Reflections On Chrome Cavern and The Expanded Consciousness Reading Room

We enter a storefront space unlike any other. Multicolored light and laughter reflect off countless prismatic surfaces, as if entering a subterranean chamber of emerald and lapis lazuli. A throng of people enter from the fog-laden everyday of twilight San Francisco. Inside they sip cocktails, make idle conversation. As the mood and the light shift to evening, hands begin to explore the hundreds of books that line the Chrome Cavern's walls. Each one sits on its own small half moon shelf. Entrancing music fills the space like an electronic wind sweeping slowly through a pixelated, underwater forest. Eyes dart from page to page, line to line. Someone begins dancing. Here unfolds the opening reception of Chrome Cavern and the Expanded Consciousness Reading Room, the inaugural exhibition for StoreFrontLab's Season 3: The Unknown, The Unknowable, The Future.

Beneath the blood black loam of Mt Ikenoyama, lies a cylindrical stainless steel tank 3,300 feet underground. The tank stands at 136 feet tall and 129 feet in diameter. The interior walls are lined with light detectors; enormous reflective, gas-filled bulbs that populate the inner surface like countless chrome mushrooms. At the bottom of this hidden abyss, a still pond is comprised of 50,000 tons of ultra-pure water.

The tank is part of the Kamioka Observatory, home of the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research in central Japan. It is the culmination of 100 million dollars spent to detect invisible particles from beyond our world. Thought to be debris ejected from colliding black holes, gamma ray bursts from exploding stars, or violent events at the cores of distant galaxies. Neutrinos are so small that they pass between the atoms in your body like lone headlights on a midnight desert highway. The Super-Kamiokande is a detector built inside a mountain on an island created by the Shinto sun goddess, Amaterasu.

As the evening reception progresses, pretenses and reservations drop off one by one. A discussion erupts. Not one or two, but infinite kaleidoscopic conversations manifest. People pass by the open door, vexed and in awe. What is this place? Why is this place? They are pushed inside and the many become one. 

Six thousand miles away in a suburb of Geneva, Switzerland, an army of physicists race particles around a circular track. The Large Hadron Collider is 17 miles in circumference and 574 feet below gentle swaying grass and lazing cows. Like children deliberately wrecking their toys, the physicists watch the resulting ping and mayhem of particles graph and sway across blinking monitors and thick greasy glasses. Each event unleashes an inscrutable algebraic waterfall. Searching for the face of God in a lattice of late-night theorems with a pious laser-like devotion to unlocking the mysteries of the solvable universe. 

Conversation within StoreFrontLab this evening turns to religion, to science, to philosophy and ultimately to intimate personal experience. It is by entering through the grand door of the objective, the macro, the cosmic, that you begin to find the intimately personal and pragmatic. You discover a universe contained inside a single atom and witness yourself united to those around you outside of time and dualistic distinctions. One organism questioning, and questioning the questioner. Following the ancient river to its source.

In every astronomy department, on every college campus around the world, astrophysicists collect light in crystal buckets. They gently pull apart the threads of sunlight, discovering tales of distant planets that carry us like sleepy children to the origins of this reality: This soup of light waves tells stories of far away kingdoms, impossible light years, only reachable in numerical formulas and in philosopher's dreams. These kingdoms hold the necessary ingredients for life, perhaps a life just like yours. 

Did you feel that? An astoundingly distant being, looking up at the night sky just now, imagining an unreachable, unknowable YOU. 

On a quiet residential side street, along the surging blue-gray dream of the Pacific, StoreFrontLab unites these four apparitions under a banner of Unknowing:

- The light diffraction grating film that clings to the glass facade reveals the interaction between matter and light: Spectroscopy.

- The Chrome Cavern mimics the architecture of particle physics: The Large Hadron Collider.

- The grid of silver orbs that envelope the space, represent the invisible observation of violent cosmic phenomena: The Super-Kamioka Neutrino Detector.

- The small library within represents the accumulation of all human knowledge.

This exhibition is the first of seven small human dioramas dedicated to bridging the Unknown and Unknowable with our visions and dreams of the future. Season 3 at StoreFrontLab, which will run through Spring 2016, is a tribute to the insatiable human yearning to understand and find order in chaos. What tools help us transcend invisible truths? What mystical wonders expose the monster of the atom within bomb and reactor.

What has come before you? Who will remember you when you are gone? We carry on under the burden of a complex existence, laughing in wondrous delighted and terrified amazement.