The shape of the invisible

Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand’s artworks shed (acoustic) light on quantum phenomena

30 January 2017

The artistic partnership of Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand started in 1996 in New York when they were in their early twenties. They were both born in the Soviet Union, Belarus and Russia respectively, and their paths crossed in the US city. About ten years later the artists moved to Amsterdam, where they are based now.

In terms of weirdness, this is nothing compared to their approach to arts, which could be resumed as the almost impossible mission of observing and manipulating the unobservable. “We thought it was necessary to challenge the old notions of object and image,” says Evelina Domnitch introducing the subject. “We abandoned solid state artistic practices in favour of directly experiencing the fluid and often weightless state of quantum physicality,” adds Dmitry Gelfand.

Exploring the quantum dimension, where the tiniest portions of matter interact according to rules that have little in common with the way we experience the physical world, could expose artists to huge risks. “Instead of abandoning the senses because our perception is incompatible with the quantum world,” says Dmitry Gelfand. “We go against the grain to find the observable. We try to calibrate, to take the advantage of the elasticity of our perceptual processes, to tune in to these very odd, very counterintuitive behaviours.”

Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand deal with vacuum, light, sound, and energy. In their Sonoluminescence installation, they use ultrasound in a vacuum space, to compress micro-bubbles of gas present in liquids, to the point that they collapse, reaching Sun-like temperatures, and emitting light in the shape of the sound that causes this light. “We’re exploring a slippery domain called mesoscopic, where quantum behaviour manifests itself on a macroscopic scale,” Domnitch explains.

In the Force fields project, they induce the acoustic levitation of a droplet of water, where the effect of gravity is minimized, bringing the droplet to what they define as “harmonic mode isolation”.

In Photonic Wind, a laser beam levitates and propels diamond micropowder. Together with Force Fields, the works were at the centre of the Le Vide et la Lumière (Vacuum and Light) exhibition at the Lieu Unique contemporary arts centre in Nantes, France.