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Information Experience Design Exhibition Brings Quantum Physics Concepts to Life

The Royal College of Art’s Information Experience Design programme has collaborated with the Institute of Physics on an exhibition that brings the methods and concepts of quantum physics to life through object, installation and experience. 

Physics Happens in a Dark Place, which runs at Shoreditch Town Hall until 15 May, is the culmination of a public engagement and science communication project funded by the Institute of Physics. MA Information Experience Design students worked with four physics PhD candidates from Imperial College London on a brief to communicate theories around particle behaviour and quantum computing, and ‘bring people into the dreamy, philosophical, analytical, and poetic space of physics, communicating a sense of wonder and awe’.

Set in the darkened basement of Shoreditch Town Hall, the exhibition features a series of sensory, interactive and inventive installations and objects. A maze-like wooden pavilion forces visitors to move in a way that mimics particle forces of attraction and repulsion; a lenticular eye shifts between dilation and contraction; a ball stained with ink on a football table creates a pattern from each game; and a ticker machine sucks up globules of neon liquid.

RCA School of Communication Visiting Lecturer and PhD candidate Karin von Ompteda, who led the project, explained that a remark – ‘physics happens in a dark place’ – by PhD Candidate in Physics Claudio Polisseni had been the cue for the look and feel of the exhibition, and its name. That Polisseni conducts his research in the basement of Imperial College London was the impetus for the dark setting of the exhibition.

Physics Happens in a Dark Place builds on Information Experience Design’s growing body of work that uses art and design to translate complex information into more easily understood experiences. According to von Ompteda, the fact that designers are generalists enables them to take on new knowledge and translate it for a wider audience.

‘Designers stand at the interface between people and complex information. Science is just one of many areas that asks for a translator – in this case, bringing the quantum world onto a human scale,’ said von Ompteda.