by Ian Randall. Published: 11 September 2011

An artist in residence programme, which is hoped will generate both new art works and an exchange of ideas between the arts and sciences, is being started at CERN. The project, Collide@CERN, which sees the formation of cultural partnerships with various international arts organizations, was announced at the Ars Electronica Festival on 2 September.

At the event, artists will have a chance to enter a competition to win one of the two residencies, which will start at the beginning of next year. The competition winners will be revealed in November.

“We need to get back … to the renaissance, when there was a real free play between the arts and the sciences, to create a laboratory of innovation,” says Ariane Koek, who is in charge of CERN’s engagement with the arts.

Of the first two placements, one is to be in digital arts - perhaps an appropriate medium for CERN, the birthplace of the internet. The form of the second position is to be announced later this year.

Each residence programme will last for three years – with the artists spending time first at CERN, before moving on to Ars Electronica to produce their work that CERN has inspired. The finished pieces will be later put on display at both locations. Two new artists will be welcomed each year – with the intent to welcome artists from wide variety of fields: such as dance, film, music, writing, etc.

“This will very much involve the CERN community at large… so that the artists and scientists can come together,” says Ariane Koek, who is in charge of CERN’s engagement with the arts, adding: “This is very important because CERN is a community, above all… of people that work, live, inspire and play together - and it is important for the artists to become part of this, to have an exchange of ideas and knowledge.”

Koek is keen that the various experiments based at CERN will come forward and engage with this programme – with the intent of being able to place artists, paired up with scientists, in the different experimental collaborations.

“ALICE, for example: such a brilliant field ground for an artist - I can see that happening very well, as you can imagine - the name ALICE, Alice in Wonderland, and off you can go, all ready playing…” said Koek. “There is something much more profound in the science … at ALICE that I think will be really transformative for the artists, as well as for the scientists that meet the artists.”

The artists will be paired off with scientists through a personalized matching scheme to ensure the best compatibility. “It’s almost going to be like speed dating. We need to find matches that really inspire each other,” Koek says.

CERN has had a long history with the arts already – with many famous names attending private visits, seeking inspiration for their work. One such visitor was Antony Gormley, the British sculptor who is known for both the Angel of the North, as well as including his human form in most of his works. Gormley’s sculpture ‘Feeling Material XXXIV’, which he donated to CERN in 2008, has recently been hung in the entrance to CERN’s main building.

CERN/Benoit Jeannet

Antony Gormley's ‘Feeling Material XXXIV’, which hangs in building 500

Furthermore, Gormley is one of the patrons of the Collide@CERN project, along with the musician Brian Eno, the photographer, Andreas Gursky, the architect Jacques Herzog, the photographer Frans Lanting and the video/photographic artist Mariko Mori.

The funding for the project has come entirely from outside sources – from public art funds through to corporate sponsorship and private donors. For example: UNIQA – the insurance agency who have an office on the CERN main site – have kindly offered to sponsor the insurance – of all the artists who will participate in the residency programme.

In the future, it is hoped that – if further funders come forward – the programme can be expanded to accommodate more than two new artists each year. Koek would also like to develop a literature prize, to be based at CERN.

For more information, please visit the Collide@CERN page on the Arts@CERN website – or email Ariane Koek.