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Monday, Feb. 13, 2012

Physics and Performance Art at Turner Hall Ballroom

Cedar Block tries to find the Higgs boson

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Alverno Presents, a dedicated importer of performances by groundbreaking artists from around the globe, is breaking ground itself with a commissioned performance by Milwaukee artists. Whatever transpires in the Turner Hall Ballroom on Feb. 18 in "Sexy Results: Cedar Block's Dig for the Higgs and How the Quest Was Won," this is an exciting development.

Cedar Block is writer/impresario Brent Gohde and whoever he enlists for each project. Gohde's first performances were "science fairs for grown-ups" at which creative people submitted whimsical hybrids of art and technology for judging and trophies. Six one-night shows for the Milwaukee Art Museum followed in which dozens of art makers presented original performances or objects in response to a featured artist in a MAM exhibition. For example, a show inspired by painter Francis Bacon included a working photo booth that "Baconized" users by distorting their images to resemble Bacon's animalistic portraits. Bacon Interactive, as the four computer programmers who designed that piece now call themselves, will operate a "Higgs boson interactive photo booth" for "Sexy Results."

The Higgs boson is a theoretical universal energy field predicted by the so-called Standard Model of physics. Proving its existence was the main objective of the particle accelerator at Fermilab in Illinois, and now of the bigger, faster Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, which mimics the conditions of the universe during the first trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Gohde was among the first non-physicists allowed inside the now stilled Fermilab accelerator since it opened for public tours.

"I was really affected," Gohde says. "Both artists and physicists are trying to make sense, as best they can, of the world around them. Who says you need a particle accelerator to find the Higgs? It could be you need a guitar instead."

Gohde's stand-up paean to particle physics will be interrupted by text messages from the audience fielded by artist Joe Kirschling, filmed ads by comedian Tim Higgins meant to stimulate science funding by replacing data results with sexy results in research proposals, and searching commentaries by poet Lunaversol9, songwriters Lisa Gatewood and Nicholas Sanborn, guitarists Chris Rosenau and Jim Warchol, and the noise-pop band IfIHadAHiFi. Audiences will experience a site-specific installation about creation from destruction by Ashley Morgan, and a "Find the Higgs" video game designed by Picobots.

"Cedar Block's Sexy Results" begins 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, in the Turner Hall Ballroom, 1034 N. Fourth St. For more information, call 414-382-6044 or visit alvernopresents.alverno.edu.