Eugenio Polgovsky, Fellow Commoner in the Creative Arts at Trinity, has created a video artwork inspired by the physicist James Clerk Maxwell, as part of a special initiative to celebrate the opening of the Maxwell Centre.
Using the Maxwell’s original equipment, including his zoetrope (an animation device), Polgovsky explores the nature of light and perceptions of colour in Lightbyrinth.
The new work reflects on the relationship between art and science and is Polgovsky’s ‘humble tribute to Maxwell’s artistic sensibility and immense contribution to humanity.’
This art work it is an invocation of the artistic spirit of Maxwell. You can feel his passion, his sensibility and the huge amount of work he put in. He used the equipment so precisely and beautifully. In all of this I can see, beside the scientific genius, also a great artist.
Into Boundless Space I Leap features sculpture, video, installation, painting and dance by 14 leading artists who were selected or commissioned by Kettle’s Yard in response to the Maxwell Centre’s ethos of scientific discovery and collaboration.
The exhibition is inspired by the ground-breaking work of James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), the first Cavendish Professor of Physics at Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity.
Trinity College contributed £10,000 to the exhibition and events programme at the Maxwell Centre, a new building at the West Cambridge site that seeks to catalyse engagement between academia and industry, and germinate productive outcomes.
The Centre builds on the legacy of Maxwell, who is often ranked alongside Newton and Einstein. In the mid-nineteenth century, he demonstrated that electric and magnetic fields travel through space as waves moving at the speed of light. Maxwell’s discoveries ushered in the era of modern physics and we owe to him much of our current technology – from television and radio, to mobile phones and radar.
Maxwell was fascinated by colour and conducted experiments on the perception of colour, colour-blindness and colour theory. He also had artistic leanings, using poetry to express his scientific research. The title of the exhibition is a line from one of his poems.
Polgovsky was intrigued by this melding of art and science and inspired by Maxwell’s research equipment, which he incorporated into Lightbyrinth.
My video works submerge us into the process of research, activating Maxwell’s instruments by refracting white light onto prisms and using his zoetrope and image strips. When you turn on the zoetrope, the images create a new reality, a new space, and time is fragmented.
From the modernity and distance of our new digital era, where many processes of creating cinema have become immaterial (no celluloid film, no physical editing, no final print), the mechanical creation of images is a surprise, it reveals the organic nature of cinema.
150 years ago Maxwell used the zoetrope with remarkable sensibility, like a computer of his time, processing images and finding calculations, patterns, and symmetries. Then and now, these processes make a creative bridge between science and art, with light at the centre.
Other new commissions for Into Boundless Space I Leap include choreographer Wayne McGregor, who has created a new dance and sound piece with artist Haroon Mirza, large-scale graphic texts by Mark Titchner using Maxwell’s words, and sculptures by Rana Begum.
Into Boundless Space I Leap, curated by Kettle’s Yard, is open every Saturday until 2 July at the Maxwell Centre, J J Thomson Avenue, CB3 OFD.