A Marriage of Art and Science

Artists and scientists exchanging ideas

Cosmic Song is a work of art and cosmic ray detector embedded in the floor of the Visitors entrance – Building 33, at CERN and was made in collaboration with the CERN workshops in 1987. It lights up with the constant rain of cosmic ray particles from outer space as visitors stand on the sculpture. The piece is made by the French artist Serge Moro

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has developed three unusual artist-in-residence programs that encourage the exchange of creative ideas between artists and scientists.  It is hoped that the ground-breaking program, and the  technology that explores the fundamental secrets of the universe can be a new force for human creativity.

Artists of all disciplines work as artists in residence at the laboratory, where they can both be inspired by the science and inspire the scientists to make new discoveries. While protons collide in the machinery at unimaginable speeds and perhaps reveal some of the secrets of the universe, the artists and scientists “collide” in ways that may help make some of these secrets more understandable to the human imagination. With this initiative, the chasm between the arts and the sciences may finally be bridged.

The laboratory, located in Geneva, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centers for scientific research in the world.

ATLAS mural at CERN by Josef Kristofoletti


The first residency program, called Collide @ CERN, was launched in 2011, and combines a maintenance grant and prize money for the selected artist. The program “collides” the imaginations of artists with the minds of scientists to create new work.

The arts at CERN comes under the auspices of CERN’s Cultural Policy for Engaging with the Arts, Great Arts for Great Science.  The program is the leading art and science program that promotes a dialogue between artists and particle physics. It stimulates the creation of new expert knowledge in the arts through a connection with fundamental science. COLLIDE gives artists the opportunity to encounter the multi-dimensional world of particle physics.

Artists can apply online for the three-month residency and stipend of €10,000 that comes with the chance to be mentored by the CERN scientists and given a unique opportunity to experience the cutting edge of physics from the inside.

By forming partnerships with leading international arts organisations, CERN is allowing the “collision” to happen. Bill Fontana is the artist in residence, and the project’s creative patrons include Swiss architect Jacques Herzog, German photographer Andreas Gursky, British sculptor Antony Gormley, British musician Brian Eno, Dutch wildlife artist Frans Lanting and Japanese artist Mariko Mori.

The COLLIDE International Award started as Prix Ars Electronica Collide @ CERN, in a three-year partnership (2011-2014) with Ars Electronica. It was funded by private sponsors, with the prize money supported by our cultural partner at the time, Ars Electronica, Linz. In 2015, the partnership carried on for one more year with COLLIDE Ars Electronica Award. As of 2016 the COLLIDE International Award is part of The COLLIDE CERN FACT Framework Partnership 2016-2018, in collaboration with FACT, The Foundation for Arts and Creative Technology in Liverpool, UK.

Gayle Hermick’s sculpture Wandering the Immeasurable, at the CERN site in Switzerland. (Photo Guillaume, Jeanneret, CERN).


CERN’s second art program ACCELERATE, is the country-specific, one-month artists residency award. This award is for artists who have never spent time in a science laboratory before, and is the sister of CERN’s flagship residency programme, COLLIDE.

Every year, the ministries or foundations, from two different countries, fund a different artistic domain to participate in the ACCELERATE Awards. The winners receive a stipend of 5,000 CHF for their one-month residency at CERN, and a budget covers accommodation, subsistence and travel costs. The awards are made following open calls in each country, and the jury is made up of the cultural partners as well as representatives from Arts at CERN, including scientists from CERN.

The 2016 awards were

ACCELERATE Lithuania In collaboration with Rupert, and

ACCELERATE UAE – Supported by The Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, ADMAF.

The 2017 awards are

ACCELERATE Croatia Award In collaboration with Kontejner, and

ACCELERATE Korea Award In collaboration with ARKO

On 20 May 2005, the well-known Swiss artist Gianni Motti went down into the LHC tunnel and walked around the 27 kilometres of the underground ring at an average, unaccelerated pace of 5 kph. This was an artistic performance, aimed at drawing a parallel between the fantastic speed of the beams produced by the future accelerator and the leisurely stroll of a human. The artist, who originally hails from Lombardy, was accompanied by cameraman Ivo Zanetti, who filmed the event from start to finish, and CERN physicist Jean-Pierre Merlo.


CERN’s third residency program is Guest Artists. Initiated in 2016, artists with an extensive internationally recognized career, are invited to visit CERN for a short period, to learn about what the laboratory offers to arts and creativity, from an interdisciplinary approach.

James Brindle was awarded Honorary Mention of Collide International in 2016. He is a British writer, artist, publisher and technologist, currently based in Athens. His work covers the intersection of literature, culture and the network. His current research, on the impact of information technologies into knowledge, brought him to CERN.

Tomás Saraceno was the first Guest Artist of the year. His work is an ongoing research, informed by the worlds of art, architecture, natural sciences, astrophysics and engineering. During the past decade, he has initiated collaborations with scientific institutions that have included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Max Planck Institute, the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, and institutions of the Exhibition Road Cultural Group, among them Imperial College and the Natural History Museum London. He came to CERN to discuss ideas in cosmology and particle physics with scientists.

Pascal Dusapin, from France is interested in a diverse variety of fields, from morphogenesis to philosophy, from photography, to architecture, to the theatre of Samuel Beckett, to Flaubert’s work, among others. The French musician and composer Pascal Dusapin will be visiting CERN on 21-22 November for deep exploration in high energy physics.

More information about the CERN program is available from

Monica Bello, Head of Arts at Monica.Bello@CERN.ch  and

Julian Calo, Coordinator of Arts at  Julian.Calo@CERN.ch

CERN’s Advisory Board includes

Andrea Bellini – Director of Centre d’Art Contemporain de Genève

Frédérick Bordry – Director of Accelerators and Technology CERN

Assoc. Prof. Bilge Demirköz at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey.

Ariane Koek – Founder and former Head of Arts@CERN

Laurent Le Bon – President of Picasso Museum in Paris

CERN Particle Accelerator










2 thoughts on “A Marriage of Art and Science

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