ATLAS Experiment CERN


Feburary 2009

Photo courtesy of Josef Kristofoletti. View his Flickr stream.

Twenty-eight-year-old Josef Kristofoletti is a traveling artist. On the site documenting the work of his group,, he writes: �I am taking a survey of American mural painting in all of its forms, looking for the best pictures across the land, and painting some along the way.�

One of these paintings is an image of the ATLAS detector, a 13 x 7 metre mural on the side of the Redux Contemporary Art Center in South Carolina, entitled �Angel of the Higgs Boson�. When people on the street commented on the impressive scale of the painting, Josef would modestly reply, �Well, it's a small drawing of something that is much, much bigger.�

The temporary mural was part of an exhibition that ran from October 30th to December 13th, called �The Sun Machine is Coming Down.� It featured the work of Josef and one of his companions from art school at Boston University, Matt Phillips. Although the mural will eventually be painted over, Josef�s wife, Amy, has recorded the process of making it into a time-lapse video.

While we compare ATLAS to Notre Dame de Paris for scale � at 45 x 25 x 25 metres, it is about half the size of the cathedral � Josef makes a different comparison between the purpose of his mural and those in the cathedrals of Renaissance Italy. In a way, he considers the work of Michelangelo and Raphael outreach for the Catholic Church, trying to explain big ideas in the Bible to a public that couldn�t understand its language. �They did this with daunting scale,� says Josef.

Josef has been following the progress of the LHC at CERN for the last few years, envisioning the massive experimental halls as cathedrals of science. �There is something about the CERN project: the birth of the Internet, the international teamwork, the scale and energy of building something huge to get at something so small that it is invisible � this deeply resonates with me and seems like a good subject for contemporary art,� he explains.

Getting at the invisible is particularly important to the way that Josef sees the purpose of art. The ATLAS detector may be a physical object, but the painting is intended to evoke the sense of excitement about the science we hope to discover, namely the Higgs Boson.

�I decided on doing a more colorful stylized painting of ATLAS because I thought it would look interesting, and it wound make people wonder what it was,� says Josef. He was pleased to find that some passers-by recognized his subject, and some engaged him in conversations about the experiment. �It's really captured the popular imagination.�

ANGEL OF THE HIGGS BOSON from Josef Kristofoletti on Vimeo.

Katie McAlpine (ATLAS eNews)

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