GENEVA, Switzerland (Reuters) - CERN, focus of research into the Big Bang and what makes the universe tick, on Thursday announced a new program -- fusing science with art to encourage painting and music inspired by the wonders of the cosmos.
Or more prosaically a "policy of engaging with the arts" that will involve giving the European nuclear research center's seal of approval for cultural projects influenced by the particle physics at the heart of its work.
"The arts and science are inextricably linked; both are ways of exploring our existence, what it is to be human and what is our place in the universe," said CERN director general Rolf Heuer, a German physicist and classical music fan.
Leading Japanese video and photographic artist Mariko Mori provided a more lyrical view of the ideas behind the program, which will be directed by a "Cultural Board for the Arts" and bring artists to work in residence at CERN.
"CERN's challenge, to discover the truth of our existence with revolutionary science, provides inspiration to artists and creators everywhere," said Mori after a recent visit to the center on the borders of France and Switzerland.
CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is leading humankind's efforts "to understand what we are," said the rising star of international art who creates visions of alien worlds in sculpture, painting and video.
The 5-member "Cultural Board" -- including a top opera company director from France, a museum chief from Switzerland and a CERN physicist specializing in the cosmic search for anti-matter -- will select two projects a year for endorsement.
The cash-strapped CERN, whose budget is strictly controlled by its 20 member states, cannot provide finance itself, but Heuer says the moral backing will boost each project in seeking external funding.
As part of the new policy, the research center will form partnerships with leading world cultural organizations, like the digital arts body Ars Electronica which will put CERN at the heart of its "Origins" festival in Linz, Austria in September.
CERN, whose subterranean Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has simulated trillions of mini-versions of the Big Bang that created the universe 13.7 billion years ago since its launch in March 2010, is no newcomer to the arts.
Young researchers there have created rap accounts of the LHC launch, physicists have formed a jazz band and a small symphony orchestra and the sounds of the particles smashing together in the collider have been converted to music.
And last year a U.S. artist was invited to use the whole of the side of one three-story building on its main site for a pop-art mural illustrating what he called the secular mythology of "a cathedral of science."
Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Paul Casciato