A new installation by ECA Sculpture graduates Maja Quille and Sarah Dale has been unveiled at the Higgs Centre for Innovation at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh.
The work is Maja and Sarah’s response to the supposition – what would happen if the Higgs field was switched off? The Higgs mechanism is responsible for elementary particle masses. Mass is what provides resistance when a force is applied. If the Higgs field was removed, the electrons in an atom would fly off at the speed of light, leaving the nucleus unaffected. Maja and Sarah imagined and visualised this on a much larger scale, creating an impossible object, one that is at once present and absent.
Consisting of roughly 16,000 gemstone spheres attached to wires running floor to ceiling, the beads, which make up the image of a door, only come into alignment as the viewer walks around it. At all other angles it appears as a ghostly cloud, a mist of nuclei drifting in the air, the fundamental part of its mass and energy removed. The door is an elusive object that leads to the unknown possibilities of future scientific endeavour; how will the discovery of the Higgs boson shape the future of science, now the door has closed upon the standard model?
Construction took six months and included the use of a computer programme to plot the position of each sphere, and a team of over 20+ dedicated volunteers from across ECA.
ECA Lecturer and artist Dr Kristin Mojsiewicz was in charge of managing the project for ECA in her role as Director of Outreach in the School of Art. Kristin said: “Projects like this provide a great learning opportunity in the commissioning process, and demand from the artists an ability to visualise spaces that are not yet built, and adaptability to changes in the build, materials or timeline. Maja and Sarah have risen to the challenges of this brief brilliantly with endless enthusiasm and energy, liaising with many different professionals and aided in the final construction by their many volunteers. It is a fantastic achievement!”
The project was launched at ECA in 2015 with a series of introductory talks by Professor Arthur Trew, Head of Physics & Astronomy, Astronomer Dr William Taylor, ECA lecturer and artist Ewan Robertson, and MFA student and UKATC collaborator Paul Quast. The selection panel consisted of senior figures from ECA, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh University Collections, and senior representatives from the School of Physics and Astronomy and the Science and Technology Facilities Council at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh.
The selected artwork is permanently sited at the new Higgs Centre for Innovation, Royal Observatory, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh. The Centre is named in honour of Professor Higgs of the University of Edinburgh, who received the Nobel Prize for his prediction of the existence of the Higgs Boson, discovered at CERN in 2012. The commissioners are the Science and Technology Facilities Council STFC UK.