Jan van den Berg

Keynote Performance: HIGGS

DD294260HIGGS is a performance about the making of a particle also known as Higgs, a theatrical voyage of discovery with exclusive background stories and unique film footage. In his performance Jan van den Berg deals with such issues as:
1. His subatomic love affair with the legendary Higgs particle.
2. His intermedial playing with, performing at, and participating in the international science community at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research).
3. His experiences at the intersection of (media) art and science.

For seven whole years, Jan van den Berg kept a close track on the hunt for the legendary Higgs particle. As a theatre maker and filmmaker and also as a person versed in the arts: a man of the arts in the wondrous world of physics! Van den Berg descended many times into CERN’s underground particle accelerator and asked dozens of Higgs hunters about their passion for the hunt–the hunt for that one needle in a million haystacks. A ‘needle’ which is often called the God particle. But why, actually? Van den Berg also became acquainted with Professor Peter Higgs in person, the man after whom the particle is named. An extremely amiable man, it turned out, when he interviewed him for his documentary. A bond of friendship grew between the British scientist and the Dutch artist.

On 30 June 2012, they were enjoying lunch together somewhere in Sicily when the telephone rang. Somebody from CERN was on the  line: “I think we have it.” Would Professor Higgs please come to Geneva as soon as possible? Van den Berg immediately started editing the final version of his documentary film and then… creating his lecture performance.


Jan van den Berg is best described as an explorer extraordinaire. The expeditions he ventures upon do not so much take him to uncharted spots on the map of the world but to the limits of the naked eye and the naked intellect. He has a penchant for visiting people and (scientific) projects that demand the most of his imaginative capabilities, and provide him with well-informed stories which, when he tells them, soon have the spectator wondering whether this is still science or already fiction–or the other way around. Jan van den Berg is a documentary theatre- and filmmaker in the borderland of performing arts and science. He created a large variety of theatre shows about scientific topics such as genomics, artificial intelligence, mathematics, nanaphotonics, particle physics and the history of anatomy.

Recent Projects

In 2009, Jan van den Berg made his debut as a filmmaker at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), with the documentary HIGGS – Into the Heart of Imagination, in co-direction with Hannie van den Bergh. In 2010 he created the documentary Als eerste (The very first) about developmental biologist and stem cell researcher Prof. dr. Hans Clevers (Hubrecht Institute, the Netherlands), part 7 in the series The Magic of Science (The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with HUMAN | De Familie).