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Libeskind brother and sister join forces with their famous architect father for art exhibition
Etching for Cosmic Collisions.

SANQUHAR.- New York-based artist Rachel Libeskind and her cosmologist brother Noam are undertaking their first creative collaboration for an exhibition exploring the nature and origins of the universe.

Another contributor is their father Daniel, the architect behind the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Ground Zero in New York and the Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics, home to Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology.

The exhibition, Cosmic Collisions, Birth, Rebirth and the Universe, is at Merz Gallery in the Scottish town of Sanquhar, Dumfries and Galloway.

Rachel has used laser etchings on metal to reproduce cosmological maps created by her brother and his colleagues that depict how objects, including galaxies, are moving through the universe.

She sees artistic work of this kind as an effective means of cutting through the complexities of theory to reveal the beauty and fundamental essence of science.

Rachel says: “I have always been fascinated by my brother’s work and we have wanted to collaborate for ages but this is the first time we’ve managed to do so.

“In some ways art and science are opposite realms. Art uses emotional responses and feelings to create understandings and isn’t aiming to prove anything.

“What’s so interesting about this work is that you look at these 2D renderings of how matter disperses through the universe and it could be all sorts of things. It could equally be a biological form or a map of information flow through the internet.

“It’s as if organic forms mimic each other, and even the way humans organise information follow the same sort of simple patterns.”

Rachel is also interested in the issue of scale and the way humans often tend to see themselves at the centre of the universe, when in fact they are infinitesimally small. This is something she has emphasised by placing a line a small “You are here” dot on one of the maps.

Noam, who is the Deputy Head of the Cosmology and Large Scale Structure Group at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam, was a film studies student before “dropping out” to study maths and theoretical physics.

He now researches the universe at its largest scale. The maps are the result of decades of international collaboration, using some of the most sophisticated technology ever created by humans, to chart the distance, velocity and trajectory of objects that can be hundreds of millions of light years from Earth.

He said: “It’s great to be collaborating with Rachel on an arts project like this. One of the great challenges for scientists is that we are often in quite small and specialised groups, so only a few thousand people round the world fully understand your field.

“We really need to find ways of talking to the rest of society about what we do and why it matters. Art is one of the ways we can do that.

“In the case of my work, I think that humans have a natural curiosity about the universe. They have always looked up and wondered what’s out there and how it works. We don’t all want to be studying these subjects ourselves but we like to know that somebody is.”

Noam has previously collaborated with his father on the design of a large chandelier that uses LEDs to mimic the cosmic light that permeates the universe.

Exhibition curator Tim Fitpatrick says: “Rachel’s work represents a conversation between a new generation, the people who are shaping our scientific and cultural futures.

“It’s quite something for us to be able to show the first collaborative artwork by two such remarkable people whose work is doing so much to challenge and inform our knowledge and perceptions.”

The exhibition also features previously unseen drawings by Daniel Libeskind which show how the shape of spiral galaxies influenced his design of the Ogden Centre. A new series of paintings by Charles Jencks also are on show. These look at how seemingly calamitous events like the collision of galaxies are immensely creative, leading to the birth of millions of new stars.

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