Collaboration with artist Sarah DaleLapis lazuli, blue agate, natural lava, mookite, stainless steel wire and sheet, wood. 2018.

Reception area centre-piece commission by University of Edinburgh for their new Higgs Centre for Innovation at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh.

The concept for this project is based around the hypothesis; what would happen if the 
Higgs field was switched off? The Higgs mechanism is responsible for elementary particle masses. Mass is what provides resistance when a force is applied. If the Higgs field was removed, the electrons in an atom would fly off at the speed of light, leaving the nucleus unaffected. We have chosen to imagine this system on a much larger scale, creating an impossible object, one that is at once present and absent.                                                                                                                                     
Situated in the new Higgs Centre for Innovation, the sculpture consists of roughly 16,000 gemstone spheres attached to wires running floor to ceiling. The beads, which make up the image of a door, only come into alignment as the viewer walks towards it upon leaving the building (enlightened?). At all other angles it will appear as a ghostly cloud, a mist of nuclei drifting in the air, the fundamental part of its mass and energy removed. The door is an elusive object that leads to the unknown possibilities of future scientific endeavour; how will the discovery of the Higgs boson shape the future of science, now the door has closed upon the standard model?

As part of the project development, we recently visited CERN in Geneva, where we spoke to physicists who worked on the discovery of the Higgs boson at the ATLAS experiment, within the Large Hadron Collider.                                                                                                                                        


It took 27 people around 1,300 hours to suspend more that 16,000 gemstones on 564 strands of stainless steel wire using 20,000 split shots. The sculpture was made using a custom-made computer program that assigned each sphere an exact location to make up the illusion. These locations were manually measured out and attached with millimetre accuracy using 500 pages of spreadsheet data. 

This innocent looking project took over not only a huge chunk of the lives of my project partner Sarah Dale and myself, but a wast amount of volunteer time and was a reminder that a lot of the time, art is a collaborative effort.

From advice on the science behind the project (and a guided tour around CERN) to writing a bespoke computer program producing the exact bead coordinates to engineering advice, woodwork and general help making the project, the following people have given up their time and expertise for FREE to help us make this. A huge thank you to:

Victoria Martin, Peter Balch, David Montgomery, Brian Sutton, Miles Franklin, Robin Burns, Random Switch, Ken Hare, Liz Hare, Duncan Silander, Natasha Ruwona, Ana Yarza, Alison Brewster, Helen Prior, Felicity White, Morag Donkin, Rhiannon Gray, Anthony Pace Farias, Jo Blackmore, Timothy Betton, Natasha Moody, Jody Mulvey, Rosalin Sanderson, Annabel Stogden, Yashi Harikrishna, Hanna Warne, Lynn Cowan, Robyn Seabright, Sofia Hallstrom, Rachel Abrams, Zivile Siutilaite, Joe Etchel and Michael Merillo

And of course a big thank you to Peter Higgs himself for the science and for coming along for a look at the sculpture!