for more on current art projects at the
cern lab, visit bit.ly/CERNartblog
Julius von Bismarck assembles a face made of steel and neon tubes, with a mouth that smiles or frowns in response to the facial expressions of passersby photographed in Lindau, Germany.
Taking the world for a spin
Julius von Bismarck wants to feel like he’s the center of the universe. He likes
the idea of living on a spinning platform for days, maybe weeks — long enough,
he hopes, to trick his mind into believing that he’s standing still while the world
revolves around him.
The project isn’t an exercise in egotism. It’s his way of coming to grips with how
people used to view their place in the cosmos.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that humans once thought the Earth
was the center of the galaxy,” says von Bismarck.
This playful approach to science earned the 28-year-old German artist a place
at CERN, Europe’s largest physics laboratory and home of the world’s biggest atom
smasher. In March he began a two-month stay as the institution’s first artist in residence, kicking off a program bringing digital arts, dance and performance to the
lab. His task, as he sees it, is to build bridges between the bizarre world that particle
physicists think about and the familiar world that people experience every day.
One idea that he has come up with is to create a row of lightbulbs dangling from
long cords. Tug on the cords, and the lights swing in circles. Each light could play
the role of a particle, with the size of the circle and the speed of the lightbulb’s
motion providing an intuitive sense of the particle’s properties.
“As an artist, I can be more free in my approach than a scientist,” says von
Bismarck, whose grandfather and brother both became physicists. “I can make
something that can be experienced and get you closer to the way scientists think.”
In a previous piece, von Bismarck toyed with how to visualize a four-dimensional
universe. He built a doughnutlike device made of a coiled wire that continuously
twists itself inside-out, its contortions representing the motion of time. The con-
traption, called a self-revolving torus, looked like a Slinky coated with aluminum
foil and moved like a Roomba vacuum cleaner.
Von Bismarck’s work at CERN — whatever it ultimately becomes — will be displayed at the Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria, in the fall. — Devin Powell
More art projects
as a child, Julius von bismarck broke into
abandoned military bases to find components for explosives. so it’s no surprise
that as an adult his art uses technology
to explore the world in unconventional
ways. for more photos and videos of his
projects, go to www.juliusvonbismarck.com.
s A perpetual storytelling machine
sketches images in patents to trace
the evolution of ideas and ingenuity.
s The “topshot” helmet (shown below)
allows the artist to see himself from
above as he walks, thanks to a camera
mounted on a balloon.
s A metal ball shakes the ground when
dropped, demonstrating the power of
gravity as understood by newton.