Artists Ian Purnell and Kamil Hassim with theoretical physicist John Elllis

Kamil Hassim and Ian Purnell share their experience at CERN

24 Jun 2022

In a series of interviews, Ian Purnell and Kamil Hassim share their experience during their Connect South Africa residence at CERN and in the array of astronomy observatories across South Africa

Connect South Africa is the first international residency of Connect – a collaboration framework between CERN and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia. For the period 2021-2024, it will serve as a platform to foster experimentation in the arts in connection with fundamental science. Connect South Africa invited two artists for a joint residency at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Geneva, and the array of optical and radio astronomy observatories across rural and urban South Africa, concentrated in the vast semidesert expanses of the Northern Cape. These include SARAO’s MeerKAT radio telescope near the town of Carnarvon, as the precursor to the South African component of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope, as well as the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), the largest of several telescopes operated by SAAO near the town of Sutherland.

South African transdisciplinary artist Kamil Hassim and Swiss artist Ian Purnell were selected to participate in the tandem residency after a competitive call for applications. In this interview, the artists describe their joint experience during the residency, their thought-provoking encounters with physicists and engineers, and how fundamental physics informs and inspires their practices.


Kamil Hassim

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, Hassim aims to create resonant instruments to draw connections between diasporic South African cosmologies and fundamental research conducted at CERN, SARAO and SAAO.

In this interview, Hassim describes how he understands 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

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.

In this interview, Purnell 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, Residences Producer at Arts at CERN