Art draws out the beauty of physics

When it comes to quantum mechanics, it’s easier to show than tell.

That’s why artist residencies at particle physics labs play an important part in conveying their stories, according to CERN theorist Luis Alvarez-Gaume.

He recently spent some time demonstrating physics concepts to Semiconductor, a duo of visual artists from England known for exploring matter through the tools and processes of science. They’ve done multiple short films, museum pieces and festivals all over the world. In July they were awarded a CERN residency as part of the Collide@CERN Ars Electronica Award.

“I tried to show them how we develop an intuition for quantum mechanics by applying the principles and getting used to the way it functions,” Alvarez-Gaume says. “Because honestly, I cannot explain quantum mechanics even to a scientist.”

The physicist laughed when he made that statement, but the artists, Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, are comforted by the sentiment. They soaked up all they could during their two-month stay in late 2015 and are still processing interviews and materials they’ll use to develop a major work based on their experiences.

“Particle physics is the most challenging subject we’ve ever worked with because it’s so difficult to create a tangible idea about it, and that’s kind of what we are all about,” Jarman says, adding that they are fully up for the challenge.

Besides speaking with theorists and experimentalists, the artists explored interesting spaces at CERN and filmed both the construction of a new generation of magnets and a workshop where scientists were developing prototypes of instruments.

“We also dug around a lot in the archives,” Gerhardt says. “It’s such an amazing place and we only really touched the surface.”

But they have a lot of faith in the process based on past experiences working in scientific settings.

A 2007 work called “Magnetic Movie” was based on a similar stay at NASA’s Space Sciences Laboratories at UC Berkeley, where the artists captured the “secret lives of invisible magnetic fields.” In the film, brightly colored streams and blobs emanate from various rooms at the lab to the sounds of VLF (very low frequency) audio recordings and scientists talking.

“Are we observing a series of scientific experiments, the universe in flux or a documentary of a fictional world?” the artists ask on their website.

The piece won multiple awards at international film festivals. But, just as importantly to the artists, the scientists were excited about the way it celebrated their work, “even though it was removed from their context,” Jarman says.

Picturing the invisible

At the Department of Energy’s Fermilab, another group of artists has taken on the challenge of “visualizing the invisible.” Current artist-in-residence Ellen Sandor and her collaborative group (art)n have been brushing up on neutrinos and the machines that study them.

Their goal is to put their own cutting-edge technologies to use in scientifically accurate and “transcendent” artworks that tell the story of Fermilab’s past, present and future, the artist says.

Sandor is known as a pioneer of virtual photography. In the 1980s she invented a new medium called PHSColograms, 3-D images that combine photography, holography, sculpture and computer graphics to create what she calls “immersive” experiences.

The group will use PHSColograms, sculpture, 3D printing, virtual reality and projection mapping in a body of work that will eventually be on display at the lab.

“We want to tell the story with scientific visualization and also with abstraction,” Sandor says. “But all of the images will be exciting and artistic.”

The value of such rich digital visuals lies in what Sandor calls their “wow factor,” according to Sam Zeller, neutrino physicist and science advisor for the artist-in-residence program.

“We scientists don’t always know how to hit that mark, but she does,” Zeller says. “These three-dimensional immersive images come closer to the video game environment. If we want to capture the imagination of school-age children, we can’t just stand in front of a poster and talk anymore.”

As co-spokesperson of the MicroBooNE experiment, Zeller and team are collaborating with the artists on virtual reality visualizations of a new detector technology called a liquid-argon time projection chamber. The detector components, as well as the reactions it detects, are sealed inside a stainless steel vessel out of view.

“Because she strives for scientific accuracy, we can use Sandor’s art to help us explain how our detector works and demonstrate it to the public,” Zeller says.

Growing collaborations

According to Monica Bello, head of Arts@CERN, programs that combine art and science are a growing trend around the globe.

Organizations such as the Arts Catalyst Centre for Art, Science & Technology in London commission science-related art worldwide, and galleries like Kapelica Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia, present contemporary art focused largely on science and technology.

US nonprofit Leonardo, The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, supports cross-disciplinary research and international artist and scientist residencies and events.

“However, programs of this kind founded within scientific institutions and with full support are still rare,” Bello says. Yet, many labs, including TRIUMF in Canada and INFN in Italy, host art exhibits, events or occasional artist residencies.

