Steve Rowell

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© 2020 Stéve Röwëll

Quantum Danube

An unrealized landscape marking / commemorative monument project from a realized visiting artist fellowship at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria. The inspiration for this project and series of workshops and tours was the first real-world quantum teleportation experiment in 2004 across (beneath and above) the Danube River in a semi-industrial area of Southern Vienna.

This monument, the Twin Monoliths,
commemorates the first successful
real-world quantum teleportation
outside of a laboratory, conducted
in 2004 by the department head of
the Institute for Experimental Physics
– University of Vienna, Dr. Anton
Zeilinger along with his group: Rupert
Ursin, Thomas Jennewein, Markus
Aspelmeyer, Rainer Kaltenbaek, Michael
Lindenthal, and Philip Walther.

The megaliths are identical in design and size, but inverted in orientation. The one in the foreground, on a manmade island, is sited directly above the underground makeshift laboratory (a storage closet of a waste water treatment plant) where the photons were transmitted from. The one in the background, partially obscured by fog, is on the western shoreline of the Danube, sited near the photon receiver location. The adjacent pagoda (unrelated to this project) is a memorial to the victims of Nagasaki and Hiroshima – a sobering, but sympathetic (and coincidental) monument to deep time.

Details of the twin, quantum megaliths:

Text from the 2012 issue of Landscape, an four-issue landscape architecture journal published from 2011-2014 at die angewandt:

The curious state, in quantum teleportation, of the absolute
duplicity that exists between the entangled pairs
of photos is reflected, in this design, as a pair of twin
monoliths. One monolith exactly resembles that of the
other in all respects but rendered in a way so that one
visually mirrors that of the other. This is done to impress
this quality of reflection upon the viewer, even across the
distance of the Donau river (~400 meters), so as to clearly
reinforce this state.

The rough and seemingly “natural” design of the standing
stone, or menhir, was chosen over a minimal, modern
form to emphasize the intent of perfect replication —
one object as a duplicate of another — implying that
only these two perfect pairs exist. This creates a visual
and conceptual connection between the two that focuses
meaning and defines them as a fixed pair, distinct and
without duplicates elsewhere. The realization of this is
immediate and becomes a singular experience for the
viewer.The surrounding landscape is briefly negated as
attention is focused on the monoliths, their reason for
existence, and the space between. Duplicate sleek forms,
overtly constructed with modern techniques and with
even surfaces wouldn’t easily communicate this singularity
and exceptional state.

Compression / Negation
This monument compresses space between each monolith
as well as compresses time between the present, the
date of the experiment and the thousands of years that
have passed since the megalithic era when the building
of such sites with standing stones was common practice.
Megaliths are the longest lasting built form to date —
they are a proven technique of delivering messages deep
in to the future, despite social upheaval and climactic
change. This extreme duration also contrasts, intentionally,
with the zero-time reality of teleportation: space and
time negated. What’s left in this void is pure information,
content, meaning, existing simultaneously in two locations
at once.

Specifications and Materials
Each monolith is 10 meters tall and constructed from
high-grade, hardened concrete, laser cut to match a scaled
version of a existing menhir such as the the “Pierre
Percée” (which has the added feature of a viewing hole
in the center) in Draché or the “Géant du Manio” in Britanny.
One is a mirrored design of the other and installed
as such, visually.

Monolith “Alice” is to be installed directly above the
original underground laboratory site “Alice” (transmitter),
on the eastern shore of the Donau, located on the
island, Donauinsel, adjacent to the sewage pumping plant

Monolith “Bob” is to be installed a few hundred meters
from the original “Bob” laboratory site (receiver) and
closer to the Donau so as to be in clear sight of the the
other monolith, on the western shore of the Donau, approximately
100 meters north of the Buddhist stupa and
meditation center. Visitor centers will be built at both original laboratory
sites: underground at Alice and at ground level, both inside
and outside of the utility building, at the western end
of the tunnel, owned by the pumping plant. Markers will
be mounted near each monolith as well as at each visitor
center with entrance instructions and didactic text.

Image sequence grid from video shot while following the path of the quantum photon fiberoptic channel, in a tunnel beneath the Danube River.