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The BLOB of Im/Possible Images

Rosa Menkman Opened February 1st, 2021 View 3D Gallery
Poster image for The BLOB of Im/Possible Images


Imagine you could obtain an 'impossible' image of any object or phenomenon that you think is important, with no limits on spatial, temporal, energy, signal/noise or cost resolutions. What image would you create? (the answer can be a hypothetical image of course!)

This was the question I asked every scientist I spoke to during my Arts at CERN/Collide Barcelona residency. In the BLOB I am presenting some of the insights this research has opened up to me.

The BLOB (Binary Large OBject) gives a home to the collection of Im/Possible images that all together illustrate the concept of the impossible image and the relationships between affordance, resolution and compromise.

As different Axes of Affordance (X,Y,Z and α) cut the BLOB, they define what is possible to resolve, and what images are compromised, or in other words, will never be rendered. While normally these compromised images would never find their way to our eyes, the hypothetical realms of the BLOB offer pasture to these impossible renders.

Via the open call you can submit your own Im/Possible image. These images might be considered for implementation and exhibition.

The BLOB of Im/Possible Images is made in commission for Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel (HEK)

Artworks in this room:

DCT:SYPHONING soundtrack

Rosa Menkman

You are here

Map to the BLOB of Im/Possible Images. Featuring an Ecology of Compression Complexities. ⦁ Dots ━ Lines ▩ Blocks ⌇ Wavelets ⟗ Vectors

You are here

Portal made from the Shadow of Dark Matter

Speculative image

Only 5% of our universe is made out of ordinary matter and energy (energy and matter we know and understand), while the rest is divided between 27% dark matter and 68% of a form of energy known as dark energy. Dark matter is called dark because it does not appear to interact with the electromagnetic field, which means it does not absorb, reflect or emit electromagnetic radiation, and is therefore difficult to detect.

Pale Blue Dot

Image that has become impossible due to (technological or political) resolutions

Pale Blue Dot is a photo of planet Earth taken by the Voyager 1 Space Probe on February 14, 1990, from a distance of 6 billion KMs (3.7 billion miles). This photo can no longer be recreated because, in its quest to research the outer Solar System, Voyager has passed a threshold (in terms of distance) to take a photos of Earth.

Pale Blue Dot

Sunset on the Labrador Coast.

Image that is deemed impossible or erroneous, because it does not represent the world as we know it

Glass photographic slide. Collection of the Susan Schuppli. In Can the Sun Lie?, Schuppli explores how photographic evidence of the Sun and the midnight sky show a reality that is different from how locals know and understand it. These days when taking a photo of the Canadian Arctic, it seems the Sun sets many kilometres further west along the horizon, while the stars are no longer where they should be. Because of Climate change, Sunlight has started to behave differently in this part of the world: the warming Arctic air causes temperature inversions and throws the setting Sun off-kilter.

 Sunset on the Labrador Coast.

Inside a proton

Impossible image due to spatial resolution

Added by: Mark Sutton (trigger, CERN) A proton consists of 3 quarks which are, besides gluons, the fundamental building blocks of the universe. These subatomic particles, the smallest particles we know of, are far smaller than the protons and neutrons in which they are found. But Quarks are also smaller than the wavelengths of (visible) light. This means there is no equipment available for actually taking this image.


Temporarily impossible images due to political / financial constraints

Added by: Rafael Ballabriga Sune A colour X-ray imaging technique that produces 3D cut-through pictures, to help doctors diagnose their patients more accurately. At the moment the time penalty for creating these scans is too high to use in practice. "Medipix is a family of read-out chips for particle imaging and detection. The original concept of Medipix is that it works like a camera, detecting and counting each individual particle hitting the pixels when its electronic shutter is open. This enables high-resolution, high-contrast, very reliable images, making it unique for imaging applications in particular in the medical field."


Missing Image

Images that cannot be imagined (due to habitual practice)

Missing images are ubiquitous, but seldom considered. I think we are actually conditioned not to think about what is missing. This is one way for bias to slip into our routines.

Missing Image

A photo of the moon next to Andromeda Galaxy

‘doctored’ Image (actual image is impossible due to the laws of physics, nature or reality)

Moon texture by NASA, Andromeda by Andrei Shirkin In the sky, the Andromeda galaxy is about 3x as big as the moon or the Sun. If you hold up your thump in front of you, you see it will be roughly the same size as both the moon and the Sun. Andromeda would be much bigger. It is however impossible to capture the Andromeda galaxy and the moon in one picture: Andromeda is too far and not bright enough. Next to the Moon the galaxy would wash out. All the photos we have of the night skye in which we see both the Moon and Andromeda are doctored.

A photo of the moon next to Andromeda Galaxy

The Quantum Vacuum at a slice of Planck constant time

Impossible image that can only be imagined

Planck constant time is the smallest slice of time, while the Quantum Vacuum is a state with the lowest possible energy, in which every possible state is possible at the same time, if these states even each other out at that particular interval. In other words: a possible slice of everything all at once, with a zero sum of nothing. (this explanation is written by a non-physicist and is up for debate!)