“While we don’t bring on full-time artists continually, TRIUMF offers a suite of initiatives that explore the intersection of art and science,” says Melissa Baluk, communications coordinator at TRIUMF.  “A great example is our ongoing partnership with artist Ingrid Koenig of Emily Carr University of Art + Design here in Vancouver. Koenig tailors some of her fine art classes to these intersections, for example, courses called ‘Black Holes and Other Transformations of Energy’ and ‘Quantum Entanglements: Manifestations in Practice.’”

The collaboration invites physicists to Koenig’s studio and draws her students to the lab. “It’s a wonderful partnership that allows all involved to discover news ways of thinking about the interconnections between art, science, and culture on a scale that works for us,” Baluk says.

Fermilab’s robust commitment to the arts reaches back to founding director, physicist and artist Robert Wilson. His sculptures are still exhibited around the lab, says Georgia Schwender, curator of the Fermilab Art Gallery.

Schwender finds that art-science programs attract the community through the unconventional pairing of subjects; events such as the international Art@CMS exhibit last year at Fermilab are very well received.

“It’s not just a physics or an art class,” she says. “People who might be a little afraid of the art or a little afraid of the science are less intimidated when you bring them together.”

Fermilab recently complemented its tradition of cultural engagement with a new artist residency, which began in 2014 with mixed media artist Lindsay Olson.

Art-physics interactions

Science as a subject for art has grown since Sandor’s first PHSCologram of the AIDS virus bloomed into a career of art-science collaborations.

“In the beginning it was almost practical. People were dying, and we wanted to bring everything to the surface and leave nothing hidden,” the artist says. “By the 1990s I realized that scientists were the rock stars of the future, and that’s even truer today.”

Sandor relishes being part of the scientific process. Drawing out the hidden beauty of particle physics to create something scientifically accurate and artistically stunning has been one of the most satisfying projects to date, she says.

Like Sandor, Semiconductor works with authentic scientific data, but they also emphasize how the language of science influences our experience of nature.

“The data represents something we can’t actually see, feel or touch,” Jarman says. “We reference the tools and processes of science and encourage the noise and the artifact to constantly remind people that it is man observing nature, but not actually how it is.”

Both Zeller and Alvarez-Gaume have personal interests in art and find value in the similarities and differences between the fields.

“Our objectives are very different, but our paths are similar,” Alvarez-Gaume says. “We experience inspiration, passion and frustration. We work through trial and error, failing most of the time.”

Like art, science is abstract but enjoyable, he adds. “Theoretical physicists will tell you there is beauty in science—a sense of awe. Art helps bring this to the surface. People are not interested in the details: They want to get a vision, a picture about why we think particle physics is interesting or exciting.”

Zeller finds her own inspiration in art-science collaborations.

“One of the things that surprised me the most in working with artists was the fact that they could articulate much better than I could what it is that my research achieves for humankind, and this reinvigorated me with excitement about my work,” she says.

Yet, one key difference between art and science speaks for the need to nurture their growing intersections, Alvarez-Gaume says.

“Science is inevitable; art is fragile. Without Einstein it may have taken many, many years, and many people working on it, but we still would have come up with his theories. If Beethoven died at age 5, we would not have the sonatas; art is not repeatable.”

And a world without art is not a world he would like to imagine.

04/12/16

Labs around the world open their doors to aesthetic creation.

https://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/art-draws-out-the-beauty-of-physics

 

Advertisements

Automata at the Exploratorium – Curious Contraptions: Small Machines of Love and Mystery

November 16–January 28, 2018
Explore small, surreal worlds at Curious Contraptions, an exhibition featuring charming, often hilarious mechanical sculptures known as automata. These whimsical machines are brought to life by intricate arrangements of simple, handmade mechanisms.

