Visual Narratives: A History of Art at CERN

Camilla Mørk Røstvik
2017 Leonardo: Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology  
This article examines the history of art inspired by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in the 20th and 21st centuries. The article argues that artists can tell us radically different narratives about this space than mainstream media, scientists and CERN's own PR structure. Why have so many artists been inspired by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)? In this article, I examine the history of art inspired by CERN in the 20th and 21st centuries. Artists can
more » ... ll us radically different narratives about what is often called the most important scientific experiment in the world than scientists and mainstream media. Through observations made onsite and art historical analysis, this article focuses on the role of the artist at CERN. Art is considered in its broadest form to include all visual and conceptual creative work, including graffiti and literature, TV and films. This is done to break down the hierarchies found within the art world and present CERN as a visual culture from many angles. The article does not discuss the current art program Arts@CERN, but presents some background upon which to understand this new, digitally focused cluster of projects [1]. Toward the end of the article a discussion of art that deals in more critical themes connected to CERN is presented to compare with the majority of works that celebrate the organization. These examples provide insight into the eclectic "many worlds" of CERN. Meyrin and Its Ruins As European countries came together to plan and place CERN in the mid-1950s, they discussed various sites of interest and settled on a site outside of Geneva in Switzerland [2]. Meyrin was a tiny agricultural village until CERN moved in, bringing with it jobs, buildings and shops. Today many of the laboratory's workers live near or in the village, making it one of the highest physicist populated places in the world. However, before the scattered buildings and farms on the outskirts of Switzerland could become host to some of the world's leading scientists and engineers, the ancient ground would have to be carefully documented. A team of archaeologists from the Rhone-Alps Regional Archaeology Service, together with the LHC authorities, compiled surveys to assess the sectors for archaeological potential.
doi:10.1162/leon_a_01404 fatcat:yxkoaohehfbarnbule7q4zag2i