Two artworks exploring CERN's research at the V&A Museum
Artists and scientists delve into unknown worlds as their curiosity leads them to explore the unexplained, in the manner of Alice in Wonderland. Resulting from their research and work at CERN, Mariele Neuedecker’s new art commission and Iris van Herpen’s Infinity dress are on view at V&A’s exhibition Alice: Curioser and Curioser.
Mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – better known as Lewis Carroll – drew inspiration from his studies at Oxford University and the Victorian world around him to craft Alice’s adventures. Concepts of space, time and scale run throughout Carroll’s books, evoking alternative realities through Alice’s tumble down into the rabbit hole.
The journey through Wonderland at the V&A delves into Alice’s origins and explores its cultural impact across film, performance, fashion, art, music and photography. Entering the final exhibition’s part, Quantumland, the show presents Mariele Neudecker and Iris van Herpen’s works as powerful expressions of the scientific and artistic imagination, as well as their contemporary Alice-like curiosity.
Mariele Neudecker’s The Eye: A.L.I.C.E immerses the viewer in the underground world of the ALICE experiment. The film provides a lens into the physicists’ endeavour to study the essential constituents of matter, mirrored by a scientist’s narration revealing the unique mechanism of vision. As a Guest Artist in 2019, Neudecker captured the beauty of the scale, extremes and complexity of this experiment. This work is the most recent Arts at CERN’s art commissions, developed with the generous support of the Didier and Martine Primat Foundation and its special fund, ODONATA.
In Neudecker's words, “With my work, I am exploring interphases and overlaps of two and three-dimensional realities as well as analogue and digital worlds. I have always had an interest in scale, size and the ‘extremes’, manifesting in many of my works. My time at CERN allows me to work with the intersections of the largest, the smallest, the hottest and the coldest things and places on this planet. The collisions in the Large Hadron Collider are invisible and imperceptible to us in real time and always happened in the past – yet they are made tangible, visible and experiential; so very visually extraordinary as well as ordinary. With Alice in Wonderland and Quantumland, one enters a similarly impenetrable layering of reality and fiction, which allows encounters of these two entities to become both physical and abstracted, enmeshed and enchanting.”
Fashion designer Iris van Herpen focuses on exploring matter, which she describes as: ‘creation, evolution, nature, us. It’s the source of all energy and all of our questions.’ Displayed together with Antony Howe’s voluminous Omniverse sculpture, her piece Infinity dress was inspired by her several visits to the Laboratory. The sculptural dress and kinetic halo create a moving visual illusion, reflecting ideas of transformation, gravity and materiality.
As part of Alice's educational programme, the online event V&A and CERN Classroom Live is a chance for STEAM subject students to experience a live-streamed guided tour of the ALICE detector, learn about physicists and artists’ work at CERN and find out more about the exhibition. Speakers include Dr Despina Hatzifotiadou, physicist and researcher in the ALICE experiment; Mónica Bello, Curator and Head of Arts at CERN, and Kate Bailey, Senior Curator and Producer at V&A. Book your free place here.
Main image: Alice Curiouser and Curiouser, 2021, Installation. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London