Perfect symmetry between arts and science

“Symmetry,” a film about science, truth and identity, is the first arts project to receive the endorsement of the CERN Cultural Advisory Board, following a rigorous peer review process. It unites six artists from different artistic and cultural backgrounds - between their nationalities and current places of residence they cover six countries and three continents. The team visited CERN recently to get an impression of the Organization and to prepare for filming during the shutdown in 2013.


Lukas Timulak dancing the part of the CERN researcher. (Copyright Tim Georgeson, 2012).

You can see it in their eyes: the sense of amazement as they shake their heads and try to put into words what they have seen and heard today. “All those cables and coils, it’s so complicated,” says Claron McFadden, the soprano opera singer on the team. “And it was so noisy at LHCb, and even noisier in the computer room,” adds Dirk Haubrich, the composer. “It’s been an amazing experience, it’s opened up a whole new world to me,” throws in Lukas Timulak, the dancer and choreographer. They are joined by Tim Georgeson, the photographer, who listens closely, as well as Constant van Panhuys, the producer, and Ruben van Leer, the director and mastermind of the piece.

Together these six artists make up the team that will be producing the 20-minute film, which at first glance seems to be a dance opera.  However, it goes much further than that. It will also incorporate visuals generated by CMS data and data taken from motion capture – the technology used in films to get life-like animation of human movements. Creative programmers will then use that data to produce attractive images which will be projected at key points during the film. The team also intends to include microscopic filming of body fluids inside the body of Lukas, the dancer. “This way the images will have a continuity with the dance in the film, in an absolutely abstract way but with a very real reference,” explains Ruben.

During the team’s two-day visit to CERN in mid-February they worked hard recording Claron singing and other sounds at various places at CERN to use in the music for the film. They also filmed a few dance scenes to put into a teaser trailer to drum up funding to complete the whole project. “It’s quite an unusual film to fund and broadcast,” says Constant van Panhuys, “so we’re approaching a number of European broadcasters with the trailer to get them interested.” Once the film has been completed, the team hopes to expand the project to include other media including a video installation, a book and maybe a stage opera. “People at CERN have been really open to what we are doing. They were following us as we were filming, which was very inspiring and rewarding,” says Ruben. “We are learning so much from CERN, so I hope that with our project we can give something to the people at CERN in return.”

You can follow the Symmetry team’s creative process on their blog.
This is an Arts@CERN initiative. For more information, see the website.

The plot

“In an attempt to escape himself, Lucas abandons a starting career at CERN to end on a vast frozen lake. Performing a ritual dance during an encounter with a female shaman he learns that the greatness of life is hidden in the smallest parts of the human body. Dance, an aria, data-visualizations and water crystals represent Lucas’s existential search for his identity and the connection with the natural world.”

Taken from


by Joannah Caborn Wengler