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Nanotechnology and Art Collide in Mind-Bending New Israeli Museum (VIDEO REPORT)
Detail from "Stretching the Limits" installation by artist Vardi Bobrow, with the help of researcher Prof. Orit Shefi. (Michael Amar)

Nanotechnology and Art Collide in Mind-Bending New Israeli Museum (VIDEO REPORT)

Interdisciplinary new museum features collaborations between scientists and artists that explore the wild world of nanotechnology

A new museum set to open in Israel this week combines the cutting-edge field of nanotechnology with the world of contemporary art to create a uniquely mind-bending experience.

The Fetter Nanoscience and Art Museum, located at Bar-Ilan University’s Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (BINA), pushes the limits of creative expression with a series of artworks that are exhibited throughout the institute’s seven floors.

The launch show, Titled “New Languages,” features collaborations between artists and scientists from a wide variety of nanotechnology-related disciplines, including biology, computer science, engineering and chemistry.

Artist Ella Goldman’s installation “Here and There” at the Fetter Museum of Nanotechnology in Israel. (Michael Amar)

Slated to open to the public on Thursday, the museum is the brainchild of acclaimed physics professor Yuval Garini, former director of BINA.

As he was wandering down the spacious halls of the institute one day, Garini realized that much could be done to make better use of the expansive central rooms and meeting areas at BINA.

“Nanotechnology is an interdisciplinary field so you really have to have the scientists from different disciplines working together to get something really novel,” Garini told The Media Line, adding that one of the primary purposes of the museum is to attract youngsters to join the burgeoning field of nanotechnology.

“For me, art and science are so enjoyable … they give so much satisfaction and increase the depth of understanding of what we are doing here,” he said.

According to Garini, it took several years to get the concept of the Fetter Nanoscience and Art Museum off the ground.

The marriage of art with science led to some unexpectedly fruitful and fascinating results.

One of the mesmerizing (and complex) artworks on display is Eili Levy’s installation, “Flooding.” Levy coated a spoon in a super-hydrophobic material that was developed by scientists at the institute.

Artist Eili Levy (right) and Prof. Shlomo Margel in the latter’s lab at BINA, June 27, 2021. (Maya Margit/The Media Line)

In a quasi-cinematic experience, the installation follows the journey that a drop of water takes through all the various moving elements that Levy designed.

“It’s like a dance or performance for me,” Levy told The Media Line. “There are many different elements that are synchronized to work together.”

The artist described the creative process – which included working with Prof. Shlomo Margel and scientists in his laboratory – as being a “very joyful and meaningful” experience.

“It was fascinating to be able to enter the world of the laboratory and to see everything that they are doing,” Levy said. “There is a lot of creativity in science. Creativity does not belong solely to the realm of art but exists within everyone.”

The super-hydrophobic coating Levy relied on in her work was developed in the laboratory of Prof. Shlomo Margel, an award-winning scientist who is widely viewed as one of the world’s nanotechnology pioneers.

“I think there is a lot of imagination between artists and scientists because a good scientist and a good artist have to [invent things],” Margel told The Media Line.

Indeed, using the museum as a catalyst for interdisciplinary dialogue was one of the main goals, according to curator Tal Yizrael.

“When people from different creative disciplines meet they find a new way of thinking,” Yizrael told The Media Line. “[This] is actually like creating a new language.”

New works will be added as time goes by and as these dialogues continue, she said. Unlike traditional white cube museums, the art at the Fetter Museum is exhibited in the institute’s main halls and in between its research labs, making for a one-of-a-kind museum experience in Israel.

Artist Vardi Bobrow, for instance, created an imposing large-scale sculptural installation called “Stretching the Limits” in BINA’s main hall that consists of a staggering 15,000 rubber bands. The rubber bands are intended to illustrate how damaged neurons recover by stretching and growing, an area of research that was explored by Prof. Orit Shefi.

“Stretching the Limits” installation by artist Vardi Bobrow, with the help of researcher Prof. Orit Shefi, June 27, 2021. (Maya Margit/The Media Line)

On the ground floor of the museum, artist Mahmood Kaiss meanwhile explored the universe of nanomaterials and geometric structures in his wood-based installation piece “Arabesque #4.” Kaiss’ sculpture was paired with Prof. Adi Salomon’s lab, which focuses on photonics and advanced materials.

Prof. Adi Salomon (right), of Bar-Ilan University’s Institute of Nanotechnology & Advanced Materials, seen here working with other scientists in her lab, June 27, 2021. (Maya Margit/The Media Line)

“[Kais] is also dealing a lot with geometrical structures, as we do,” Salomon related to The Media Line. “We design geometrical structures inside metals; these geometrical structures actually trap the light energy onto the surface.

“From my point of view, art is part of science,” Salomon said. “You can learn science through art.”

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