The pursuits of art and basic science have much in common. Both are creative, non-linear, and a unique ways to make a living. Both depend on patronage - collectors for artists and taxpayers for scientists - and require consistently communicating value that may not immediately be obvious.
It's natural for artists and scientists to be allies.
Some have said that art is introspective - exploring consciousness - and science strives to understand external reality in the form of universal, indisputable truths. In the process of this contest QNS members did both. They learned about physics in new and various ways; both through educating artists about quantum nanoscience and through interpreting the works created by those same artists. Please take the time to read QNS student, Jinkyung Kim’s excellent article (page 7) on the intersection of art and quantum nanoscience.
Sunny Kim, QNS' Outreach Manager, turned this art contest into far more than we dared to dream. She deserves full credit for the extraordinary level of engagement the art community made with the Center for Quantum Nanoscience. She devoted many hours to answering fundamental physics questions submitted by artists as they grappled to understand the mysteries of our physical world. The result was about 400 submissions to our art contest and such excellent pieces it was difficult for our panel of artists and physicists to select winners.
We offer our deepest thanks to the artistic community for embracing our research and our center. We hope this is the beginning of a long and compelling relationship.
※ Visit our Art Contest Gallery: https://qns.science/art-exhibition
QNS Director’s PrizeDescription:
This work is an animation that combines filmed smoke with charcoal drawing. Drawings were obtained by repeatedly drawing and erasing images on a single piece of paper and have been embodied by a slowly burning incense, which was created by using a total of 176 scans.
Each of the two incenses in this work are made up of the same 176 drawing images. However, in the editing process with digital media, the order and time/space of the drawings are arranged differently and the layer of time is also subtly different between the two incenses. (What is interesting in the video editing process is that the location and space occupancy of each source represents time.) Therefore, the two incenses can be the same and different from each other simultaneously.
Everything consists of atoms. So do our bodies. However, according to quantum mechanics, which describes atoms’ structure, the position and the quantity of motion (speed) of an electron cannot be known simultaneously. It is said that even the existence of an electron is not known until a measurement is made. This interesting fact arouses our imagination regarding the human existence. Is there really only one self that is immutable? Is not there any possibility of so many versions of me existing that are both the same as or different from the me here now?
What is it about having contradictory states at the same time?
Can we say that these states are real?
The incense in the work represents my existence that grows into something, proceeding towards a set end without knowing when and how it ignited. It is also a portrait of my imagination of the infinite number of cases in the universe.
I think an object may have three existential states - being ‘real,’ ‘unreal’ and ‘potential,’ a spatiotemporal state. The existence of a potential state (a state of probability) could be a point at which an object establishes its clearest identity. I assume that such a point could be a metaphor for a state of motion that precludes observation in quantum mechanics. This state is associated with many things: the possibility of existing and not existing at the same time, being defined but actually undefinable, the possibility to return to the object’s essence at any time, the existence in itself, the intrinsic transcendence found at the object’s unique point of existence, non-linguistic experiences of the space between materials and the fascination of the point remaining unspoken forever. Furthermore, I wondered what kind of art could combine an uncertain electron in an orbit (as stated by Heisenberg) and the state of quantum expressed in matrix mechanics with a real object and light (temporality) and space. I started by making and installing an object implying a tense state of motion and decided to talk about an object in the potential state of speech (or probable motility) and a point to respond to and observe it. In order to reveal objects at the subtle moment of utterance I set a range of conditions and then went through an adjustment process of removing, adding, or altering some elements before reaching the present outcome.
Untitled-2 is an installation work that makes the most of the space. Some of the most important work requirements are natural light, stone, an open door, and space. In the unclosed space with unbound trajectories, ordinary materials are placed in unordinary ways. This generates tension and the observers’ movement and thinking is rapidly rearranged at the moment of recognizing the tension. The space reflecting the moving natural light and flow of time makes the objects’ place temporary. Also the observer’s perception changes as well. All these lead us to think of the simultaneous flow of all things that are not permanent and not perfect. At the same time, a tiny change in the flow of light or the observers’ movement can trigger everything to be rearranged or redefined. This artistic potential always exists here along with the probability of all kinds of motion occurring at any moment.
