at LNGS (Gran Sasso National Laboratory)
INFN (National Institute for Nuclear Physics)
Assergi, L'Aquila, Italy
An Art & Science installation to develop and promote the interaction between the world of art and the world of science for a new vision and understanding of our universe
The permanent installation "Quintessence" by artist Enrico Magnani, promoted by and realized at the Gran Sasso National Laboratories (LNGS), was created to give an artistic representation to some of the most mysterious and fascinating themes of contemporary physics and cosmology, which see the LNGS as a world-class excellence. "Quintessence" is a way to bring the general public closer, through the language of art, to complex and difficult-to-understand issues about the origin of the universe and matter as well as human life and destiny.
An invitation, moreover, to consider science and art worlds that can and should interact and influence each other for the evolution of human knowledge and consciousness. The world is not made of watertight compartments like a submarine: art on one side and science on the other, the right brain on one side and the left brain on the other; harmonious man puts up no barriers and can benefit from everything.
In Aristotle's physics the celestial bodies, above the sphere of the moon, are made up of a Quintessence of an eternal and incorruptible nature. It is undoubtedly something superior, which transcends, which goes beyond reality and earthly vision. It is the entity that synthesizes the four elements, the perfect synthesis, the original idea, the one, the god, the source. The four elements of Greek tradition cannot fail to remind us of the four states of matter of which the universe is composed and also the four fundamental forces of which man has long been seeking the unification, that primary force from which all the others originate: poetically we could say "a Quintessence". Perhaps we are not far off, three forces have already been unified, but the great unification is not yet complete. I wanted to title my installation "Quintessence" as a message of hope for the achievement of one of the great scientific goals that humanity has awaited for a long time. The strength of art and science lies in the freedom and the ability to imagine something that may seem impossible to realize immediately, but the vision provides the energy and the motivation necessary to achieve the goal we set ourselves.
The five elements
permanent installation Quintessence consists of five parts that find
their location on five distinct walls of the LNGS Research Division. They
represent portions of the universe with stars, supernovae and planets. The
first four walls host rectangular works (5 x 1.35 meters) each associated with
an element of the Hellenic tradition and one of the four fundamental forces
(gravitational force - Earth, strong nuclear force - Water, weak nuclear force
- Air, electromagnetic force - Fire). Each element is represented with the
archetypal colors of tradition.
The fifth wall houses a circular work (3 meters in diameter). On this wall, an entity as mysterious as it is fascinating appears: dark matter, theorized but never detected and artistically represented here by phosphorescent works that shine in the dark, completely changing their appearance. Phosphorescence becomes a metaphor for dark matter: in ordinary conditions in which you look at a work you cannot see it, you have to change the conditions, remove the light, to reveal it.
Life, death and rebirth
The Supernova pictorial cycle, to which the works I created for the LNGS belong, draws attention to the spectacular phenomenon that can characterize the end of a star's life. The material released by the explosion is at the origin of the formation of new celestial bodies. The supernova thus becomes a symbol of death, rebirth and cyclicity of the universe. All the materials we are made of were produced within the collapsed stars: we are truly "stardust". Reminding us that everything is in everything, the supernova links the macrocosm to the microcosm, the universe to man; all in a hymn to life, to its complexity and its magic. The works are all made "at a distance" with jets of air and water that move the color on the pictorial surface covered by a veil of water, exploiting the fluid dynamic effects that, with all the limits of the case, reproduce what we find on a larger scale in star explosions.
Phosphorescence as a change in paradigm
The works on the fifth and last wall belong to the Supernova Dark Matter pictorial cycle and were created with the same technique as the Supernova series, but on a background of phosphorescent pigment whose pictorial effects, invisible with light, are revealed in the darkness. The aesthetics of the works in the dark changes unexpectedly with the appearance of new colors and new shapes. In this way I wanted to introduce an aspect that becomes a metaphor for dark matter, this entity that today has become one of the protagonists in the world of scientific research, but which no one has yet managed to capture. We use light to see things; phosphorescence, on the contrary, is seen by removing the light. The paradigm is reversed. Pictorial emblem of the complexity and relativity of the universe, an invitation to humility, to refine the tools of investigation and to always push knowledge beyond by overcoming the investigative barriers and prejudices that bind the thought.
Astronomy and astrology – science and myth
The constellations can be seen in completely different ways by astronomy and astrology. They are not only the celestial bodies studied by physics and cosmology, but also mythological entities that leave room for imagination and the divination of the destiny of man. This is the reason that prompted me to integrate them into my installation which aims to make art dialogue with science. Each composition that appears on the first four walls of the installation is associated with an element: Earth, Water, Air and Fire. The twelve constellations of the zodiac are also traditionally associated with the four elements. On the first wall, dedicated to Earth, Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn appear; in the second, dedicated to Water, Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces appear; in the third, dedicated to Air, Gemini, Libra and Aquarius appear; in the fourth, dedicated to Fire, Aries, Leo and Sagittarius appear.
Elusive travellers of the universe
When I started thinking about setting up the LNGS spaces, one of the first challenges I had to face concerned the representation of neutrinos. These particles that pass through everything they encounter: space, stars and planets, are so light, elusive and ethereal that they led Pauli to say: "I did a terrible thing, I postulated the existence of a particle that cannot be detected". Gold is a precious color, a symbol of wealth, elevation and transcendence. Thin golden straight lines that originate from celestial bodies and let themselves be captured only in exceptional cases are the artistic representation that I have given to such a precious particle.
The earth and the planets
The cosmos is not only populated with stars, but also with planets, like our Earth. The Earth is also a source of neutrinos, the geoneutrinos, created in the nuclear decays of some of the elements present in it. Moreover, the experiments studying neutrinos are located in the earth under the Gran Sasso mountain. Two good reasons for including these celestial bodies in my composition. The works representing the planets were made with clays which, when drying, spontaneously create a crack.
The Fibonacci sequence
The numbers of the beauty of nature
The Fibonacci sequence: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89... is probably the most famous number sequence. Why? Because if we observe nature, if we "measure" nature, we realize that it often hides this numerical sequence or something that originates from it in a very elegant way. Mathematics, biology, art and beauty find a perfect synthesis in the Fibonacci numbers. It also contains the equally famous Golden Ratio (ϕ=1,618…) on the basis of which wonderful buildings and masterpieces were built. In the creation of Quintessence, the Fibonacci sequence is the basis of the size and the number of works that each wall contains. For reasons of composition and space, the choice was as follows: I decided to create a single work with a diameter of 89 cm, two works with a diameter of 55 cm, three works of 34 cm and 5 works of 21 cm. Furthermore, all the golden lines that cross the space, an artistic representation of neutrinos, originate from points that are all proportional to 1.618... .
Words are part of the work
The five walls on which Quintessence develops are accompanied by a series of quotes by great men who have contributed to the evolution of mankind through their ideas and their research. I have selected these particular quotes not to forget how much the giants of science had a 360-degrees gaze on reality, without ever excluding mystery, intuition, art, beauty, freedom of thought, the feeling of a higher unity and the courage to break the old paradigms when faced with the truth.