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Now you see them, now you don’t…

Photo of "Spannungsfeld" by Julian Voss-Andreae

Spannungsfeld by Julian Voss-Andreae is set to be installed at the University of Minnesota next month.

By Matin Durrani

I don’t know if they’re going to be dubbed “Alice” and “Bob”, but those names seem fairly appropriate for the two new figures – one male, one female – that make up the latest artwork from the German-born quantum-physicist-turned sculptor Julian Voss-Andreae.

Set to be installed at a new physics and nanotechnology building at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis-St Paul, the work is officially titled Spannungsfeld – a German term that literally means “tension field” and which implies, according to Voss-Andreae, a “dynamic tension, often between polar opposites, that permeates everything in its vicinity”.

Photo of "Spannungsfeld" by Julian Voss-Andreae

Spannungsfeld “disappers” when viewed side-on.

Each of the 3 m-high kneeling figures weighs about 1400 kg and will be installed on a 5000 kg granite plinth. They will be positioned about 20 m apart and gazing directly at each other. But rather like Voss-Andreae’s 2006 sculpture Quantum Man, his new work has been built so that both figures “disappear” when viewed side on. That’s because they’re actually created from 150 thin, polished steel slices connected by pins.

I haven’t seen the artwork myself, but Voss-Andreae promises that light shining through the sculpture will give the work a “surprising, almost otherworldly, quality”. When someone passes by the sculpture, a viewer on the other side sees “a blurry reflection of that person moving through the sculpture, even when the metal completely blocks any direct view of the passer-by”. Much of the light hitting the sculptures will “reflect off the slices’ clean, laser-cut edges, which shimmer as the viewer passes by”.

You can see Spannungsfeld for yourself when it’s installed next month and an official unveiling ceremony for the new building and the sculpture will take place in April. Meanwhile, you can learn more about Voss-Andreae’s work in this great article entitled “Quantum of culture” by Physics World columnist Robert P Crease.

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  1. Nice idea to call them “Alice” and “Bob”! But wait…would that mean the viewer going in between them is eavesdropper “Eve”?

  2. Great to see your new zen take-off on my favorite work of yours, “Quantum Man”. Congrats!

  3. M. Asghar

    The quantum content of the “Spannungsfeld”, the “quantum man” and the “quantum cloud” lies in the fact that each of them has two conjugate sides (in the limit, one invisible and the other visible) like the conjugate variables that obey the uncertainty relation of Heisenberg. To explore the two sides of the first and the second these impressive figures, one needs rotation and for the the third figure, translation. However, calling the first as Alice and Bob is quite misleading, because these representations have nothing to do with the QM-entanglement phenomenon.

  4. Matin Durrani

    Don’t take things so literally! This is a work of art and a degree of licence is allowed. Anyway it’s not up to me what anyone wants to call the figures — I was just suggesting an option.

    • M. Asghar

      Dr. MAD, you see that it is quantum art, where correlations and associations are terribly exclusive and where even an innocent liberty/ licence can be disruptingly confusing for its understanding. Of course, a reasonably nice year to the PW-tribe and beyond.


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