The Great Refractor, a collaboration with Irish poet and neuroscientist Laurence O’Dwyer, charts the undulating terrain of our attempts to understand the world through both scientific and poetic inquiries. The film contrasts histories of mapping, visualizing and territorializing with contemporary practices centered on sounding, listening and collective resonation. The film models a ‘refractive’ method of narration and authorship, one that seeks out possible transformations and decolonizations of our processes of interpreting and sharing the world.
The film presents a series of solitary figures engaged in their work, including an astrophysicist, an artist, a translator and a weather station engineer. Participants were asked to mimic with their voices the sounds of sonified observations, from underwater hydrophone recordings to black hole gravitation waves. All the sound in the video was made from these vocal recordings. Through a chorus of voices, stories and practices, the project prods at the sensitive and uncertain interface between outer and inner worlds, exploring regions of doubt where an often inscrutable reality meets the echo chambers of human knowledge.