Thinkrotron: Echoes of the ESRF


From Saturday, 5th October, and for three months, the ESRF will be a pivotal element of an exhibition called “The Chamber of Echo” (La chambre d’écho), organised by the Grenoble Centre for Scientific, Industrial and Technical Culture (CCSTI). The work is staged in the orange grove that borders the lush botanical gardens of the town’s Natural History Museum.

  • Share

The Chamber of Echo is the second part in the trilogy Thinkrotron, brainchild of French artist Laurent Mulot. Directly inspired by the European Synchrotron (ESRF), Mulot explores the theme of memory, history and oblivion.

Artist in residence at the CCSTI since 2012, Mulot created Thinkrotron as a thought accelerator, as opposed to a particle accelerator.  The result is a trilogy that materialises in three different settings: The Chamber of Echo in Grenoble; Mnémosyne, a video installation presented during the Lyon Biennial of Contemporary Art; and 844 Metres of Art, an allusion to the circumference of the ESRF’s storage ring, and which calls on the public’s participation to create an online collaborative performance.



Sound waves and visual echoes

For several months, Laurent Mulot met and interviewed inhabitants of the districts surrounding the synchrotron as well as scientists at the ESRF. He organised exchanges inside the experimental halls of the ESRF’s beamlines, and recorded participants’ thoughts on what memory has to tell us.

Following a visit to the Museum’s reserves, Laurent Mulot was attracted to a collection of animals conserved in formaldehyde and characterised by their progressive loss of scientific memory: some of the items had lost their labels, others their origin. Mulot was also shown the neurocomputer MIND 1024, containing 1024 artificial neurones and used in the 1990’s to simulate human brain activity.

As the visitor meanders through a visual echo of science past, The Chamber of Echo resonates with the voices of local inhabitants, ESRF scientists and Mulot himself urging the passer-by to question the notion of memory, history and oblivion, whether scientific or other.


Assembly of historical ESRF beamline components displayed in The Chamber of Echo during the inauguration on 4th October.

More than 20 years of history

The ESRF has supplied many elements for the exhibition including images and objects of the experiments carried out on Toumaï, one of our earliest ancestors dating from more than 7 million years ago. Films of the ESRF are projected continuously showing life in the laboratories and on the grounds of the ESRF as well as high resolution 3D images of prehistoric specimens studied on the tomography beamlines. An assembly of “historical” beamline components include some of the first magnets and optical instruments used back in 1992, as well as the microdiffractometer used by Brian Kobilka in experiments that led to him receiving the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2012.


Skull of Toumaï. Credit: M.P.F.T.


The Chamber of Echo (La Chambre d’Echo), 5th October to 5th January 2014, Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Grenoble. Laurent Mulot under the direction of Abdelkader Damani, exhibition curator.

Find out more about Thinkrotron and the works of Laurent Mulot (in French)

Découvrez le Thinkrotron en Français avec le CCSTI.

Related articles:

ESRF instrumentation becomes work of art at Lyon Biennial


Text by Kirstin Colvin

Top image: Microdiffractometer used by Brian Kobilka for experiments that led to him receiving the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Here in the entrance hall of the Grenoble Natural History Museum. Credit: ESRF/ Blascha Faust