Physics-inspired artwork starts a conversation

24 September 2013

An artwork commissioned by the IOP and installed beneath the London Canal Museum was the focus of an In Conversation evening on 19 September.

The event gave visitors the chance to view the installation – Covariance – in its underground setting in two Victorian ice wells, and to hear from its creators, artist Lyndall Phelps and particle physicist Ben Still. The two collaborated on the installation, which is part of the IOP’s Superposition programme.

Tom Freshwater, contemporary arts programme manager at the National Trust, chaired the event, with Still speaking via Skype from Brazil and Phelps on hand to talk about the collaboration and to answer questions.

The mixed-aged audience consisted of people with an interest in physics, those with an interest in art, and those who identified themselves as neither, in about equal proportions. The IOP’s head of public engagement, Caitlin Watson, said they numbered about 30, which helped to foster discussion.

She said: “A very important part of the project was the time that Lyndall and Ben spent just talking to each other, with Lyndall learning some science and Ben learning some art. What makes this project different from many other collaborations is that it’s about knowledge sharing rather than knowledge transfer. I think Ben gained as much as Lyndall through it; it made him look at the way he interprets his data, and the insight into art practice has had an impact on what he does.

“The project is more than just the end product – we want people to engage with the process as well and the In Conversation events are a way of people really getting to explore that process.”

The next In Conversation is on 17 October at the museum, with doors opening at 5.30pm and the conversation starting at 6.30pm. The event is free and will include the chance to view the artwork before and after the conversation, but booking is required. Visit for details.

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