Science of the Unseen Banner

Chris Henschke and Wolfgang Adam

Edge of the Observable

Edge of the Observable

Edge of the Observable is an audiovisual artwork which explores the limits of materiality and knowledge, through an experimental manifestation of data taken from experiments at the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector at the Large Hadron Collider. The work seeks to manifest the sublime and dynamic parameters of collision events, enhancing the infinitesimal material and energetic qualities of particle physics in a way that utilizes the science, but manifests it as an expressive event – as new-materialist philosopher Manuel DeLanda states, “even humble atoms can interact with light and energy in a way that literally expresses their identity”.

The visual data from one of billions of collisions is the source material for the artwork – this “event” is visually re-manifested through a material experimental setup. In parallel to the basic form of a physics experiment, the data is emitted as light from an energy source; it is then amplified and filtered through an optical lens-like device; and is then captured and recorded by a camera detector. The artwork plays with the extremely small spatial and temporal scales involved in such experiments, as well as the concept of the ‘golden event’, a term used in particle physics to describe a perfectly recorded image of a rare or important particle interaction. The dark void-like space in the middle of the video manifests both conceptually and experimentally the edge of observability, as the region within this space cannot be detected, and, according to the laws of quantum mechanics, is ultimately unknowable.

The soundtrack accompanying the video is literally a recording of the accelerator “tune”, the transverse electromagnetic vibration within the particle beam, which is pitch-shifted and equalized to enhance its expressive qualities. The final artwork is in ultra-high definition and presented as a six minute looping audio-visual sequence.

Media Used: 4K video.

Chris Henschke is an artist whose areas of practice and research are in sound and visual relationships, and collaborative art / science experiments. He has exhibited around Australia and internationally, including the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and the National Gallery of Australia, and he has undertaken residencies at the Australian Synchrotron, and the ‘Art@CMS’ collaboration program at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, Switzerland. He developed and lectured courses in timebased and interactive media at RMIT University, Monash University, and the ‘Art vs Science’ seminar series at the Victorian College of the Arts’ Centre For Ideas, and is currently undertaking a Doctorate of Philosophy at Monash University.

Wolfgang Adam is senior physicist responsible for CMS data analysis at the institute of High Energy Physics in Vienna, Austria. He has been working for the CMS experiment for 15 years and he is deeply involved in searches for supersymmetry.