Particle Accelerators: At the intersection of science, technology, and photography
Guest Curator: Jane D. Marsching

“To describe the evolutions in the dance of these gods, their juxtapositions and their advances, to tell which came into line and which in opposition, to describe all this without visual models would be labor spent in vain.” --Plato, Timaeus

“Of all our senses, it is vision that most informs the mind.” --from Powers of Ten: About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe


Jordan Crandall, NY
Susan Derges, UK
Laura Emrick, NY
Fakeshop, NY
Joan Fontcuberta, Spain
Ken Goldberg, CA
Blainey Kern, New Orleans
Tina LaPorta, NY
David Nyzio, NY
Gary Schneider, NY
Sterck & Rozo, NY
Eugene Thacker, NY
Todd Watts, NY
Wenyon & Gamble, Boston
Gail Wight, CA

Information sciences, life sciences, biotechnology, genetic coding, technoscience, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, astrophysics, computational sciences, neural networks, nanotechnology, atomic physics, we are staggering under the interminable weight of discoveries, inventions, and breakthroughs thanks to the impermeable alliance of science and technology. It often seems that everything we hold dear, or perhaps simply everything we learned in high school biology is being split wide open, redefined, or just plain made into something that seems like science fiction, like the warp drives of the Star Trek spaceships or the carlike space vehicles of the Jettsons. The particle accelerator, popularly called an atom smasher, is such an image and technology of this astounding technological age. Extending over several miles underground, it produces beams of energetic charged particles and directs them against various targets. Needed to observe objects as small as the atomic nucleus in studies of its structure and of the forces that hold it together, the particle accelerator is also required to provide enough energy to create new particles. A kind of high powered version of our childhood marbles game on the level of atoms, the particle accelerator is one of many phenomenal marriages of technology and science to produce wondrous visions of worlds far beyond the capacity of the unaided eye.

Photography owes its life to science; perhaps it might be said that science could not be where it is without the various technologies of image making that have increasingly proliferated throughout our century. The scientific method more often than not depends upon some form of visualization and recording be it images, diagrams, or charts. Conversely, developments in the science and technology of image making usually for the purposes of industry or research continually have opened to artists new modes of image making as medium and subject. Uneasy blood sisters, these two disciplines have maintained an fragile truce, and it is often in the work of contemporary artists that this fraught terrain has been mapped.

The larger portion of scientific and technological advances of the twentieth century depended heavily upon improvements and innovations in the scientific instrumentation that enables humans to see beyond the limits of the naked eye as well as to record those images for further study and as proof of the phenomena. Many of these images cross the boundary between scientific and artistic worlds. From Talbot’s earliest images of moth wings through a microscope to Marey’s explorations of human locomotion, from Doc Edgerton’s experiments with high speed photography to the Visible Human project, scientific image making has been a constant subject for artists throughout photography’s brief history.

However, art and science have more often been seen as opposing rather than as aligned. Seeing has been interlinked with technology from the beginning, but the invention of photographs that could be fixed permanently made it possible to make temporaneous seeing fixed and permanent. It has not always been clear that while developments in technology have extended and refined human limitations, these instruments and their photographs do not escape the profound influence of acculturation on cognitive processing. The marriage of science and technology through technologies of observation and image making takes place in the theater of representation, creating spectacles for our eager consumption. Science in the public eye has been a compelling drama, with images that not only reveal new aspects or places of our inner and outer worlds, but which also tell us what we desire to know and see, where our hopes and fantasies live.

The artists in Particle Accelerators are for the most part concerned with a poetic reconstruction of the images, events, discoveries, subjects, and methodologies of science, in altering our actual perception of the scientific discourse, rather than proving or promoting its hypotheses and theorem. A varied attention is paid by each artist to the uses and abuses of technology in giving us data or information about ourselves and our world. All of the works in the show are unified around the conviction that science is no longer an objective discipline based on pure ideals and mathematical laws and that technology is an agency for the encoding of science, for reverie, as well as for visiting and revisiting our sense of beauty, agency, the self, and ultimately, the sublime. These artists often also blur the distinctions between the scientific and the poetic, using diverse technologies as integral elements in their new constructions and representations. All these artists participate in the larger cultural process by which the methodologies and modes of inquiry of science are being investigated and challenged in emerging technological paradigms.