Pamela Davis Kivelson (PDK) joined the Department of Physics in March 2023 as its first artist in residence. Her remit? To challenge perceptions of ourselves and others, both currently and historically through her department-wide, collaborative, creative project, 'Conversations Across Time'. PDK’s residency will generate a rich creative body of work, not least her collaborative “un-play” – a hybrid of film, art and performance and a physics first – that explores physics and in particular, quantum information and quantum computing. Her residency lays the foundation for future artistic collaborations. 

Renowned contemporary artist

A renowned contemporary artist in science faculties in America and beyond, Pamela currently holds a similar position at Q-FARM at Stanford University. In the Department of Physics at Oxford, she has worked with a diverse range of students, staff and faculty members, interviewing her subjects to inform her work. As well as academics and researchers within the Department of Physics, PDK has collaborated with award-winning composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Visiting Research Fellow at Oxford’s Keble College to compose the “un-play’s” score and creative media charity, FilmOxford. The live dates are affiliated to the Artful Intelligence season at The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

Art in a black hole orbit

In 'Conversations Across Time', PDK considers the effects of a black hole orbit on art. Using her work as input, Professor Biao Lian (Princeton), Dr Ruizhu Chen (Stanford) and Zhaoyu Han (Stanford) plotted black hole orbits that visualise the ways in which multimedia works and paintings of astronomical size would get challenged, break apart, and disintegrate in the vicinity of a black hole. Part of the image spirally falls into the black hole, while the rest picks up enough energy to escape the black hole. What you see is what happens to these images as they are rotated and transformed over time. 

‘Though the viewer is only nominally aware of the original narrative in the image, that awareness is still creating a sly presence,’ explains PDK. ‘Information is lost. Light rays, themselves are bent by the intense gravitational field of the black hole. The brushstrokes are transformed by orbiting motion. That dreamlike vestigial presence of the original art is its "art shadow."  In them are embodied fragments of inspiration, memories and dreams. They are their own universe. They are the subtext of how we read or experience art, how we invent. These past and future encounters with art and beauty are the fabric of creative change. They are the elemental creative forces we search for.’

An un-play and art-piece

PDK’s un-play and art-piece, 'Conversations Across Time', will take place from 15-17 June at the Beecroft Building in the Department of Physics giving a unique experience to those who are interested in portraiture, quantum computing, AI and women in science and technology. Selected players, directed by PDK and Nina Jurkovic, will be creating a quantum simulation and answering the question of what do horses, medievalists, black hole orbits, boardrooms and quantum computers have in common…