The Cat is Alive!

The Quantum Curtain

The Quantum Curtain Project as part of 'The Cat is Alive!' exhibition.


A collaboration with Sam Nguyen and Jie Hao.

The Quantum curtain is a theory from the 1920's that proposes we should only do science on things we can observe. The quantum curtain hides from us the quantum world.  We thought this idea provoked an interesting philosophical question on the limits of human knowledge and evidence.


Our response was in the style of a Royal Society experiments. We translated the difficulty of observing phenomena in the quantum world into an experience open to everyone. The audience came up to the experiment and had to observe through two sets of curtains into a quantum-kaleidoscope (our own invention).  However it was not so simple as the curtains were oppositely linked, so as one closed, the other opened. Never allowing a direct observation. The curtains were linked by 'an invisible action' in the perspex tube ( a trick of refraction).  Each part of the experiment acted as a metaphor for parts of the quantum physics offering a top level experience in addition to deeper meanings beneath.

Audience Engagement

The most successful part of the work was the chance we gave to the audience to respond to what they'd seen.  In asking them to try and capture what they'd observed we uncovered an emergent theme in which art imitated life, this was the range of interpretations that occurred. In Quantum Physics there are as many possible meanings to theories as we had individual response in our work.


As part of this project we travelled to Oxford to spend a day with theoretical and practical quantum physicists. In response to this I produced some writings exploring the connection between artistic and scientific thought.  I presented my writing as a dialogue between these two sides within me. And also imagined it all collapsed into a single moment.



All Rights Reserved. Tom Gayler 2015