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Bubble chamber event (black and white). 1999-2018 CERN. LHC-PHO-1999-258-1. Photo: Serge Dailler, October 1999.

Uncovering the Invisible: Broken Symmetries Archive



Part of the Winter 2018 season

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Broken Symmetries takes a closer look at the reality of our universe, at the smallest possible level, and questions how we understand the world around us. Taking over all of FACT’s gallery spaces, ten new works are presented which have emerged from the Collide International Award: a three-year partnership between Arts at CERN - the arts programme of the world’s largest particle physics lab - and FACT. The purpose of this award is to bring artists and scientists together to develop novel forms of collaboration between arts and science. In doing so, previously unseen work which happens in the context of the lab is unveiled and the discussions which happen there (which have a much wider cultural and social impact) are pushed out into the world.

Due to the complex nature of the works, and the experiments which many of them reference, an archive is being developed to reveal some of these often hidden, or mystifying processes. This archive will grow and evolve as the show continues, shining light on the work undertaken by both artists and scientists and considering some of the wider questions within which these projects exist.

As a preview of what will become a much larger resource, we have concentrated on how the unique production of both the artworks and the exhibition can be understood by focusing on three main areas: the gaining and dissemination of KNOWLEDGE; the PROCESSES by which this knowledge is constructed and shared, and the OUTCOMES which follow. This is one of the myriad ways in which we can start to take a look behind the artworks, and the experiments and ideas which inspired them.


‘Knowledge’ is concerned with the ways in which we gather information, and how we send it back into the world. We know so little about the fabric which makes up our very reality: scientists are constantly striving to break new discoveries about the most minute layers of nature, illustrating how unknowable our universe really is. Simultaneously, artists utilise the observable world to pose complex philosophical and artistic enquiries into our perceptions of reality: from explorations into the natural world; to humanity, identity, political systems, and everything in between.

The query of who creates, curates and disseminates knowledge is central to the ethos of Broken Symmetries, and many of the artists have deconstructed those elements of communication which we rely so heavily on to convey scientific findings: visualisations, analogies, and even language itself. Their practice reflects the similarities of creative experimentation which lie between the fields of art and science, as well as an eagerness to come to terms with how little we know, and the importance of revisiting positions and theories - both in the scientific and artistic realms, but also in our day to day: to question that which we could simply take as received knowledge. This question of how knowledge is created and shared -ever-increasing in it’s urgency in a moment of informational chaos- has also formed the central point for our Learning programme at FACT. Running alongside the exhibition, Interaction Point looks at the ways art and science can be brought together to explore multidimensional perspectives and engage myriad voices - both inside and outside of the classroom.

John Ellis Physicist 2016  Cern Photo 201602 022 13  Image  Sophia Elizabeth Bennet   Cern

John Ellis, physicist, 2016. CERN-PHOTO-201602-022-13. Image: Sophia Elizabeth Bennet / CERN.

John Ellis (b. 1 July 1946) is a British theoretical physicist. His research interests focus on the phenomenological aspects of elementary particle physics and its connections with astrophysics, cosmology and quantum gravity. Much of Ellis’ work relates directly to interpreting results of searches for new particles - he was one of the first to study how the Higgs boson could be produced and discovered. He is currently very active in efforts to understand the Higgs particle discovered recently at CERN, as well as its implications for possible new physics such as dark matter and supersymmetry. During their time at CERN, Semiconductor worked with Ellis and other scientists to build an ethnographic picture of the lab; revealing the rich culture of the laboratory and the constant pursuit of the understanding of nature by those who work there.

J  1961 3448 Scanning And Measuring Table Iep For Bubble Chamber Photos

1961 - 3448 Scanning and measuring table (IEP) for bubble chamber photos. Photo: CERN.

During both Semiconductor’s and Yu-Chen Wang’s research, their focus landed on the Bubble Chamber experiments of the 1970’s and the drawings which were produced as a result. Wang, in particular, was fascinated not only about what they represented -the movement of electrically charged particles- but also the whole process which surrounded their production and interpretation. Similarly, the women whose job it was to scribe these huge drawings also became a focal point for her work: their intensive, unseen labour - difficult to comprehend by most- became a metaphor for how scientific findings are communicated to the public, the difficulty of translation and the invisibility of those behind the discoveries. These familiar tracks can also be seen in the video work of Semiconductor in Gallery 1, and also the copper traces which exist within the brand identity for the exhibition: from the Gallery Guides to the artist captions.

