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Stories from our Programme

Kamil Hassim & Ian Purnell reflect on their experiences at CERN

Connect South Africa

Connect South Africa was the first international residency of Connect – a four-year collaboration framework between CERN and Pro Helvetia to foster experimentation in the arts in connection with fundamental science.

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In a series of interviews, artists Ian Purnell (Switzerland) and Kamil Hassim (South Africa) reflect on their experience during the tandem Connect South Africa residencies at CERN in Geneva and in the array of astronomy observatories across South Africa – including SARAO’s MeerKAT radio telescope near the town of Carnarvon, and the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), the largest of several telescopes operated by SAAO near the town of Sutherland.

Kamil Hassim is a transdisciplinary artist and musician. His work is expressed through instrument making, video, sculpture, digital art, sound, music and painting. His current projects explore how our relative cultural paradigms influence how we interface with the universe and the kinds of information that become activated through these perspectives. With this interest, he is currently thinking through themes of art, science, indigenous knowledge systems and their intersections. In his residency project, Kamil aims to create resonant instruments to draw connections between diasporic South African cosmologies and fundamental research conducted at CERN, SARAO and SAAO.

“When you meet a scientist who understands your ideas, and whose ideas you understand, the connect is made quite organically because the interests are shared. Then it becomes just a question of different expertise and technical knowledge, and that’s the valuable space across which exchange can occur.”

In this interview, Kamil describes his art practice, the valuable spaces created when artists and scientists share common interests and how the residency at CERN has informed his work.

Ian Purnell works across visual arts, documentary filmmaking and performing arts. He studied experimental film and documentary formats at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne and montage at the University of Film and Television Potsdam-Babelsberg. Ian’s film and installation works are showcased internationally. With his residency project, he aims to explore the visual concept of black holes and reflect on alternative imaging of the universe.

“I’m interested in questioning the boundaries of perception and creating a surface to critically reflect on the images and narratives that surround us. Through the residency I’ve been able to reflect on the link between technology and science and how important this is for my whole body of work.”

In this interview, Ian shares his interest in how scientific imagery influences our perception of the universe and how the encounters with astronomers and physicists informed and inspired his practice.

[Interviews by Antonella Fetta, residencies producer, Arts at CERN]