//players.brightcove.net/979328832001/NJgjituzjl_default/index.html?videoId=5616697493001

Meet the artists

//players.brightcove.net/979328832001/NJgjituzjl_default/index.html?videoId=5616668107001

How the Family-Run Underground Museum Became One of L.A.’s Most Vital Cultural Forces

The night after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Moonlight director Barry Jenkins made his way to the Underground Museum, a buzzy cultural hub and alternative art space in the ­predominantly black-and-Latino neighborhood of Arlington Heights, in ­Central Los Angeles. Walking into the small storefront space for a post-screening Q&A, he saw few viewers inside and assumed that ­distress over the previous night’s outcome had made everyone stay home. Then he stepped outside into the garden and found 250 people packed tightly together on blankets on the lawn. They had just watched ­Moonlight on the outdoor screen and were eager to talk—not about craft or behind-the-scenes stuff, as they typically did at Jenkins’s Q&A’s, he says, but about how they felt. Jenkins recalls it as the most meaningful night of the movie’s rollout.

“I was struck by what a diverse crowd it was—tons of black folks, ­people from the neighborhood, white, Latino, Asian. And I thought, This is America,” says the director, whose film went on to win the Oscar for best picture. “Nothing could replicate the feeling that we had that night. It was almost like group therapy, all of us just out there under the stars, witnessing this thing we’d made and using it to bring us together.”

Cofounded in 2012 by the painter Noah Davis, a rising L.A. art star, and his wife, Karon, a sculptor, the Underground Museum began as a row of storefront spaces that doubled as the couple’s studio and home. Though the Studio Museum in Harlem, in New York, and the Rubell Family Collection, in Miami, had acquired some of Davis’s moody ­figurative paintings, Davis wanted to sidestep the gallery system, preferring to bring museum-quality art to a community that had no access to it “within walking distance,” as he once put it.

Soon, he and Karon were opening their doors to anyone passing by, and Noah was curating ­eclectic shows—of his own work and of others’, including his older brother, Kahlil Joseph, an artist and filmmaker who created music videos and would go on to direct videos for Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé. Noah was 32 when he died of a rare type of soft tissue cancer, in 2015; by then he had forged a unique partnership with the Museum of ­Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), which had agreed to loan the Underground Museum works from its permanent collection for a series of shows that Davis would curate. (He was able to work on the first one, and left behind plans for 18 others.)

These days, guided by Karon, Kahlil, and other family members, the Underground Museum is an anomaly in this era of starchitect-designed private museums and foundations: a modest, black-family-run art collective whose convening power is likely the envy of every cultural institution in the country. Beyoncé, the artist David Hammons, and the actress and activist Amandla Stenberg have all been spotted in its purple-themed garden; John Legend and Solange Knowles have launched albums there; and the director Raoul Peck visited to screen his acclaimed James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro. Equal parts art gallery, hangout space, film club, and speakeasy, the UM, as it’s affectionately known, focuses on black excellence, not struggle, though it’s been nimble enough to address recent racial turmoil by creating a forum for talks by Angela Davis and by Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors. Jenkins likens the museum to “a salon you would have found during the Harlem Renaissance,” in the 1920s and ’30s. “There’s something coming out of that place that is so radical in its potential that you can feel it,” concurs the L.A.-based sculptor Thomas Houseago. “And it draws a mix of people that I don’t find anywhere else in the world. As a white artist, it’s not like, ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’ It’s, ‘Great, you’re here! More hands.’ ”

If you don’t know what you’re looking for, however, you might be forgiven for walking past its unassuming entrance, which intentionally blends into the streetscape of carpet warehouses and tattoo parlors. Step inside and you’re immediately welcomed into an intimate bookshop, curated by Noah’s mother, Faith Childs-Davis, a former teacher who directs the L.A. branch of Tony Bennett’s arts-education nonprofit, Exploring the Arts. Found discarded chairs, reupholstered in Dutch wax prints, offer discreet spots to chat; vintage albums, culled from Noah and Karon’s collection, are often playing on the Crosley turntable. In the exhibition spaces, the current show, “Artists of Color” (through February), features a mix of pieces from MOCA’s permanent collection and other loans—providing a dialogue between artists of different periods and walks of life. But here, too, the vibe is chill. Short quotes by each artist are placed near their works, and the introductory wall text is signed, love, the um. In one gallery, a 1960s light installation by Dan Flavin faces a neon text piece by Los Angeles artist EJ Hill that reads WE DESERVE TO SEE OURSELVES ELEVATED. A long wooden bar in another gallery leads to the backyard garden, the site of an organic food market and yoga classes, where an installation by Diana Thater uses clear colored vinyl to create a giant tunnel of alternating hues.