K  Vera Rubin Looking Through A Telescope At Vassar College  Image  Vassar College Courtesy Of Aip Emilio Segrè Visual Archives 1947

Vera Rubin looking through a telescope at Vassar College. Photo: Vassar College, courtesy of AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, 1947.

Vera Florence Cooper Rubin (23 July 1928 – 25 December 2016) was an American astronomer who pioneered work on galaxy rotation rates. She uncovered the discrepancy between the predicted angular motion of galaxies and the observed motion, by studying galactic rotation curves. This phenomenon became known as the galaxy rotation problem, and was evidence of the existence of dark matter. Although initially met with skepticism, Rubin's results were confirmed over subsequent decades. Her legacy and major discovery of dark matter was the starting point and inspiration for Juan Cortes’ installation in Gallery 1.


‘Process’ is concerned more with how research takes places, and the specific ways in which facts and interpretations can be predicted, tested and shared. One thing which unites the artistic and scientific processes contained with Broken Symmetries are the levels of experimentation and uncertainty which operate in both fields. Many of the artists worked with experiments which required some understanding of incredibly complex notions, which they had previously not considered in their practice. The scientists, also were pushed by the artists, being invited to contribute to the artists’ enquiry through films, drawings, paintings and installations: allowing them to reflect on how to represent their intuitions and findings, creating surprising exchanges of ideas and approaches.

Processes of understanding, learning and reciprocity can be clearly seen within the works developed for the exhibition but these processes also affect the very production of an exhibition such as this, and the programme which accompanies it. As such, many partners and collaborators are consulted in the development of a major exhibition on the topics of art and science.The Department of Physics at University of Liverpool are amongst the world
leaders in physics research and education. The department has strong
connections with CERN, with many of its researchers and technical staff making significant contributions towards the planning, building and running of experiments at the lab. . The department has delivered invaluable insight both into the scientific elements which concerned the artists, but also into the artistic side of things. Professor Tara Shears (Lecturer, Department of Physics) has been a key part of the Collide International Award between Arts at CERN and FACT, and has sat on the three juries which have taken place since 2016 - not just to provide scientific insight, but to comment on the artistic elements of the chosen works. In addition, Dr Chris Edmonds (Lecturer, Department of Physics) and colleagues have consulted on texts, and worked alongside FACT’s Learning team to develop a comprehensive learning programme.

Digital Ambassadors visit University of Liverpool Photo by Jennifer Watts

Photo by Jennifer Watts

FACT’s Digital Ambassadors group visiting The University of Liverpool Physics Lab in October 2018, as part of Young at Art, which works with over 60s from across the Liverpool City Region to create a new cultural network with an active sense of digital agency. Through the sharing of skills and stories, Young at Art will collaboratively shape Liverpool's cultural offer through residents that have decades of knowledge and skills.

Preliminary sketches by Diann Bauer from the development of Scalar Oscillation. Photo: Courtesy the artist.

Preliminary sketches by Diann Bauer from the development of Scalar Oscillation. Photo: Courtesy the artist.

Bauer’s work within Broken Symmetries is primarily concerned with the different perceptions of time. The beginning of Bauer’s research took the assertion that there is a split between our evolutionary experiential understanding of time and our capacity to understand it on imperceptible scales. To initially explore these opposing concepts, she made a series of intricate sketches which captured the dizzying, vertigo-inducing effects of attempts to understand the constantly conflicting interpretations of the passage of time. Her work has since developed further into an audio-visual environment in Gallery 2.

Yunchul Kim developing Cascade. Photo: Courtesy the artist.

Yunchul Kim developing Cascade. Photo: Courtesy the artist.

Yunchul Kim’s work focuses on the existence and interpretation of the unperceivable ‘muon’, an all-pervasive electrically-charged particle. There are several hundred muons harmlessly passing through your head every minute, but they remain totally alien to our senses. Kim’s work aims to create an abstract interpretation of their existence and movements through an assemblage of intricate sculptural objects which exist in cooperation with one another. The uncannily viscous fluid which flows through these incredibly beautiful, and delicate, works responds to the presence of muons, detected by another element of the installation.


