At White City Place later this month, the Royal College of Art will hold an exhibition from a field that doesn't even exist yet: quantum computer art.
Ahead of that, the artists behind this collaboration are holding a seminar at the V&A on May 11th to explain how they're creating art using technologies from the edge of our understanding.
When I first heard that the RCA was running a project called Quantum Computer Art, I had questions. Questions like: have quantum computers even been invented yet? (They have, sort of.) And: how is it possible to make art using particles that change if you look at them? So it was a relief to hear that Dr Libby Heaney, the quantum physicist-turned-artist behind the project, had been asking herself some of the same questions. Not only that, but she and the RCA students taking part in Quantum Computer Art would be answering them on Thursday 11th May in a seminar at the V&A.
The emergent, half-formed nature of quantum computing is a feature here, not a hinderance. The very appeal of the project for Heaney was to toy with the far side of technological possibility. She was inspired by the V&A's collection of early computer art to create work that is just as ahead of its time now as those pieces were in the 1960s. Besides, she and her student teams have the opportunity to forge ahead into a field that no one else has. It's an opportunity that comes with strange responsibilities, she explains, imposing a rigour on their practice more usual in science than art.
You can join the teams at the V&A as they present work and grapple with ways of communicating this counterintuitive science. Quantum Computer Art is a collaboration between the RCA's Information Experience Design programme's Systems Research Group and the Centre for Quantum Photonics at the University of Bristol.
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