still from Singular Value Decomposition, 2021

Collective Engtanglements-Janet Biggs, Agnieska Miedlar, Daniel Tapia Takaki

still from Singular Value Decomposition, 2021, 2021

In the physical sciences, entanglement refers to sets of data that cannot be described independently of one another. In a more general sense, it refers to a complicated relationship or complex situation. It can be very useful in describing interdisciplinary inquiry, as well.

Artist Janet Biggs, mathematician Agnieszka Międlar, and physicist Daniel Tapia Takaki, who leads the University of Kansas’s (KU) team for the ALICE collaboration at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), are collaborating on a project that uses time-based media to explore questions in high energy physics and applies novel mathematical techniques to the production of video and performance. Supported by the Integrated Arts Research Initiative (IARI) at the Spencer Museum of Art at KU, this is the first inquiry from IARI whose interdisciplinary group of collaborators aims to produce work collectively.

Previous Work

On Thursday, April 8, 2021, the collaboration's live-streamed performance, Singular Value Decomposition, was presented by the Cristin Tierney Gallery in New York at ONX Studio. Below is edited documentation of the work.

On Wednesday, October 28, 2020, the collaborators presented their work-in-progress for a live peer-review session with Ground Works, a compendium of arts inclusive, collaborative research projects supported by the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru).

The collaborators submitted their project and working questions through a Letter of Interest to Snowmass, the Particle Physics Community Planning Exercise held by the American Physical Society Division of Particles and Fields.

The CERN-IARI Project and New Opportunities for Integrated Arts Research Collaborations at Universities and National Laboratories

Authors: Mónica Bello1, Janet Biggs2, Agnieszka Miedlar3, Ágnes Mócsy4, Joey Orr5, John P. Ralston6, and Daniel Tapia Takaki6

Endorsements: Paul Ardenne7, Purnaprajna Bangere3, Paul Cazeux3, Tamara Falicov8, Maryrose Flanigan9, Kevin Hamilton10, Lynn Hershman Leeson11, Toby Jurovics12, Mark Levinson13, Walter Melion14, Pa- tricia Olynyk15, Joonha Park3, Barbara Polla16, Saralyn Reece Hardy17, Asher Remy-Toledo18, Danielle Siembieda19, Veronica Stanich9, Celka Straughn5, Daniel Szyld20, Lisa Tedesco14, Kelsa Trom21, and Roel Van Beeumen22.

  1. CERN, Arts at CERN, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland;
  2. Visual Artist, Brooklyn, NY 11211, USA;
  3. Department of Mathematics, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA;
  4. Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY 11205, USA;
  5. Spencer Museum of Art, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA;
  6. Department of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA;
  7. Professor of History, The University of Amiens, Art Critic and Curator in the field of contemporary art, Amiens, France;
  8. Associate Dean for Research, Arts and Humanities, CLAS, The University of Kansas, KS 66045, USA;
  9. Executive Director, Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (A2ru), Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA;
  10. Dean, College of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL 61820, USA;
  11. Artist Filmmaker, Professor Emeritus, University of California Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA;
  12. Director, Barry Lopez Foundation for Art & Environment, Coyote, NM, USA;
  13. Director/Producer of Particle Fever, New York, NY, USA;
  14. Emory University, Laney Graduate School and Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA;
  15. Director, Creative Research Institute, Director of Graduate School of Art, Florence and Frank Bush Professor of Art, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis. Co-director, the Leonardo/ISAST, NY LASER, New York, USA;
  16. Gallery Owner, Analix Forever, 1225 Chêne-Bourg, Switzerland;
  17. Director, Spencer Museum of Art, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA;
  18. Director, Hyphen Hub, NY 10011, USA;
  19. Managing Director, Leonardo/ISAST, Oakland, CA 94612, USA;
  20. Department of Mathematics, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122-6094, USA;
  21. Head of Programs, NEW INC, New Museum, New York, NY 10002, USA;
  22. Research Scientist, Berkeley Lab, Berkeley, CA 94720-8150, USA.

Abstract: Recent collaborative work between scientists and artists has opened new perspectives in how multidisciplinary collaborations can be carried out between fields that are often considered to be orthogonal to each other. Physicists working in the field of fundamental physics at CERN and other U.S-based national laboratories and institutions have engaged in such projects in recent years. At the same time, there are ongoing programs in the field of contemporary arts on how to conduct true research among artists and scientists. The University of Kansas via the Integrated Arts Research Initiative has provided some novel ideas on how such collaborations can be established and expanded. We describe the current status and projects between physicists, mathematicians, visual artists, and curators from CERN, the University of Kansas Department of Physics and Astronomy, Department of Mathematics, and Spencer Museum of Art. We highlight the impact that educational projects with social engagement can have for multiple fields.

Introduction. In recent years several university groups and national laboratories working in the field of fundamental physics have developed educational materials, lectures, and dedicated programs that link the arts and sciences. CERN has created a dedicated program called Arts at CERN1 that has proven to be very successful in establishing collaborations between artists and particle and nuclear physicists. This has been done via a residency arts program and several open competitions, which have resulted in exhibitions and artwork that have been displayed at CERN, universities, and art galleries around the world. U.S.- based national laboratories, like Fermilab and Brookhaven, have also developed similar programs. Such initiatives are not unique to the field of fundamental physics. Yet particle and nuclear physics research has been very appealing to artists because of the ideas, methods, and inspiration of physicists wanting to answer fundamental questions of the Universe and because this research has a strong interdisciplinary component. It has, therefore, attracted the attention of the public and the art community, especially after recent findings like the Higgs boson, searches for physics beyond the standard model, and quark-gluon plasma studies. Physicists are also fascinated by the laws that govern the dynamics of the Universe and the possible connections of such ideas, methods, and findings with contemporary art.

