In mid January of 2019 a group of over 20 MA Art and Science students made their way to CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. Famous for its discovery of the Higgs Boson to the World Wide Web, and home to the Large Hadron Collider. From learning about these discoveries, to seeing where they were created, and for a number of days being a part of the daily life of the CERN community… here tells a number of personal highlights and reflections from the journey.
From the Large Hadron Collider to Hadron therapy.
CERN doesn’t just do ‘science for science sake’. As the senior Advisor for Medical Applications, Manjit Dosanjh works to translate the developments taking place into improvements in cancer care.
In a fortuitous change to our schedule we were privileged to join a lecture she was hosting, in which she communicated the historical advancements in radiotherapy, and the promise of hadron therapy, i.e. using hadrons accelerated through the same principles as used in the LHC.
Most poignantly, she spoke of global disparity in access to radiotherapy, and her ambition to lead the way in developing radiation therapy solutions ‘in situations where the power supply is unreliable, the climate is harsh or communications are poor’. Inspired by her words, several of us are intending to meet with her again and explore how we might contribute to her dream by using our art practice to direct attention to this need.
One of the aspects of CERN that struck me the most was the power of collective human ambition. In my pursuit to explore scale, interconnectivity and humanity’s place in that spectrum, visiting CERN was a valuable opportunity to see humankind at its most inventive, curious and expansive. Learning about CERN’s colossal experiments and their invention of the World Wide Web was a great contribution to my research.
I am hugely grateful to Andy for having organised this trip as well as to Michael & team for the incredibly warm welcome and thorough insight into CERN. I’m also really grateful to Helen who was not only very inspiring, but very generous with her advice and time. It was a fantastic privilege to be there and to be invited to get involved in art@CMS.
Last but not least, I loved every moment of spending time with our wonderful group as well as getting to know our Vienna fellows.
CERN is an incredible place, not just in location but the also the whole spirit of collaboration to make the world better though science. As an artist I am excited to be able to access and interact with the scientists and engage with the wide range of research happening at CERN.
What I loved about CERN – and what represents how I now understand particle physics (and science in general), was the cloud chamber workshop because it made otherwise invisible particles – visible. Something else that’s emblematic – for me – of science, is that the existence of dark matter is only apparent because of how other matter behaves. Likewise, the Higgs Boson is proven indirectly because two photons are predicted to be what it decays into. Overall, CERN seems to be about being both thorough and uncertain at the same time. as the undetectable appears to appear in highly contrived experiments.
My recent trip to CERN has taught me a lot about the fundamental ideals behind scientific experimentation. The concept that it is acceptable not to know why we do something and the significance of it, combined with the belief that to move forward in technology and life it is not enough to simply perfect the things we know, we need to explore what we don’t know.
Here you have my highlights, plus some words about TATE. The latter is in response to Michael asking for “Ideas generated by the visit and artworks/exhibitions that happen as a result”
My highlights are:
- The proportional scale: For example 3 mg of Hydrogen gas provide the raw material for, (was it) a year of experimentation. Tiny particles blasted around within giant machines(accelerators). A tiny amount of matter, yet a massive amount of electricity to power the 72MW “Total Energy CERN” was showing on a control monitor
- The scale and construction of the detectors -vibrant colours and tessellated pattern of symmetry in construction
- The way the words sound – Cyclo Synchrotron, Scintillator ALICE A Large Ion Collider Experiment, Compact Muon Solenoid. Immediately playful onomatopoeia.
Within one day of returning – we collaborated to create an exhibition at one of Europe’s most prestigious art galleries, Tate Modern. The exhibition was in the Tate Exchange space, where artists show their work in order to exchange ideas with the public.
We used schoolroom technical aesthetic of blackboard – filled it with photographs, formuli, diagrams and a large question mark. We wrote an open letter to the public “To Whom It May Con-CERN” and invited their response. We generated public engagement works including a radiation wall made of lead, 3D printed plastic and constructed in wood. We created a large scale floor map of CERN’s experiments and major accelerators and detectors.
Where will this lead? … All the students are invited back to CERN for more in depth research or to explore newly inspired creative ideas. MAAS graduate Helen Cawley met up with the students at CERN. She made the same journey two years previous and has now been working along side scientists and researchers on the CLOUD project for approximately the last 3 months.