Erich Berger

Erich Berger's first exchanges with CERN physicists

2019 Accelerate Finland winner

10 Mar 2021

In February, artist and curator Erich Berger started the first encounters with the CERN community. Due to current travel restrictions, the conversations are taking place virtually to prepare for his physical residency at CERN later in the year. This week, Berger shares his first insights on these virtual exchanges as part of his Accelerate residency.

Berger works at the intersection between art, science and technology with a critical take on how they transform society. He also investigates this area as director of the Bioart Society in Helsinki. His current interest in deep time and hybrid ecology issues led him to work with geological processes, radiogenic phenomena, and socio-political implications. In his research 'SPECTRAL LANDSCAPES', Berger aims to chart the gamma radiation fields of natural uranium and thorium deposits on the surface landscapes. This project's first work - 'Kovela-REE, gamma radiation intensity mapping' has been exhibited in Splitting the Atom at Contemporary Art Centre Vilnius.


In his first conversations, Berger met five different CERN physicists and experts, having the opportunity to learn about the broader motivations behind CERN's research. Physicist and outreach coordinator of the ALICE experiment, Despina Hatzifotiadou, introduced Berger to the facilities with a virtual tour. They also discussed the specific areas of research of the ALICE collaboration, which studies the physics of strongly interacting matter at the highest energy densities reached so far in the Laboratory.

Erich Berger and physicist Despina Hatzifotiadou during one of their conversations. Courtesy the artist.
Erich Berger studying the gamma radiation on the surface landscapes in the summer of 2020. Courtesy the artist.

The on-going conversations with particle physicist Rolf Landua help Berger better understand the data of the surface landscapes collected during his fieldwork in the spring and summer of 2020. "A mathematical model and a more in-depth understanding of the interaction between the radioactive minerals and the rock they are embedded in helps me interpret my data. Rolf Landua's inputs have proofed to be invaluable, providing me with the theoretical tools to make sense of my measurements," Berger explained.


In another talk with theoretical physicist Wolfgang Lerche, they discussed more generally the insufficiency of images, representations and scales when trying to make sense of the world beyond the reach of human senses and the critical role that mathematics play to do so.


Berger remarked that these exchanges exceeded the expected conversations. "I’m blown away by the scientists' outstanding generosity and patience to share their time, knowledge, and insights with me. All showed a genuine interest in what motivates and constitutes my work and how they might contribute to it. At the same time, each conversation went beyond discussing physics or artistic concepts. They became a space for exciting and inspiring exchanges of perspectives." Berger now continues his conversations with CERN scientists to dig deeper into his artistic interests and prepare for his stay in the Laboratory in late 2021.


Accelerate Finland, organised in partnership with the curatorial platform Capsula (art-science-nature) is a country-focused programme set up to foster exchanges between the arts and sciences in different countries.