Most of you have undoubtedly heard of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland. Music is part of the culture at CERN as their participation in events like WOMAD can attest. This, however, is a little different.
“Anyone attending the performances,” says Jack Jelfs, “will find themselves in a 12-dimensional quantum superposition.” This superposition, adds the artist, will contain three overlaid elements: our mythic past, our scientific present and our unknown future. “So,” concludes Jelfs, “you may wish to prepare appropriately.”
Thanks, Jack. Totally cleared it up for us. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Jelfs is talking about The Wave Epoch, a high-concept performance piece that is the result of four British artists spending time at Cern (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research), where particles are accelerated and bashed into each other to reveal the secrets of the universe. When it’s described as “something between an installation, a music performance and a rave”, The Wave Epoch might not sound like anything particularly new, but it all becomes a lot more original when you realise it was conceived 175 metres underneath the Franco-Swiss border in the presence of the Large Hadron Collider, the biggest single piece of machinery in existence.
For Jelfs, one of the artists who were in residence at Cern, the overlap between art and science has always been part of his work. He studied theoretical physics at Imperial College London before his full-time focus became sound, visual and sculptural work. Jelfs and fellow composer-cum-visual-artist Haroon Mirza (who considers electricity to be his main medium) were the joint recipients of the 2017 Collide prize, awarded by Arts at Cern. Winners receive a two-month residency at the research site, tasked with bringing art and science into a collision of their own.
This looks to be pretty incredible.
“It’s like the way people look at Stonehenge,” says Elijah of the notion behind the project. “That could be like Cern 1,000 years in the future – maybe not even that far ahead. ‘Why were people smashing particles together to work out how the universe started?’ This is the biggest machine ever created, maybe nothing will ever be bigger. So it might be seen as a ritual site.”
Describing how this concept will materialise as a performance seems a complicated prospect for the artists. Elijah says it is likely to change a lot over time but does at least give some idea of what we might expect: “I was only at Cern for a couple of days, but you’re struck by the scale, the number of people working on it, the scientists. I couldn’t imagine what would happen if you did film, art, or music at that scale. That hasn’t really happened before.”
Read the whole, and fascinating story here.