“Eden, nocturnal visuality
arriving from the abyssal.
appearance of the impossible.”
“Post-painting,” a self-coined term, is basically “stripe” pattern-based computer graphics and installation. Leaving behind oil-painting which I worked on more than 10 years, I’ve been producing digital media works since 2015.
After all, the visuality of
There is a wide and large wooden plate with a surface smooth like glass. Several metal marbles appear in a row that produce tapping sounds and roll on the plate. In the middle of the plate is a hole big enough for a marble to pass through. The rolling marbles get closer to each other, change directions after crashing, or suddenly stopping, because of the spatial distortion and pulling force. They, however, eventually are pulled down toward the center. Under the hole is a rail on which the marbles are raised again onto the wooden plate. If landing successfully on the rail, the marbles keep rotating by repeating circular motions and chasing after one another.
Gaagaadonut, an artwork that looks like a huge toy, contains the artists’ imagination regarding the invisible world of quantum, or the microscopic world. Gaagaa is a Swahili word meaning “rolling and rumbling.” If one interprets the result of the double-slit experiment from the perspective of the Copenhagen interpretation, an electron (light) is a wave before observation and becomes a particle at the moment of observing it. In other words, the condition of an electron exists as the superposition of probability before observing it, but at the instance of observation its quality is decided, no longer existing as a probability. The marble rolling on the plate is an analogy for the electron. Their circular motion implies the state of diffraction and interference, or the fact that the status of the electron was previously a wave. A device that slowly whirls and provides magnetism to the upper part and removes it is installed at the bottom of the plate. When the metal marbles locate exactly within the influence of the device, which is continuously rotating, the magnetism and the marbles capture each other. Like an electron becomes a particle when observed by the ‘observer,’ the marble halts its movement and is captured onto the surface for a while.
Although there has been a lot of criticism on the Copenhagen interpretation, which argues that observation affects the state of the object, the Copenhagen interpretation certainly led us to rethink about “observation” in science, and “seeing” in general. What is seeing? The visual art is also a visual science as it explores and comprehends the world through the act of “seeing” and expresses itself through the act of “being seen.” We cannot help but ask ourselves whether we, as creators of art, have limited the concept of “seeing” only within a verbal frame. Niels Bohr writes that there is no language to explain a state that is simultaneously a particle and a wave. It is that, when we bring the microscopic world into the macroscopic world of the human language, there is no way to explain it. We tried to erase the visual language methodology familiar to us, before starting this work. Experimenting to visualize the microscopic world and to verbalize images by connecting the elusive concept of quantum and artistic materials was similar to putting a hand in a dark box and groping around to find a way. When we assembled the mechanic device from parts, we encountered an uncanny thing, which looked like a musical instrument or an ancient script with strokes. The marbles’ tapping sounds continuously hitting our ears soon composed a line and gave a tranquil sensation.
Our view of the world is very limited. Humans depend on sight for more than 80 percent of their daily lives. Therefore, most of the ways in which people understand and view the world are determined by the act of seeing. But living in the 21st century, we now know that there is more to the world than what meets the eye. With the advent of quantum mechanics, we have begun to recognize that our understanding of the world was erroneous and that there was another world where nothing was fixed. In a quantum world, what seems unimaginable in reality does happen, such as overlaps, entanglement, and disconnection. Though these are invisible to our eyes we actually see them all the while. In other words, there is an invisible world that is too small to detect but is part of our reality. That is the quantum world. My work began from the question: 'What if we can see the quantum world or if the characteristics of quantum are applied to the reality that we can perceive?' If a city were a new natural world, the skyscrapers would be split, merged, or transformed into completely different shapes in the quantum world. Worlds of infinite possibilities full of dynamic energy keep on moving constantly changing and influencing each other. This work captures a scene from the imaginary quantum-city. I hope it will help to better understand the quantum world as well as the visible world.
Donated to QNS
It is impossible to know the position and speed of an electron smaller than 1 nanometer (1nm), and its values change every time it is measured by light. I intended to express the quantum superposition status with both particle and wave indirectly through a person dancing the twist.
