Anselm Kiefer Meets Science At Cern’s Monumental Hadron Collider

After the truly monumental retrospective of Anselm Kiefer’s work at the Royal Academy, which was the most significant display of the artist’s work ever to be held in the UK, it would seem that the artist has turned his attention to visiting a monumental location for further inspiration. Kiefer’s retrospective at the RA was not only monumental in scope, but also in the scale of the artist’s individual works; some of which had huge proportions, such as Kiefer’s ‘Ash Flower’, a painting that took 14 years to create and measures 4 metres by 7 metres – so one can see the artist’s fascination with scale and the trajectory of existentialism might lead him to some interesting locations.

Therefore it might come as little surprise that the artist has recently visited Cern, Europe’s particle physics centre near Geneva, where Kiefer met leading scientists, and even got to venture under a section of the gargantuan Hadron Collider to see one of the detectors for himself. One could imagine how this might be affecting for any artist, as the detectors at Cern are truly massive, and complex ‘sculptural’ objects – not to mention being the height of a cathedral.

The leader of the programme International Arts@Cern, Ariane Koek, organised the day, which was instigated by the curator Kathleen Soriano, who co-organised the artist’s recent retrospective at London’s Royal Academy of Arts (RA). “Kiefer was super happy and excited,” Koek says.

The artist was apparently delighted to meet Leading scientists based at Cern – who include experts in String Theory, bio physics, the origins of materials including lead and diamonds, as well as atomic physics – and was fascinated by their work. “They deal with so many of his preoccupations—deep time, how the universe came to be,” Koek says, adding, “I threw in a bit of anti-matter.”

Afterwards the artist sent each of the scientists that he met on the day an inscribed copy of the publication accompanying the RA exhibition, which closed on 14 December.

Surely inspiring for any artist? – and after all, there is more than a little of the alchemist in Kiefer; – as for the artist’s comment about lead; it is a poetically telling one: that lead was the only material heavy enough to carry the weight of human history – For the artist universal truths are as important as highlighting the national memory – with paintings buried under layer after layer of ash, as if the sediments of time, or the remnants of stars and people, so perhaps Cern is the perfect location to create new ideas.

Koek added “I could see Anselm’s imagination spiral,” after the artist was introduced to theoretical physicist Luis Alvarez-Gaumé, who discussed how gravity plays a role in time. Kiefer was also rather impressed by the work of Monika Stachura, a biophysicist who is researching how copper, which is formed by stars, is also found in the human body. “That really blasts everyone’s imagination – we hold the birth of stars in our own bodies,” Koek concluded.


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