviet physicist and Nobel Laureate Pavel Cherenkov who first discovered it.
Cherenkov explores the eschatological nature of this phenomenon imagining the innate potential of Pu-239 to go critical or act as oracle. Cobalt-blue light passes through a brass rod suspended in a glass vial of water – a surrogate rod of Plutonium-239 in the ‘forbidden pool’ of a nuclear reactor. The scattered light hits a lead screen engraved with verse 5 Chapter 6 of the Book of Revelation:
και οτε ηνυξε την ϲφραγιδα την τριτην ηκουϲα του τριτου ζωου λεγοντοϲ ερχου και ϊδε και ειδον και ϊδου ιπποϲ μελαϲ και ο καθημενοϲ επ αυτον εχων ζυγον εν τη χιρι αυτου
And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying: Come. And I saw, and behold, a black horse, and he that sat on him had a balance in his hand.
In this way Cherenkov also becomes inscrutably linked to Trinity its companion artwork in the same exhibition: a 3m balance which literally weighs souls.
The music featured in Cherenkov is Plutonium by Michael John Gerard Higgins whose work is a part of an emerging series structurally related to the electron shell configurations of certain elements in the periodic table.