The Yale Quantum Institute selects multimedia artist Paul D. Miller, known professionally as DJ Spooky, for a one-year residency to focus on integrating quantum physics into the fine arts.
Charlotte Hughes and Anika Seth
Courtesy of Janelle Pietrzak
The Yale Quantum Institute welcomes a new expert to its ranks this month, and he’s neither an applied physicist nor a computer scientist. Rather, he is an artist known for his projects that bridge the gap between the arts and the sciences.
In the summer of 2017, the Yale Quantum Institute, or YQI, launched its Artist-in-Residence program – an effort to bridge the divide between the humanities and the sciences by highlighting the intersections in these seemingly disparate fields. Each year, YQI invites a new artist to participate in a one-year residency program, and this year the role goes to multimedia artist Paul D. Miller, known professionally as DJ Spooky. During the residency, DJ Spooky will work with YQI students and faculty to represent quantum concepts through art.
“I had to find a way to intellectually break the fear of quantum physics, so I realized that mixing the arts and the humanities was a good way to do it,” said Florian Carle, director of the Yale Quantum Institute. “The program is there to help swallow the quantum physics pill. It’s like, ‘Hey, we’ve got a nice coating. This is art.“Once you get rid of this phobia of physics, people are really interested in talking about science. “
DJ Spooky is a musician, composer and writer whose projects span the arts and sciences. Miller has participated in previous residencies at Google Arts & Culture, Stanford University, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He’s also written everything from forest and Antarctic symphonies to a reggae album. At YQI, he will work with students and faculty to represent quantum concepts through art.
Carle said collaborative projects like these are key to sparking more interest and involvement in science by making areas like quantum physics – which are often seen as intimidating – feel more accessible.
“We’ve seen with the pandemic that people don’t trust science,” Carle said. The Artist-in-Residence program “is really about trying to fight the phobia of science” and “communicating about science”.
At YQI, DJ Spooky is expected to further explore the parallels between quantum art and science. While art and quantum physics may seem fundamentally distant from each other, DJ Spooky discussed the links between creative projects and the scientific process at a TED show in October 2020.
“A song is a sequence of notes, a set of data,” Spooky said. “If you are a composer who studies electronic music, you have to think about tempos, rhythms, sound and systems. “
One of the projects DJ Spooky will engage in at YQI is called Quantum Week at Yale, a seven-day program that includes quantum-related events such as technical seminars, career advice, library tours. and film screenings. Racquel Miller, Director of Events for YQI, said DJ Spooky’s work will be showcased – alongside other intersectional projects – in an April art showcase as part of Quantum Week and an annual art exhibit. of New Haven.
Since its creation in 2017, the artist-in-residence program has hosted two artists at YQI.
The first resident was visual artist Martha W. Lewis. Racquel Miller said that one of Lewis’s projects was a visual representation of Schrödinger’s cat, a famous thought experiment in quantum mechanics.
“[Schrödinger’s cat] would be a bit complicated for a lot of people, but [Lewis] was able to put together a visual display that you can actually step into, ”Racquel Miller said.
In 2018, YQI welcomed its second artist: musician and sound producer Spencer Topel. Like Lewis, Topel explored ways to make the quantum world more understandable – a difficult feat given that humans cannot see, hear, or feel quantum processes. Topel’s contribution to YQI, which Racquel Miller said was groundbreaking for the study of quantum physics, involved working with graduate students to process pre-recorded quantum data from superconducting devices, magnify its sound and the mix into audio signals to produce a musical performance.
While Lewis and Topel’s work focused on the visual and auditory arts, respectively, the YQI wanted to integrate these two disciplines through the 2021-2022 artist-in-residence program.
“I knew it [DJ Spooky] would be a great choice, ”Carle explained. “I was wondering if we had given DJ Spooky the quantum tools, what kind of art could he do in collaboration with the students?” “
Per Racquel Miller, although his start date is yet to be finalized, DJ Spooky could start on campus as early as next week and will continue to work with the Yale community until the end of next summer.