Emergence: an artistic exploration of quantum science

Art and quantum physics are two very complex realms and approaches to human inquiry about the world.  When done successfully, they can influence us to see the world in a different light; can change our fundamental truths.” — Bori Benkő, winner of the 2022 EQUS Quantum Art Competition

EQUS’ first art exhibition—Emergence—opened on 29 June 2023 at m2 Gallery in Surry Hills, Sydney.  The exhibition showcased 34 of the entries to the 2022 EQUS Quantum Art Competition, including the winner, runner-up and all the finalists.

The exhibition kicked off with a packed-out opening night event.  Attendees included 11 of the artists, competition judge Professor Andrea Morello, and special guests

  • Professor Annamarie Jagose, University of Sydney Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor,
  • Associate Professor Alice Motion, Interim Director, Deputy Director (External Engagement and Academic Development) of the Sydney Nano Institute, and
  • Professor Lee Wallace, Director of the Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre.

The other attendees comprised friends and family of the artists, and members of the general public.

Dr Ben McAllister—Public Engagement Committee Co-Chair and EQUS Associate Investigator—welcomed everyone to the event with a brief speech covering EQUS’ purpose, the basics of quantum science, and context for the exhibition.  Attendees were then free to enjoy the art, and chat to the artists about their work and to EQUS members about the underlying science.

Dr John Bartholomew—USYD Node Director and Public Engagement Committee member—said that thanks to the hard work of the Public Engagement Committee, Emergence has created much stronger connections between some of Australia's leading and emerging artists and quantum scientists.

“It provided a different platform for EQUS researchers to engage the public about their research and opened doors for artists to explore different aspects of their practice.  

“With several of our finalists recently commissioned for works for the ARC and major international art festivals, we look forward to our final quantum art competition [launching later this year] building on these accomplishments to leave a lasting impact of EQUS beyond our scientific and industry focused successes.”

The exhibition was open from 29 June until 3 July.  It attracted a wide range of visitors and their questions.  We enjoyed conversations about the emergence of consciousness and mind, the ethics of quantum technologies, and the exceptional and unique ways the artists had interpreted a complex subject like quantum science. 

Competition winner Bori Benkő enjoyed a tour of the Quantum Integration Laboratory at USYD by EQUS Chief Investigator Dr John Bartholomew and of the Fundamental Quantum Technologies Laboratory at UNSW by Professor Andrea Morello.  EQUS has acquired the winning and runner-up artworks as part of a legacy project.  They will be on display at the Sydney Nanoscience Hub until a more permanent home is found.

The 2022 Quantum Art Competition invited artists to explore quantum science through their medium of choice, drawing inspiration from the competition theme: emergence.  The winning artwork explores and celebrates the fascinating phenomenon of the moiré interference pattern.  The runner-up—Demon in the Machine, by Sandy Lidgett—was inspired by the artist’s background in biochemistry and experiments with the emergence of shapes dictated by other shapes around them.  The People’s Choice Prize went to Liminal Ontology by Alicia Sometimes & Nat Bates, a poetic audio piece inspired by the scales of the quantum realm and the universe of the very large, and the known and unknown languages between them.

Many thanks to everyone who helped make the event a success: Ben McAllister, Sarah Allen, Dinethri Aluwihare, John Bartholomew, Cyril Laplane, Dominic Williamson, Tim Newman, Thomas Smith, Gargi Tyagi, Ben Field, Elisabeth Wagner & Riddhi Ghosh.  We received very positive feedback about the exhibition, especially from the artists.  We look forward to next year’s exhibition of the entries to the yet-to-be-announced 2023 EQUS Quantum Art Competition.  Explore the exhibition: https://equs.org/events/quantum-art-exhibition/emergence-explore-the-art.





Various photos from the opening night of Emergence


Left, winning entry, EMERGENCE, by Bori Benkő; right, runner-up entry, Demon in the Machine, by Sandy Lidgett

Artwork by Eden Wilson, which will feature on the cover of the ARC’s 2022–23 Annual Report and 2023–24 Corporate Plan

Major funding support

Australian Research Council

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present.