Oct 21, 2013
Inside Story: A dialogue between science and art
With an international reach, CMS provides an ideal platform to communicate science through art.
The Joanneum Universal Museum in Graz is Austria’s oldest publicly accessible museum and the largest general museum in central Europe. In June this year, 200 years after its foundation, I was in this inspiring building with a group of students from two local schools. We were participating in an interdisciplinary workshop to bridge art and the scientific world of particle physics. I am a physicist at CERN/CMS but also an artist who tries to express my scientific work in an artistic manner and I want to inspire the younger generation to get in touch with our fascinating scientific world. In my contact with non-science students, I often sense their reservation regarding scientific topics and a fear of being wrong. By getting them involved in a different way via the language of art, they might discover the many beautiful aspects of the scientific universe.
If we want to have a significant impact in reaching out for new science audiences, we need to use extended communication channels. Art is definitely one that gives us the possibility to invite a larger public to get in touch without making them feel excluded from science because they do not understand it. The big advantage of art is that it is subjective, while science is objective. No one can be told that they are wrong if they try to understand the meaning of an artwork.
So, within the CMS collaboration we have set up Art@CMS as a vehicle for dialogue between scientists, artists and the public and to have a sustainable effect on science communication and inspiration. The aim is to tap into the worldwide network of the CMS collaboration and invite artists from all over the world to get in touch and contribute ideas, concepts and artwork.
However, it is not only about professional artists. In CMS we want to inspire young people to think in a different way and we take their thoughts and ideas seriously. Art, like science, is a serious subject, so the aim was to develop a serious project to bring art and science together at school. In collaboration with the education and outreach groups of both CERN and CMS, together with the Institute for High Energy Physics (HEPHY) in Vienna – the local CMS institute for the event in Graz – we were able to set up the Science&Art@School project within the framework of the PATHWAY European project.
The workshop in Graz was the first of what I hope will be many similar occasions for Science&Art@School. Interdisciplinary in its approach, interactive and flexible in its design and international in its scope, the idea is to promote fruitful dialogue between the arts and the particle-physics community by engaging high-school and university students in the act of creating a work of art, inspired by the big questions that drive scientific work at CMS and CERN. In most school curricula, physics and art are thought of – and taught as – separate subjects. On the other hand, in the Science&Art@School project, as my colleague Angelos Alexopoulos from CERN’s Education and Public Outreach Group says, we believe that particle physicists and artists share fertile common ground in their parallel efforts to explore and understand physis (the Greek word for nature).
The two-day event in Graz brought together 62 high-school students, art and physics teachers from the Graz International Bilingual school and BORG school, along with particle physicists from HEPHY, to exchange insights, ask and answer questions and co-create artworks – their visualizations of fundamental concepts in physics. Three months earlier, in preparation, CMS organized an interactive virtual visit to the experiment for the students – a three-to-four-point online video-conference connection with guides both on the surface and underground. Students could ask questions and direct the guides to see various areas of CMS. The workshop had two parts. On the first day, the researchers gave a CMS masterclass, where the students learned to visualize and analyse real LHC data. They then learned about how artists visualize science and technology. On the second day, four groups of students, assisted by the art educators and scientists, created artworks inspired by particle physics, which were then displayed to the public at the museum.
Science&Art@School is part of the bigger project, Art@CMS, which started in 2012 with a collaboration between the Miami artist Xavier Cortada and physicist Pete Markowitz of Florida International University. Cortada’s artwork In search of the Higgs Boson was shown at CERN during the CMS collaboration week in April 2013. In December, Alison Gill, a sculptural artist from the UK, will present her artwork with "science inspiration partner" Ian Shipsey and in March 2014 it will be the turn of the Italian painter Paco Falco with physicist Pierluigi Paolucci. During the recent open days at CERN, Quantum, a co-production of Collide@CERN and the Forum Meyrin by choreographer Gilles Jobin, was presented at CMS Point 5 (see p29).
• Art@CMS upcoming events: "Unseen Dimensions" symposium (28 October–1 November) and exhibition (29 October–29 November), City of London School, London; "Art of Science, Beauty in Creation" Science Night (8 November) and exhibition (8 November–13 December) RWTH, Aachen; "Faszination Ursprung" exhibition (12 November–18 January) Deutsches Museum/WissenschaftsZentrum, Bonn.
• Michael Hoch, CMS/Austrian Academy of Sciences. A physicist and artist, he is the founder of Art@CMS (http://cms.web.cern.ch/content/artcms). His artwork of the CMS detector was shown in an exhibition at the experiment in July.