Collider: a gimmicky look at the LHC

Collider is the London Science Museum’s new exhibition devoted to the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland. It is billed as an ‘immersive exhibition’ that ‘blends theatre, video and sound art with real artefacts from CERN’. But from the off, the exhibition is too chaotic to be truly enthralling.

Firstly, the five or so pieces of ‘sound art’ on show are presented in an exhibition space that is far too small. It becomes almost impossible to focus on any one piece because of the combined din from the others.

Meanwhile, the video section ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. First came the ridiculous. When you walk in, you are confronted with a 20-minute dramatic film about the goings on behind the scenes at the LHC in Switzerland. It’s a story that seems to have been written – and acted – by A-level drama students, topped off with an obligatory cameo from the ubiquitous Professor Brian Cox. Given how astounding the experiments going on at CERN are, the exhibition really didn’t need to resort to such gimmickry.

But then came the sublime. Halfway through the exhibition, there is a stunning video installation that follows the path of a particle in the super collider. The concept is simple but beautifully executed, paying tribute to the awe-inspiring human achievement the LHC represents as well as the wealth of new discoveries it promises future generations.

For the Science Museum, along with many of Britain’s other fantastic free museums, putting together pay-for exhibitions poses something of a problem: the best artefacts are often already on display, and curators have to think a little more ‘outside the box’, looking to such reprehensible things as ‘sound art’ in order to create something worthwhile. Unfortunately, even with an awe-inspiring subject, the tenner-a-ticket Collider fails to offer up anything that will tempt you away from the main collections.

Felix Denton is a spiked intern.

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