Several dedicated professional conferences have led recent work in this direction. For example, in 1998 at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, Reza Sarhangi organized the first Bridges Mathematics, Art, Music, Architecture, Education, Culture annual conference to bring together artists and scientists interested in pushing the boundaries and exploring unknown territories. Since then, “the goal of the Bridges Organiza- tion is to foster research, practice, and new interests in mathematical connections to art, music, architecture, education, and culture”2. In 2010, the Museum of Science, Boston, launched the NSF-funded project Di- mension of Public Engagement with Science to engage in the dialogue between scientists and the broader public on the social values of scientific discoveries, stimulate public interest and understanding of science, and provide new perspectives on scientific research by increasing the participation of a diverse public.

The University of Kansas (KU) has developed several collaborative projects between artists and scientists and has been participating in the Arts at CERN project. KU is unique in the United States thanks to pro- grams led by the Spencer Museum of Art (SMA) in collaboration with other units, such as the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Mathematics, together with both domestic and international artists. KU has established the Integrated Arts Research Initiative (IARI)3 to infuse the arts into the research culture of KU by advancing interdisciplinary projects across the sciences and humanities in collaboration with the SMA. To this end, IARI supports one inquiry each academic year that is broadly enough conceived to address practitioners from a range of fields. Artistic practice is understood as a research method and inte- grated into the inquiry from its conception. IARI rethinks the academic art museum as an active participant in research across the sciences and humanities. It positions the museum to thoughtfully participate in the formulation of research questions and the methods that produce knowledge. As an art museum initiative, IARI also conceives of artistic practice as its own method of knowledge production. IARI, therefore, invites artists and academics to engage in research together and consider how being in conversation with differ- ent methods can inform research across disciplines. IARI is currently supporting a collaborative inquiry among four different researchers: Janet Biggs (visual artist), Agnieszka Mie˛dlar (mathematician), Joey Orr (curator), and Daniel Tapia Takaki (physicist), in collaboration with Mónica Bello from the Arts at CERN. This collective aims to use the time-based medium of film and video as a particular kind of data set to ad- dress problems and questions in the field of fundamental physics, including particle, nuclear, and quantum mechanics, applying several novel mathematical methods. The inquiry enables each collaborator to use methods derived from their respective fields to explore shared questions among the group. It also opens possibilities to engage with a broad spectrum of researchers, from video artists and curators to physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, and others. From a broader perspective, rigorous inquiries that integrate a spectrum of practices can help formulate institutional research values in ways that address the complexities of our emerging contemporary contexts. This work is signaled in the larger field by such organizations as the Society for Artistic Research and the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, and in such schol- arly journals as the Journal for Artistic Research and Leonardo. By conveying, constructing, disrupting, and redefining practices, protocols, and assumptions across physics, computational mathematics, and the fine arts, our current collaboration strives to expand the scope of the potential made possible through mul- tiple perspectives and voices. We are exploring intrinsic links between physics, mathematics, and the arts through experimentation and play, as well as rigor and scholarship. We ourselves, and by extension a broad cross-disciplinary audience, are finding excitement and impact in the creation of a culture of questioning.

Research Inquires. Some of our research questions include:

• Can physics and mathematics be embedded in the process of and integral to a work of art?
• Can artists use physics and mathematics to make an artwork?
• Can physicists and mathematicians be inspired by art to build new scientific knowledge?
• Can art revolutionize the transmission of mathematical concepts of the physical universe to students and the public?
• Can collaboration across disciplines be generative and substantive in the respective fields?
• Can IARI trigger opportunities and engagement across education and research institutions?
• Can art, mathematics, and physics guide research across fields of inquiry?
• Can the arts and sciences both advance understanding as science and creative practice?

Public Outreach and Educational Opportunities. Visual art is an excellent communication tool. It has been used to expose general audiences to the sciences and humanities in many ways. For example, Particle Fever (2013) directed by Mark Levinson used documentary film making to reveal the first round of experi- ments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. In the field of nuclear physics, physicists Ágnes Mócsy has made the documentary Smashing Matters: Behind the Science Scene that has triggered educational projects on art and sciences, as well as collaborations between artists 15;16 and students 17;18. The Exploratorium museum of science, technology, and art is an example of a museum with a sole mission to create public experiences of art and science integration.

The SMA regularly partners with researchers on the Broader Impacts section of grants to the National Science Foundation. Through IARI, the museum specifically makes the case that artists themselves are researchers. In 2019, the museum mounted a major exhibition, knowledges, funded by the National Endow- ment for the Arts that looked at artistic practice as research method. In coordination with the exhibition, the museum also produced a publication, Inquiries, and several short-format documentaries that captured the work of contemporary artists working across several knowledge domains. This work was also the focus of the national convening for the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, an organization that supports a full range of arts-integrative research. An inquiry from this work will be organized for the 2021-2022 academic year, including an exhibition.

We anticipate that the CERN-IARI project will serve as a model for future science-arts collaborations in fundamental physics, mathematics, and other fields. And new educational and outreach projects will follow from this work.



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