1.3 billion years ago, two black holes collided. Einstein posited a century ago as part of his general theory of relativity that such an event would send gravitational waves, or ripples into the fabric of spacetime, out into the universe. And at 10:30am on February 11th of this year scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) finally detected these gravitational waves, one of the most significant discoveries in the recent history of experimental physics.
Last Saturday, those waves made their way into Alexander Levy’s Berlin gallery, for Luca Pozzi’s solo exhibition, “Discovery and Premonitions,” curated by Carson Chan. Levy’s gallery walls have been covered with green representations of disrupted spacetime, the colliding black holes replaced by black tennis balls. Metal slabs from equipment pulled from the legendary CERN particle accelerator sit throughout the space. And a portrait of Stephen Hawking looms in the corner.
For nearly a decade, the 32-year-old Italian artist has infiltrated some of the world’s most prestigious scientific communities, driven by an insatiable curiosity about theoretical physics—and a desire to share new discoveries with the outside world. The two massive aluminum slabs (Super Layer, 2016) are the spoils of his long-term collaboration with members of the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) community, the current mecca of experimental physics. They were pulled from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a nearly 17-mile-long ring of superconducting magnets which accelerates beams of subatomic particles to nearly the speed of light before making them collide and recording the results.
Perhaps its most significant discovery thus far was in 2012 when the elusive Higgs Boson was observed for the first time. Also known as the “God particle,” the Higgs was the last unconfirmed particle in the Standard Model of physics. It validated a thousand scientists’ some 30 years of blood, sweat, and tears building the LHC and many more years still of theoretical physicists’ inquiries. “This mysterious bosonic field is responsible for giving mass to everything,” says Pozzi. If you’re interested in knowing anything about a given piece of matter, he says, “before anything else, chat with the Higgs. That’s why I love it; I was looking for the origin of dialogue.”