If you stopped by the ISAC-II main floor at TRIUMF any time from December 3rd through 17th, 2010, you would have certainly noticed a very special display. Students of Emily Carr University of Art and Design (ECU) had an opportunity there to showcase some of the work that they had produced featuring physics and TRIUMF in the past few months. TRIUMF is Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, and this event was not the first time artists have been invited to the lab.
The event was a part of TRIUMF's Artist in Residence program, where we aim to bring artists and scientists together to collaborate on creative and inspiring pieces that show physics and science from a unique angle. Other projects in the Artist in Residence program included the Global Particle Physics Photowalk, and other student groups who were invited to see the labs to inspire their artwork.
This year, TRIUMF welcomed a second group of Ingrid Koenig's talented students, in her class, HUMN 311: Black Holes and Other Transformations of Energy. Throughout the semester, Koenig's students have been learning about physics phenomena including black holes, chaos theory, particle behaviour, entropy, and more. As a part of the class, students also learned about the visual communication of abstract ideas, and by the end of the class, all students produced a research project for presentation. They also produced visual artwork that drew from science learned in lectures, readings, presentations, class discussions, and field trips to places such as TRIUMF. There was a great variety of works including drawings, prints, paintings, sculptures, 3D works, and videos.
To give students enough background to create their artwork, in September, Tim Meyer, Jennifer Kaban, and Jessica Coccimiglio from TRIUMF's Strategic Planning and Communications Office visited the class at Emily Carr University to talk about what TRIUMF is and the kinds of things they would see. Particle physicist David Morrissey also came as a special guest that day and gave the class a brief introduction to black holes and particle physics. Morrissey then held a Q&A with the students so they could ask all of their burning questions about black holes, stars, and the truth about the colourful photographs of nebulae in the cosmos.
In October, the same students of HUMN 311 visited TRIUMF twice, two weeks apart. On their first visit, Meyer gave an introduction into the science of particle and nuclear physics, including a little on how the cyclotron works, and how TRIUMF produces radioactive isotopes for human imaging in PET (positron emission tomography) scans to find tumours without having to cut open the body. Then students were given tours through the labs, and almost an hour to explore the top of the Cyclotron, ISAC-I, and ISAC-II each, before a quick reception to mingle with other TRIUMF staff and scientists. During that first visit Koenig's class included exchange students visiting from Berlin, as well as two Berlin Visiting Artists teaching at ECU for a term. Their students were charged with the task of creating “response art works” immediately after their visit. This was an Artistic Transformation project that was presented to Koenig’s class in the evening, and her own students were then charged to respond with further transformations. The whole endeavour of ideas colliding and producing new ideas was contextualized in “particle collisions”, as a metaphor of the cyclotron function. On their second visit, students had an entire afternoon to spend in any one or two areas of the lab they wished to focus on.
"The multiple visits to the laboratory and discussions with physicists uniquely complemented the in-class material, providing the art students with a rare opportunity to see science in action," said Koenig. "Through contemporary art in its many forms the narrative of science enters the human story and becomes materially transformed."
-Jessica Coccimiglio, Communications Assistant