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CERN: Where Art, Design And Particle Physics Become One
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CERN: Where Art, Design And Particle Physics Become One

Picture of Sophia Francis
Updated: 4 January 2017
A fusion of physics and the arts that unites the realms of science and creativity: this is the truly remarkable programme that the world’s largest particle physics laboratory has instigated. We learn more about the fascinating developments at CERN and their unique collaboration with some of the most globally renowned artists and designers – including Iris Van Herpen.
Collide@CERNSubodh listening to Bill's sounds copy 2 © Courtesy of CERN
Collide@CERNSubodh listening to Bill’s sounds copy 2 | © Courtesy of CERN

A fully funded 3-month artist residency at the world-renowned particle physics lab and a collision of science and art that is truly mind-blowing: this is the opportunity that CERN has provided for artists and designers worldwide. The result is stunning, creative work that is unsurpassed in its uniqueness and style. The programme called Collide@CERN allows various artists to apply for a residency in Geneva, and it combines both fields’ aim to ‘explore our existence – what it is to be human and our place in the universe’, as explained by director Ariane Koek.

Bill Fontana and Subodh Patil at CERN Data Center Photo by Julian Calo © Courtesy of CERN
Bill Fontana and Subodh Patil at CERN Data Center Photo by Julian Calo | © Courtesy of CERN

Incorporating many different areas of the arts such as the work of sound sculptor Bill Fontana, and the work of artist Julius von Bismark, the remarkable creations that the programme has produced is wholly innovative and fascinating. Von Bismark’s swinging lamps, for example is just one instance of how the science and technology of CERN unites with the creativity of these artists.

Bill Fontana in LHC Photo by Michael Fontana © Courtesy of CERN
Bill Fontana in LHC Photo by Michael Fontana | © Courtesy of CERN

Seeking to expand the programme further, CERN’s doors are open to architects and designers – some of the world’s most creative planners and thinkers. Among these we find Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen, whose stunning work was inspired by the technologies and magnets at CERN. Perfectly tailored garments that have been fashioned with injection moulding and laser cutting are the result of this extraordinary unity of science and art. Other inventive techniques used by van Herpen include creating some of the accessories and adornments using magnets and metals.

Jan Peters ATLAS Pixel Detector © Courtesy of CERN
Jan Peters ATLAS Pixel Detector | © Courtesy of CERN

As CERN explores the art of such innovative designers, and as such artists are exposed to the technologies of CERN, the new creations that are achieved by such a combination is paradigm-shifting stuff. It absolutely is work of the highest degree.