A joint Fermilab/SLAC publication

Digital artist wins first CERN, Ars Electronica joint-residency competition


Artist Julius von Bismarck with an early version of his invention, the Fulgerator. Image courtesy of Julius von Bismarck

CERN and international cyberarts organization Ars Electronica declared Julius von Bismarck the winner of their first digital arts joint-residency program today. The 28-year-old German artist will spend two months at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland, and a third month at Ars Electronica in Austria, collaborating with scientists and digital experts to create a physics-inspired artwork as part of the [email protected] program.

Von Bismarck wasn’t sure as a student whether he wanted to pursue physics or art. Now he is excited for the opportunity to combine them. “The root reason as to why I am an artist is the same as it would be for being a scientist: finding out what there is out in the world and how I can contribute to our understanding of it,” he said in the CERN press release.

The bearded Berliner is most famous for his invention of the Fulgurator, an apparatus that looks like a camera but actually projects a secret image that shows up only in other peoples’ photos. He used the device when President Barack Obama spoke in Berlin, projecting a cross onto his podium that appeared in press photos, as well as at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, where tourists found their photos contained the image of a white dove over Mao Zedong’s face in a prominently hanging portrait.

Von Bismarck is cautious about the device’s potential for misuse. He’s turned down numerous offers from advertisement agencies looking to exploit its function. As he says in a video for the arts and media initiative the Creators Project:

“I believe that all technology that’s invented should also be questioned. I believe that an invention is also a political statement. If I build a machine that can change the world, then I have to back it up as the creator. That’s why every technician and every engineer also acts as a politician and as someone who is responsible for our future.”

He will visit CERN for a week in January to choose his science-inspiration partner, a physics mentor who will co-blog and present work with von Bismarck throughout the program. His residency in Geneva will likely start in March.

For more on the artist residency program, see this symmetry story.

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