Quantum Soup

Libby Heaney

«When investigating what any technology can and can’t do through art, I often turn to concepts from quantum physics as a way of understanding the pluralities and entanglements between technology, the world and ourselves. There are connections between facets of reality that we could never have dreamt of. I’m sure they will shift how people see and understand the world and our place in it.»

Libby Heaney

Libby Heaney is a visual artist and holds a PhD in quantum physics. Her work explores the impact of technologies such as quantum computing and machine learning on society, questioning them in both a critical and playful way. Her oeuvre includes video installations, game environments, sculptures, performances, and participatory experiments alike. HEK presents the first solo exhibition of the British artist in Switzerland with several new works. The exhibition focuses on current works that explore quantum computing, successfully using the quantum computer as an artistic medium. This facilitates the development of a unique artistic language, allowing the audience to experience the multi-layered reality of the quantum world in a sensual way.

Heaney is widely regarded as a pioneer of quantum computing and art. The potential of quantum computers is enormous and far exceeds the capabilities of conventional computers in terms of computational speed. Because they do not operate according to the binary logic of zeros and ones but process different states and possibilities simultaneously, they could advance vital medical research, be used to redistribute resources more efficiently, or provide solutions to complex ecological problems. The possibilities of quantum computers seem almost magical, but on the other hand, there are also dangers, such as circumventing or undermining our current data security measures and furthering surveillance capitalism.

Heaney utilises quantum computers as a new artistic medium with which she creates a new visual language based on a multitude of visual effects that are only made possible with the help of quantum computers. In this new aesthetic of hybrid forms, superimpositions, and image layering, with blurred and distorted images, Heaney succeeds in vividly illustrating the world from a quantum perspective. Scientific concepts such as contextuality, entanglement, and superposition are visually tested and made accessible to the audience, who can effectively see and experience what goes on inside quantum computers. In Heaney‘s immersive installations, visitors are able to engage in a sensory, embodied experience. Visiting the exhibition does not require complex knowledge but instead offers an immersive emotional experience of a fascinating quantum world.

Heaney has been working at the intersection of art and science since 2013. She left the scientific field after eight years as a scientist at institutions like the University of Oxford and the National University of Singapore, as the arts offered her more freedom to discuss and critically question technological developments from a broader perspective. Heaney alternates between fact and fiction to create alternative visual worlds and magical realities that are both surreal and humorous in nature. For Heaney, the potential of quantum computing lies in breaking away from the binary, thus enabling a plurality and simultaneity that can help us rethink the materiality of the world. In her works, quantum computing becomes the new paradigm through which we learn to look at our material world beyond binaries and polarisation. Understanding the hybridity and radical interconnectedness of all things may help us find new solutions to global problems such as the climate crisis or enable new ways of thinking when considering critical issues such as gender identity.

Libby Heaney is an award-winning British artist and quantum physicist. She lives and works in London, UK. Heaney is recognised as the first artist to use quantum computing as a functional artistic medium. In 2022, her remarkable work Ent- was awarded the Lumen Prize and the Falling Walls Art-Science Prize. Before training as an artist at Central St Martins, London, Heaney completed a PhD in quantum physics at the University of Leeds and conducted her own research at Oxford University, where she published around 20 papers on quantum entanglement. In 2008, she was honoured by HSBC and the British Institute of Physics as «Very Early Career Woman Physicist of the Year».

In 2022, important solo exhibitions took place at the arebyte Gallery London and the Schering Stiftung in Berlin

(the latter in collaboration with Light Art Space Berlin). In 2022, important solo exhibitions took place at the arebyte Gallery London and the Schering Stiftung in Berlin (the latter in collaboration with Light Art Space Berlin). Further solo and group exhibitions and performances were at Calder and the 21st Century, Nahmad Contemporary, New York (2022); re:publica festival, Berlin (2022); Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul; Biomedia, ZKM | Centre for Art and Media, Karlsruhe (2022); Quantum Hivemind, Serpentine Gallery, London & CASCADE, Southbank Centre, London (2022), HMKV, Dortmund (2022), Tate Modern, London (2019, 2016) und Victoria & Albert Museum, London (2018). She has also been invited to the Sonar Festival and CCCB in Barcelona (2021) and the Southbank Centre in London (2022). Heaney was honoured with the Mozilla Foundation Creative Media Award in 2022, has received numerous grants from Arts Council England, and is represented in major private collections, including the Zabludowicz Collection, London. She is currently an artist-in-residence at Somerset House Studios in London.

Quantum Soup | Libby Heaney

Curator: Sabine Himmelsbach

March 23 -- May 16 2024

HEK (House of Electronic Arts)

Freilager-Platz 9

4142 Münchenstein/Basel (CH)


Artwork © Libby Heaney

Installation views at HeK Basel: Franz Wamhof