Watching the Detectors
Deep underground beneath Switzerland and
France, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider
(LHC) at CERN are searching for particles that were
present just moments after the Big Bang, when the
universe formed. The massive machines built to
conduct these experiments are astounding on their
own — sheer marvels of precision and engineering.
For one Bay Area artist, they’re also his muse.
Photograph by Brad Plummer
John Zaklikowski, 55, re-creates particle accelerator detectors like the ones at the LHC and at
Fermilab in Illinois. What makes his large-scale
assemblages so unique is what they’re made of:
computer motherboards, hard drives, video and
sound cards, cellphone bits, vacuum tubes.
In his work Large Hadron Collider, based on the
ATLAS and Compact Muon Solenoid detectors, the
central feature consists of razor blades and a race-car air filter. “You’ve got to be very careful around
this one,” he warns. “When I was first making these
things, I bled every day.”
In Fermilab, Zak, as he prefers to be called,
depicts a real collider detector with hard drives
and motherboards, but also old telephone bells,
cheese graters, and an ancient Chinese compass
called a luopan.
>> Zak’s Art in Symmetry: