It’s Physical: Kim Bernard and Jacob Barandes Discuss the Magic of Movement

Last night, I joined about sixty people at the MIT List Center to hear another great conversation exploring the fertile ground between art and science. It was clear from the very beginning of the evening that Kim Bernard and Jacob Barandes are connected by a deep fascination and appreciation for the laws that govern the physical world.

Artist Kim Bernard began by talking a bit about how movement informs her work. From dancing, to martial arts, to a growing interest in physics, Bernard’s creativity is fed by the motion of bodies large and small. Much of her work has a strong sense of play- which is really another word for experimentation, something that scientists certainly know a lot about. Physicist Jacob Barandes used Bernard’s sculptures as a jumping off point to touch on a variety of topics in physics, from history to contemporary discoveries like the Higgs-Boson particle. Their discussion flowed back and forth in an integrated, choreographed dance of ideas. In this way, their talk felt like a natural expression of their work; organized; yet free-flowing.

Much of Bernard’s work is meant to be experienced rather than simply seen, and it was a great treat when she periodically played videos that showed her kinetic sculptures in motion. As an artist who is not well versed in science, it was fascinating to then hear Barandes explain how Bernard’s pieces worked- a brief primer on waves allowed me to see Bernard’s Quantum Revival in a whole new light.

It was very clear that members of the audience were taken with the interplay, as the question and answer session was very spirited. Towards the end of the talk, Barandes reflected, “to the extent that physics plays a role in Kim’s work, <it’s similar to> the way that a painter uses colors; Kim uses physics as a palette to create things that might be difficult to create or express in other ways… using the tools of physics to provoke the viewer…”

Luckily, we all still have time to share in that provocation, as Kim Bernard’s solo show will be up at Suffolk University through 10/3.

I’m looking forward to the next Catalyst Conversations, where Emily Evelyth and David Tester will be tackling the sticky subject of beauty.

Celine Browning is an artist, writer, and educator living in Boston. For more information about her work, visit:

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