Read the full article here.

undergroundmuseum2

 

Warm for the Holidays

Meet Veronika Scott. As a 22 year old Product Design student at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Veronica took professor Steve Schock‘s class on Design Activism and it changed her life.

As her class project, Veronika spent hours at a homeless shelter and with the help of their residents, developed a coat that also doubles as a sleeping bag at night and a shoulder bag when not in use.  The Element S (survival),  now called the EMPWR Coat, is self heated, and waterproof .  The coat not only filled a need in the community, but became a way for Scott to improve the lives of others.

Ms. Scott stepped up and decided to do more than help the homeless stay warm in the cold Michigan winters, she began to hire people from local shelters and help them work their way out of homelessness. Her nonprofit organization, “The Empowerment Plan“,  centers around lifting single parents out of homelessness by providing them with training and work making coats.

Over 34 families now have permanent housing thanks to a 20-something with a good idea, and a good heart. Together they have made over 15.000 EMPWR coats distributed across North America.

Good for you Veronika!  Thanks for keeping us all warm for the holidays.

 

Emanuele Fornasier’s Crystal Birth

 

Crystal Birth: A Beautiful Timelapse of Metallic Crystals Forming in Chemical Solutions

Italian chemistry student Emanuele Fornasier also has a knack for photography and spent the last few months documenting the formation of crystals. The result is Crystal Birth, a timelapse of some 18 examples of electrocrystallization, where an electric current is run through a chemical solution, causing metal deposits to form over a period of several hours or days. You can see more of his chemistry and timelapse work on his website.

 

Camille A. Brown: A visual history of social dance in 25 moves

Lovely (only 4 minutes) TED Studio Talk with
Camille A. Brown, Choreographer and educator
Camille A. Brown leads her dance company through excavations of ancestral stories, both timeless and traditional, that connect history with contemporary culture. Full bio
Why do we dance? African-American social dances started as a way for enslaved Africans to keep cultural traditions alive and retain a sense of inner freedom. They remain an affirmation of identity and independence. In this electric demonstration, packed with live performances, choreographer, educator and TED Fellow Camille A. Brown explores what happens when communities let loose and express themselves by dancing together.

Statue of Liberty Nebula

2016 September 28     NGC 3576: The Statue of Liberty Nebula
Image Credit & Copyright: S. Mazlin, J. Harvey, R. Gilbert, & D. Verschatse (SSRO/PROMPT/UNC)
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap160928.html

It sounds like something straight out of Ghostbusters … today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is The Statue of Liberty Nebula.  Do you see her?

Explanation: What’s happening in the Statue of Liberty nebula? Bright stars and interesting molecules are forming and being liberated. The complex nebula resides in the star forming region called RCW 57. This image showcases dense knots of dark interstellar dust, bright stars that have formed in the past few million years, fields of glowing hydrogen gas ionized by these stars, and great loops of gas expelled by dying stars. A detailed study of NGC 3576, also known as NGC 3582 and NGC 3584, uncovered at least 33 massive stars in the end stages of formation, and the clear presence of the complex carbon molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are thought to be created in the cooling gas of star forming regions, and their development in the Sun’s formation nebula five billion years ago may have been an important step in the development of life on Earth. The featured imagewas taken at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

 

James Turrell’s Sky Spaces

Installation artist James Turrell, at Roden Crater in northern Arizona in 2001.  Credit Florian Holzherr

I am always on the lookout for something or someone new and interdisciplinary to bring to the STEAM Hub. James Turrell,  an installation artist and son of an aeronautical engineer and Peace Corps doctor, seems to have that beautiful mix of aesthetic creativity partnered with science that is so interesting to me.   It came as no surprise that his undergraduate studies focused on psychology and mathematics; only later, in graduate school, did he pursue art, receiving an MFA from the Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, California.

Here are a few of his Arizona projects to wet your whistle.  When it cools off just a little, I think a James Turrell art road trip is in order.

Roden Crater
The natural cinder cone crater is now home to a land art project and naked eye observatory thirty plus years in the making that will blow your mind.

Air Apparent
A Sky Space Art Installation by James Turrell and Will Bruder at the ASU Tempe campus.

Knight Rise
Another Turrell public sky space located at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.