Step 1) Photoshoot and prints: As the music started, the middle-aged women at the Alumni Hall started to dance the twist freely together. I took multiple photos of my friend with a hat from the same spot. I printed all of the photographs onto paper.
Step 2) Making a temporary film: I cut out the images of the dancing people from the photographs. By sticking the cut photographs on a transparent plastic film, I made a sort of disposable negative film.
Step 3) The gum print process: I made an emulsion to use for the gum print process by mixing the gum solution, watercolor paint and photosensitizer at a fixed ratio. I sprayed the emulsion on BFK paper that is highly strong in the water. Now, the BFK paper had become sensitized paper. I placed one sheet of ‘temporary film’ from Step 2 on the dried BFK paper. After, it was be exposed to a strong light. I then developed the exposed BFK sheet of paper in a water tank for three hours and let it dry naturally. I repeated the gum print process several times. Through the processes in a dark room, n temporary films made from the cut photographs were attached onto the BFK sheet of paper.
Step 4) The last digital print: The movements of my friend with the hat were overlapped n number of times on one sheet of BFK paper after the n times gum print process. As it was difficult to identify the gum particles on the finished gum print, it was scanned using a scanner, enlarged and went on a digital print.
Quantum Mechanical Interpretation
Although the Alumni Hall was a limited space, there was a calm and beautiful order during the dance, and there were no collisions. Photographs taken constantly during the dance were of those of discontinuous locations and movements. The dancer’s traces were identified after making the artwork by repeating the gum print process onto one sheet of BFK paper with n pieces of temporary film. The most overlapped dancing area was white colored.
In the quantum world, when the particles are moving, the waves are not in one certain position but exist as patterns in various positions and change their shape as time goes by. The speed of the electron changes in the moment the location of the electron is identified through ‘the uncertainty principle’. When the location of the quantum is changed every time it is measured, it should be estimated according to the probability, and ‘quantum superposition’ is a term to describe the overlapping state.
Notes from the Evaluation Panel
For the Explorers of Non-linear World
The prosperity of commerce and science has brought about a great change in the overall philosophy and landscape of the arts, opening new dimensions of the world of creativity. Ever since science developed within human civilization, discussions on the intersection of art and science have never stopped as if the two areas are inseparable. After all, scientific research and advances have enormous influence on art while many artists engage with scientific subjects using diverse methods. The two seemingly incompatible territories have much in common in their understanding of the world. This is due to the fact that both scientific discoveries and artistic creations realize human imagination. Imagination and desire for beauty, matched with rationality, underlie scientific research and discoveries. At the same time, imagination is essential to fulfilling artistic sensibility and philosophy.
Nano, the prefix of nanoscience, comes from nanos, a Greek word meaning ‘dwarf.’ Nanoscience goes far beyond the academic concept born from Richard Feynman’s brilliant vision. When combined with quantum, it explores the beginnings of all rationalities and irrationalities of the world and enables us to envision future civilization. The dot is one of fundamental, formative elements in art. It’s where materialization of artistic creativity and imagination begins. The art contest ‘The World of Quantum’ is based on the encounter of nano and dot, science and art, and that of scientists and artists. Just as quantum nanoscience continuously explores the non-linear world to challenge the limits of existing science and technology, all entries convey their messages using their own language of formative arts - sometimes earnestly and sometimes experimentally. As the intersection of science and art represents the trend toward their interaction, related exhibitions often fail to go beyond declaring only that this interaction is appropriate. The World of Quantum, however, showed the artists’ earnest reflections on the tiny unit of nano and the concepts of quantum. Both scientists and artists are explorers who do not fear going into uncharted territories. I hope the World of Quantum will help both areas progress further on their journey by serving as a platform to discover ‘intangible’ values.
Curator, Daejeon Museum of Art
Evaluation PanelSeokyeong Kang (Professor, Ewha Womans University Art and Design)
Alice Woo (Curator, Daejeon Museum of Art)
Paul Thomas (Professor, University of New South Wales Art & Design)
Youngmi Shin (Artist)
Julian Voss-Andreae (Artist)
Jinkyung Kim (Researcher, QNS)
Andreas Heinrich (Director, QNS)