Julius von Bismarck is only 28 years old, but his artistic resumé is already several pages long. He’s currently taking time off from school to be the new artist in residence at CERN — the world’s biggest particle physics research facility, home of the Large Hadron Collider. On Wednesday, von Bismarck will deliver a major public address at CERN’s Globe for Science and Innovation.
Von Bismarck won the top prize at Ars Electronica in 2008 for an ingenious device he called the Image Fulgurator, a hacked camera that injected stealth images into other people’s photos when they weren’t looking. In his striking project Public Face I, he mounted a giant neon smiley above the city of Berlin; the smiley changed its expression based on an estimate of the city’s mood that day.
Many of von Bismarck’s works have a heavy technical component, and several of his projects make references to maths and science. Public Face used algorithms developed by the Fraunhofer Institute to analyse peoples’ faces on the street; Self Revolving Torus is an exploration of toroidal shapes. But von Bismarck considers himself an artist, not a scientist or technologist.
“I don’t have a scientific background, directly,” von Bismarck said in a phone interview with Wired from his office at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.
At CERN, von Bismarck has been assigned an “inspiration partner”, the noted theoretical physicist James Wells. Von Bismarck sees a lot of connections between art and theoretical physics.
“As an artist, I can build a sculpture that can show something that wasn’t seen before, or a feeling, or an effect,” von Bismarck said. “Physicists are working really far away from how things are perceived. They have to change how people think about things, and get with hidden worlds.”
Von Bismarck is currently finishing his graduate work at the Institute for Spatial Experiments in Berlin, founded by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Von Bismarck is fascinated with Eliasson and his work. “I was interested in how he was able to sell it as art, and make people believe that what he was doing was art, and not just a rainbow, or a waterfall, or a lightbulb,” von Bismarck said.
Von Bismarck’s two-month artist residency at CERN — the first instalment in the new “Collide @ CERN” program, created by CERN cultural specialist Ariane Koek — will pave the way for more artists to visit CERN in the future.
“I think the concept of putting an artist somewhere totally different is good,” von Bismarck said. “I don’t believe in the concept of a lot of artists hanging out in the same place, just doing art about art about art. I think it’s good to mix it up.”
Image: Julius von Bismarck