Ryoji Ikeda was an artist in residence at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, in 2014–2015. At CERN they smash particles together at the speed of light in an attempt to under- stand the fundamental mysteries of the universe. While there, the Japanese electronic composer and visual artist developed micro | macro, two works which make up his Planck Universe. For most of us, the intricate machinations of quantum physics – including the Planck scale, quarks, wave-particles and string theory – remain utterly impenetrable. Luckily, Lisa Havilah, director of Carriageworks where the work will be shown, says this doesn’t matter.
“The micro universe is projected onto the floor and audiences can become totally physically immersed in the work. The macro is projected onto a very large-scale screen against a wall. Together they create an experience of the two extremes of our universe,” Havilah says. “You can know the concepts behind micro | macro before you experience it – but experiencing the work, the scale of it, the sound of it, places you poetically and aesthetically in a place that makes you consider these concepts on a personal level – without having to understand the science, maths and data that is behind it.”
Very few people, let alone artists, are allowed access to CERN, which Havilah says makes the micro | macro particularly special. But she also points out that Ikeda’s interest in science is broad. “His research extends beyond quantum physics,” she explains. “His work has explored mathematical notions, data and information to make it visible. He takes this context, his interest in science and maths, and creates a sublime spectacle – one that delivers a completely original vision and perspective on the world.”