Gästehaus des Helmholtz Zentrums Dresden Rossendorf, 2011

In 2011, Hamburg-based artist Michael Dörner created the art work Stroke of Genius for the façade of the guesthouse. With six different visual quotations, Stroke of Genius focuses upon the history of science in the modern age. Evoking the impression of early graffiti art, six sketches by various scientists appear on the exterior wall of the building. Not only do they demonstrate the complexity of scientific thinking, they also draw our attention to their own particular aesthetics. Silk-screen technology was used to apply these motifs onto the surface of the façade panels.

Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894): „Physiology of the Nervous System“ (above entrance) & „Reflections on space” (front wall, top right)

The research centre was named after Helmholtz. Responding to this, the artist studied original writings by Helmholtz at the Academy of Sciences in Berlin, searching for passages that would be interesting both as graphical motifs and scientific statements. Not only did he discover a sheet that depicts the meticulous calculations of “Reflections on Space,” but also a text with observations on the “Physiology of the Nervous System.” These reveal Helmholtz’ enormous versatility: trained and active as a physiologist, he received a chair for physics at the Berlin University. Helmholtz was a modern polymath and interdisciplinary thinker.

Quelle/ source: „Physiologie des Nervensystems“ NL 550/ S.70; „Raumbetrachtungen”, Prinzipien der Naturforschung, NL 700/1; Akademie der Wissenschaften Berlin

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716): "Sketch of a calculating machine" (entrance facade, middle)

Leibniz, namesake of yet another German research association, is regarded as a universal scholar and the inventor of the calculating machine. At the same time, he is one of the first scientists who mentioned the binary code in their writings. Contemporary technology and research is based to a great extent on his findings. Leibniz’ drawing of the apparatus in red chalk has a strong aesthetic appeal.

Quelle/ source: „Skizze zur Rechenmaschine“, ca. 1671, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Bibliothek / Niedersächsische Landesbibliothek Hannover, LH XLII, 5, BL. 24r

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519): “The foetus in the womb” (entrance façade, bottom right)

Like no other, Leonardo da Vinci represents the ideal of a universal genius. For those who are interested in creative, interdisciplinary thinking, he remains a major protagonist to this day. With his drawing of an embryo in its mother’s womb, he pursued anatomical studies, which were still in their very beginnings in the Renaissance era. As a scholar and thinker, Leonardo was far ahead of his time.

Quelle/ source: “The foetus in the womb”, ca. 1510-12 (Pen and ink with wash over traces of black chalk and red chalk, 305 x 220 mm), Windsor Leoni volume (19102) Ref.: C III 8r; Popham 248; C&P, K/P 198r ; The Royal Collection, London; akg-images, Berlin

Albert Einstein (1879-1955 ): „Scientific notes on experimental data, General Relativity, Thermodynamics“ (Stirnfassade, links)

Countless handwritten notes penned by Albert Einstein exist in the archives. While researching the material, Michael Dörner explicitly chose one particular computation chart that deals with gravitation – in connection with the Theory of Relativity. He selected this unique sheet very consciously: at the conclusion of the calculation, it shows an interesting remark by Einstein’s own hand: “That’s correct!” (“Stimmt!”). The author himself confirms his formula, which serves as an impressive example for the attitude and thought processes of a scientist. Thus, the abstract formula gains a personal undertone.

Quelle/ source: “Scientific notes on experimental data, General Relativity, Thermodynamics”, 1936; The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Albert Einstein Archives, Call Nr. 3-13

Charles Darwin (1809-1882): “Tree of Life” (front wall, centre)

Being both an anthropologist and a natural scientist, Charles Darwin always thought and acted on an interdisciplinary level, thus paving the way for groundbreaking discoveries. With its visual analogy to phenomena of organic growth, the “Tree of life” is aesthetically attractive. At the same time, it emphasizes the notion that the history of human development is a mere side branch of evolution in its entirety. Darwin’s statement, “I think!,” points to the capacity for rational thinking. It mirrors the power of the human faculty of reason and of the inquiring mind as well as making manifest a responsibility towards life in general.

Quelle/ source: “Tree of Life”, 1837; Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, UK, DAR.121 Notebook B (1837). – CUL_DAR121.-038 

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