Particle physics makes art in a car park: Ryoji Ikeda’s Supersymmetry

Ryoji Ikeda

Last year Japanese electronic composer and installation artist Ryoji Ikeda’s light show in Victoria Tower Gardens was briefly the must-see London art work, with long queues of people waiting for their chance to experience it. This year his new installation Supersymmetry is causing less of a stir. Could that be because of its location?

Ryoji Ikeda

If you want to see Supersymmetry you’ll have to go to Soho’s Brewer Street Car Park. Yes, actually the car park, not somewhere nearby. You enter through the pedestrian entrance and take the stairs (the lift doesn’t go there) to the third floor, follow a dingy corridor as it bends away from you and turn the corner to find a door into a space so black that you have to wait for your eyes to adjust before you can go in.

Ryoji Ikeda

The installation occupies two huge rooms. In the first, three dazzlingly bright light tables contain what look like ball bearings that roll about to form shapes – some of them surprisingly complex.

Ryoji Ikeda

Ryoji Ikeda

In the second room are rows of computer screens with changing displays which translate the trajectories of the ball bearings in the first room into data.

Ryoji Ikeda

Intermittently there there are flashes of neon light that turn the screens white, and the whole thing is accompanied by a disorienting electronic score that grinds, whines and sings above your head.

Ryoji Ikeda

Ryoji Ikeda

One of the reasons for the success of last year’s work, Spectra, was that it was part of the commemoration of the start of the First World War. Plus, it was outside in an attractive green space where people could relax on the grass and contemplate the beams of light peacefully stretching up into the sky. Supersymmetry is grittier and more science-oriented.

Ryoji Ikeda

It’s the result of Ikeda’s residency at the Centre For Nuclear Research (CERN), the world’s largest particle physics research institute, where they’re currently trying to find evidence for supersymmetry, a theoretical mathematical model that helps explain why particles have mass. If they can find the supersymmetry particle they can fix the mass of the Higgs Bosun particle and extend the Standard Model of the universe.

Ryoji Ikeda

Leaving the scientific theory on one side, the immersive experience that is Ikeda’s Supersymmetry is like nothing else you’ll see in London, but you’ll have to be quick to catch it as it closes this Sunday, 31st May. The show, by The Vinyl Factory is open Tuesday to Sunday, 12 to 6 pm.

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