Particle physics art

Researchers seek concrete answers to a decades-old artistic mystery

Newswise – Using Argonne’s advanced photon source, scientists are trying to determine if Wolf Vostell’s paper “Concrete Book” actually contains a book. The answer may change how this artist’s work is studied and presented.

When is a book not a book?

It seems like a simple question, but in the case of a curious work of art, researchers called on the resources of one of the world’s leading x-ray facilities at the US Department of Health’s Argonne National Laboratory. energy (DOE) to respond. What they find could end up rewriting a chapter in the history of modern art and could shed new light on one of the pioneers of an artistic movement.

The piece in question is called “Betonbuch” or “Concrete Book” and is the work of German-born artist Wolf Vostell. He was part of Fluxus, an international community of experimental creators that flourished in the 1960s and 1970s, and pioneered the use of concrete as a material for art, not just construction. In 1971, Vostell wrote a short book called “Betonierungen”, or “Concrétifications”, and as proof of his commitment to the material, he is said to have encased 100 copies of this book in numbered concrete slabs.

Six years ago, as part of an exhibition on Vostell and Fluxus organized by art history professor Christine Mehringthe University of Chicago purchased “Concrete Book #83,” and it immediately intrigued Patti Gibbons. at the university’s Joseph Regenstein Library and helps curate exhibits from the institution’s collections.

“The mystery of what’s supposed to be inside intrigued me,” Gibbons said. “I always thought it would be a good idea to watch.”

“The mystery of what is supposed to be inside intrigued me. I always thought it would be a good idea to watch. — Patti Gibbons, University of Chicago.

Gibbons has teamed up with Maria Kokkori, a former associate scientist at the Art Institute of Chicago, to finally turn the page on this mystery. Kokkori uses “Concrete Book” in her class, teaching materials science as it relates to art. For her, Vostell’s work represents a turning point in the use of concrete to create art, instead of constructing buildings and bridges.

“Concrete is a material that you would see in construction, but not in the art world in the 70s,” Kokkori said. “Construction and art are often seen as different fields and disciplines, but Vostell pioneered new technologies to use concrete as an artistic material.”

The pair first tried to look inside the 20-pound, two-inch-thick piece of concrete using ultrasound and X-ray machines at UChicago, but couldn’t. detect only metal wires inside, not the book. The wires can hold the book together, or can be there to reinforce the concrete.

They knew they would need a stronger X-ray beam to really crack the casing, so they turned to the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a DOE Office of Science user facility in Argonne. APS generates some of the brightest X-rays in the world, at energies that allow it to penetrate thicker objects. On the 6-BM beamline, they used a technique called X-ray diffraction to look for signs of paper and vellum inside the concrete.

“We first scanned a different copy of the book itself, the book that’s supposed to be inside the concrete,” said Argonne beamline scientist John Okasinski. “It gave us a signature to look for in the object itself. Although the sample is different, the techniques we use are the same ones we would use for materials science experiments.

Kokkori said the results of the X-ray scans will be published in a journal. The duo presented details of the experiment as work in progress at a recent Art Libraries Society of North America conference. Whatever the answers, Kokkori said, would illuminate both artistic and scientific questions.

“How do we define a book? she asked. “If Argonne scientists find a booklet there, how do we contextualize that information? If not, the response is just as important, as it provides more context and informs the story. This will inform how we share this play with the public.

“We have the artist’s testimony, and no reason to doubt there is something there, but we still need scientific evidence,” she said. “It’s an important message for students to question the reliability of sources. It’s a great intellectual exercise to question and then question the questions.

About the Advanced Photon Source

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory is one of the most productive x-ray light source facilities in the world. APS provides high-luminosity X-ray beams to a diverse community of researchers in materials science, chemistry, condensed matter physics, life and environmental sciences, and applied research. These X-rays are perfectly suited to the exploration of materials and biological structures; elementary distribution; chemical, magnetic, electronic states; and a wide range of technologically significant engineering systems from Battery to fuel injectors, all of which are the foundations of our nation’s economic, technological and physical well-being. Each year, more than 5,000 researchers use APS to produce more than 2,000 publications detailing impactful discoveries and solving more vital biological protein structures than users of any other X-ray light source research facility. Scientists and APS engineers are innovating in technology that is central to advancing accelerator and light source operations. This includes insertion devices that produce the extremely bright X-rays that are prized by researchers, lenses that focus X-rays down to a few nanometers, instrumentation that maximizes how X-rays interact with samples studied and the software that gathers and manages the massive amount of data resulting from discovery research at APS.

This research utilized resources from the Advanced Photon Source, a United States DOE Office of Science User Facility operated for the DOE Office of Science by Argonne National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC02- 06CH11357.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts cutting-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state, and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance American scientific leadership, and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is led by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic physical science research in the United States and strives to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.