American artist Leslie Thornton first came to CERN as Guest Artist in January 2018. In collaboration with British artist James Richards, both explored its artistic 'collisions' by combining their interest and individual practises which led to the creation of 'Abyss Film' commissioned by Biennale de l'Image en Mouvement at Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève.
In a second visit in 2019, Thornton combined her experiences at CERN and later at Caltech to create a new work based on the footage captured during their time at the scientific and technological laboratories.
In her eponymous film 'Ground' (2020), Thornton outlines the coming into form of a reality in which the ground or base—like the ground of a painting or the physical ground that human existence has always been pulled toward by gravity—becomes undefined.
The material in the film was produced by the artist during residencies at CERN and Caltech, and stays in Los Angeles and Oslo. The lower half of Ground’s main motif sets the sprawl of Los Angeles, a place defined by the pace of its traffic, by the hustle and bustle of human activity, against a skyscape filmed at CERN, in which a scientist ambles along, describing his work and feelings. Through the use of effects, his corporeal body has been reduced to frequencies, lines, and grids. His voice resonates with humanity, “My life has been dedicated to…”, before Thornton completes the sentence off camera, “…the decay.” While he is referring to specific scientific processes, the film seems to imply another process of decay: the decay or loosening of indexical relationships through which reality has historically been consolidated. The lines that suggest his form shudder and thicken as he moves, creating an image space that oscillates elastically between depth and surface at any given time.