Julian Voss-Andreae’s sculptural installation “Spannungsfeld” for the University of
Minnesota’s new Physics and Nanotechnology Building was inspired by a view of
the human body through the lens of quantum physics.
The German title of the installation (literally “tension field”) originated in physics
but is used in contemporary German almost exclusively in a metaphorical sense,
implying a dynamic tension, often between polar opposites, that permeates
everything in its vicinity.
“Spannungsfeld” is made up of two 10′ (3 m) tall figures in a basic kneeling pose, a
male and a female, facing each other. The two figures represent nature’s
omnipresent pairs of opposites. These dualities are a fundamental facet of nature
and are found in Western science as well as in Eastern traditions. They are critical to
the emergence of new levels of meaning in science, and, in the case of the two
human genders, critical to the emergence of life. Like the positive and negative
electric charge in physics or the yin-yang in Chinese philosophy, neither woman nor
man can exist without the other.
Inspired by quantum physics, the artist’s professional background, Voss-Andreae
developed an approach that transforms the human figure into a large number of
vertically arranged, parallel steel slices with constant spacing. This style creates the
impression of a three-dimensional topological map, evoking the fundamental
scientific act of measuring the world. The visual effect this style produces is striking
and echoes quantum physics’ paradoxical nature and its critical dependence on the
observer’s point of view: On first glance appearing to consist of solid steel, the
sculptures virtually disappear as the viewer moves past them, enticing the audience
to interact playfully with these works. Conceptually, it is the very act of analysis
through dissection that reveals the interconnectedness of the figures: Both sets of
slices comprising the figures fall on the exact same planes and therefore appear as a
continuation of each other and as manifestations of the same underlying ‘field’. As
quantum physics suggests, and Eastern traditions have stressed for centuries, the
world is fundamentally one, and everything and everybody we see is but a
manifestation of an underlying wholeness. Like in the history of science leading up
to quantum physics, the application of the reductionist knife eventually forced us to
see that nature, in its very essence, is indivisible.
Julian Voss-Andreae, a German sculptor based in Portland, Oregon, is widely known for his striking large-scale public and private commissions often blending figurative sculpture with scientific insights into the nature of reality. His sculptures are frequently shown at international art fairs and galleries and can be found in major collections in North America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia. Voss-Andreae’s work has been featured in print and broadcast media worldwide and videos of his sculpture have gone viral with tens of millions of views. Prior to his art career, Julian Voss-Andreae studied quantum physics and philosophy at the Universities of Berlin and Edinburgh and did his graduate research participating in a seminal experiment in foundational quantum physics at one of the world’s most prestigious physics research labs at the University of Vienna. His expertise in diverse fields of science and a deep passion for the mysteries of quantum physics have been a continual source of inspiration for his work.