Arts|Science Initiative Collaborations Inspire New Directions, Approaches to Research

This article originally appeared in UChicago News on 16 June.

In a hall full of scientists and artists, Qin Xu, Ivo Peters and Iddo Aharony were the ones who broke the ice at the May 14 presentations of the 2014 graduate collaboration grant projects sponsored by the Arts|Science Initiative

The trio of graduate students kicked off the evening at the Logan Center for the Arts by introducing "Breaking Ice," the literal focus of their project. Xu and Peters, graduate students in physics, and Aharony, a graduate student in music, crushed and melted ice in the laboratory, recording the entire process. Next, they used their data and video to create a multimedia composition that incorporated live cello, interactive electronics, and video.

“This collaboration was an incredible opportunity to open up a whole new dimension to my creative work,” said Aharony. “Together, we were able to brainstorm and ultimately create a distinct artwork that would never have been conceived in any other way. I have no doubt that this collaboration and its fruits will continue to inspire my creative work moving forward.”

The composition attempts to evoke the thawing and shattering of glaciers as a result of global warming by studying reduced-scale models of these enormous structures. They crushed ice in a viselike device, applying pressures equivalent to a car’s weight before the pieces shattered. They videotaped at 6,000 frames per second the impact of ice dropped on the lab’s concrete floor. They also constructed a hollow, thumb-sized house of ice in remarkable detail—with well-defined roof, chimney, shutters and door. A slow-motion video of the house dropping to the floor shows it exploding slowly into slabs and splinters.

“It was hollow,” said Anthony at the presentation, “because real houses are hollow.”

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