Finally, the third element, ‘Outcome’, covers the ways in which Knowledge and Process come together to form a readable or perceivable product: whether it be a work within the exhibition, or a published visualisation of a scientific experiment. All of the artists within Broken Symmetries have worked towards a final presentation of their ideas, formulated over the last three years after delving into scientific research taking place at CERN. Their works act as a collaborative collision point between scientific enquiry and artistic interpretation - testing the limits of both fields and highlighting the huge potential which comes from interdisciplinary exchanges.

In this exhibition, we not only see the artists hand but the data, processes and approaches which come straight from the lab. The major outcome of all of these collisions and collaborations can be considered as Broken Symmetries itself, which will tour to three further sites across Europe during 2019 and 2020. These venues belong to ScANNER (Science Art Network for New Exhibitions and Research): an international production consortium formed in order explore the relationships between arts and science through the production and presentation of new work within the field. The network consists of Arts at CERN, Geneva; FACT, Liverpool; CCCB, Barcelona; la lieu unique, Nantes; and iMAL, Brussels, who will adapt, develop and build upon the research and discussions which begin here, at FACT.

For more information about the developing online resource and future iterations of the archive, please visit

Suzanne Treister THUTOAH (Op Art)

Suzanne Treister, THUTOAH_(Op art), 2018, HD Video still. Photo: Courtesy the artist, Annely Juda Fine Art, London and P.P.O.W., New York.

This manipulated video still shows the merging of images from art history at 25 frames-per-second. Suzanne’s assertion is that, for many years, artists have been creating work in an attempt to describe the holographic nature of the universe. The Holographic Principle was first proposed by physicist Leonard Susskind in the 1990’s. Treister’s final video work, which captures and merges 25,000 separate images is soundtracked by her conversations with CERN scientists, and can be seen in Gallery 2.

Production of The Wave Epoch by hrm199 film in collaboration with electronic musician Gaika at the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) detector, CERN. Photo: Sophia Bennett / CERN.

Production of The Wave Epoch by hrm199 film in collaboration with electronic musician Gaika at the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) detector, CERN. Photo: Sophia Bennett / CERN.

During the production of their work one1one, hrm199 also produced a performance titled Wave Epoch, devised and created at the world’s largest scientific experiment, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The immersive performance imagined a scenario where the collider has been rediscovered by a future civilisation and turned into a ceremonial site, similar to Stonehenge. Exploring how our perception of purpose-built locations evolve over time, the artists looked to ritualistic tendencies of humankind and question how these landscapes may be reinterpreted. Their work has since developed to focus more on the impossibilities of communication through language, resulting in the installation which can be seen in Gallery 2.

Q  Still From Lea Porsager Cøsmic Strike 2018

Still from Lea Porsager, CØSMIC STRIKE, 2018. Photo: Courtesy the artist.

The work of Lea Porsager seeks to associate spirituality, sensuality and language, offering alternative means by which to experience and situate science today. Her work focuses specifically on the ‘spiritual’ object of a magnetic horn from CERN used to assist in neutrino experiments. Although trillions of these harmless, neutral particles pass through us every second, they interact so rarely with matter that, to study them, scientists send a beam of neutrinos to detectors. And to be sure they have enough of them, scientists have to start with a very concentrated beam of neutrinos - produced using the magnetic (or neutrino) horn. The physical horn (which was invented in CERN) is displayed within Gallery 1, as well as a 3D video which explores the inside of the object and the various complex energies it holds.

Uncovering the invisible: An archive has been made possible with the kind support of the STFC, and Department of Physics at the University of Liverpool who have also assisted in the research for this project. Initial research conducted, and an online archival element developed, by Dr. Mark Wright (FACT / Liverpool John Moores University) and Clio Flego (Masters Student, European Union Masters Programme in Media Arts Cultures). Texts and layout by FACT Exhibitions and Marketing teams. Many thanks to the curators, José-Carlos Mariátegui and Mónica Bello, and the artists for sharing their works in progress and research, as well as Arts at CERN for sharing many images taken during the residencies and from their archives.