THE SEARCH by Heiko Hansen for the catalogue of "Invisible", Palazzo Delle Papesse, Centre for Contemporary Art, Siena, 2004


A young woman went into a shop and bought a Babushka as a present for a friend. As she came home she opened the first of the nesting dolls out of curiosity. The two shells split in half and a smaller Babushka entered the world. She immediately set off to open the second and the third doll. It was as if she had started to eat a delicacy. The first bite is a revelation, an exploration of taste, but the more one eats one rushes through to the very last piece. The woman opened one Babushka after the other. All of them had different paintings on them, but their form was identical apart from their size. Quickly the Babushkas got smaller and smaller. The whole table was filled with empty shells and the woman held a doll of about a centimetre in her hand. She opened it and an even smaller one fell onto the table and she was too scared to touch it with her big bare hands so as to not break it. She stared at it for a while to conclude that it had drawings on it, like the others before. However, she could not be certain anymore, if her eyesight was playing a trick on her. She decided to go to a hobbyist store the next day to buy a microscope and a fine pair tweezers.

The woman chose to buy a standard microscope, since she would have no particular use for it after she opened the last doll. It took her a while to figure out how to use it and how to benefit from all its features. She put the Babushka on the instrument table and soon after adjusting the focus the doll appeared in front of her in the eyepiece. She was full of excitement. The doll looked supernatural in the glowing light coming through the diaphragm at the bottom of the microscope. At the same its appearance was surreal, because this smallest of all Babushkas, seamed to be bigger than all the others before, viewed through the microscope. She took her tweezers and opened the doll. A new Babushka showed up and rolled for and back on the instrument table before it came to rest next to its ancestor.

This was the first moment the woman questioned her situation. She realised that she did not expect anything else to happen, but her efforts and her investment had made her longing for a conclusion. At the same time she was in a strange way excited to be still on the quest. It was as if something in her was saddened to come to a discrete end, a point where everything would become resolved, banal, explainable and the preceding quest therefore meaningless or finite.

She continued to open three more Babushkas until the magnification and the size of her tweezers came to their limits. She tried everything and bought the most expensive of all equipment. However, all of her explorations led to new technical challenges. Parallel to her experiments she had also started to carry out research on the subject. She studied technical details of microscopes, hobbyist magazines and research publications. The woman realised that the problem could not be solved by her alone and that she had to collaborate with a scientific laboratory.

All her thoughts where orbiting around the phenomena of the nesting figures and as the young woman grew older, the issue started to blur into every aspect of her life. She was obsessed with self-similarity and would recognise it in traffic, food and friendships. After collaborating with many institutes she started to be known in the scientific research community and the term of the Babushka theorem was established. Many books and research papers where published on the subject, however the woman was still hoping to go to the end of her search. Through her contacts and her growing fame she was able to push for the construction of a gigantic machine, the doll accelerator. The idea was to rotate the smallest Babushkas with light speed around a huge underground tunnel and to project them onto other particles to break them into the elementary possible figures. The project was realised through a large international conglomeration of institutes and federal funding. The machine was envisioned to measure some kilometres and to be installed deep under a mountain chain shielded off from extraterrestrial sources and other interferences.

By now the woman had lost any other interest in life and as the day of the experiment approached she became more and more weary and unstable. She had spent years underground accompanying the building work. Her health had suffered from these unworldly conditions and over the years, which passed by, the woman had grown old. She started to believe that this would be the final, last experiment she would have to carry out. Against all her knowledge and experience she convinced herself that the discovery of the last Babushka was in reach. The experiment was anticipated with much interest by the international media and the world of research. After some iterations of the machine and a power failure finally the experiment was carried out. After a week of computational analysis the result was released. It was worse than anything the woman could have expected. The scientists claimed that the Babushka had been evaporated into a whole new group of smaller dolls, called the quantum Babushkas, all of them with the same inherited properties of their ancestor.

This drove the woman insane. She went into a feverish state and she realised that all her efforts had been self-driven and that all technical evolution is recursive. In that moment she saw the world and her existence as a part of one self-repetitive function similar to a fractal image and every definition of representation of scale had vanished in her mind forever. Everything she knew about the world was in a condition of flux on an infinite scale of small and big things, all of which are I N V I S I B L E, and existing at the same time simultaneously everywhere.