Culture

Art and sub-atomic particles on course to collide at CERN center

GENEVA: Euope’s center of research into the Big Bang and what makes the universe tick, has announced a new program – one fusing science with art to encourage painting and music inspired by the wonders of the cosmos.

In more prosaic terms, CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) has set course upon a “policy of engaging with the arts,” one that will set the European nuclear research center’s seal of approval upon cultural projects influenced by the particle physics at the heart of its work.

“The arts and science are inextricably linked,” said German physicist Rolf Heuer, CERN director general and a classical music fan. “Both are ways of exploring our existence, what it is to be human and what is our place in the universe.”

Japanese video artist and photographer Mariko Mori provided a more lyrical view of the ideas behind the program, which will be directed by a “Cultural Board for the Arts” and bring artists to work in residence at CERN.

“CERN’s challenge, to discover the truth of our existence with revolutionary science, provides inspiration to artists and creators everywhere,” said Mori after a recent visit to the center on the borders of France and Switzerland.

A rising star in international art who creates visions of alien worlds in sculpture, painting and video, Mori said that CERN is leading humankind’s efforts “to understand what we are.”

The 5-member “Cultural Board” – including a top opera company director from France, a museum chief from Switzerland and a CERN physicist specializing in the cosmic search for anti-matter – will select two projects a year for endorsement.

The cash-strapped CERN, whose budget is strictly controlled by its 20 member states, cannot provide finance itself, but Heuer says the moral backing will boost each project in seeking external funding.

As part of the new policy, the research center will form partnerships with leading international cultural organizations, like the digital arts body Ars Electronica, which will put CERN at the heart of its “Origins” festival in Linz, Austria in September.

CERN, whose subterranean Large Hadron Collider has simulated trillions of mini-versions of the Big Bang that created the universe 13.7 billion years ago since its launch in March 2010, is no newcomer to the arts.

Young researchers there have created rap accounts of the LHC launch, and physicists have formed a jazz band and a small symphony orchestra. Last year a U.S. artist used the whole side of a building on its main site for a mural illustrating what he called the secular mythology of “a cathedral of science.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 05, 2011, on page 16.

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