Illustrations for In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat: Raymond Biesinger

Curator: Kelli Anderson
date: April 13, 2012
Categories: Book & Magazine Design, Illustration
Tags: illustration, lo-fi, Raymond Biesinger, science
Illustration: Raymond Biesinger
“Faced with a decision, the whole world split into two versions of itself, identical in all respects except that in one version the atom decayed and the cat died, while in the other the atom did not decay and the cat lived.”

Amid exaggerated claims of chat-room unspeakables, the internet was banned in my home until my mid-adolescence. Frequently grounded during this time, I ended up getting really interested in zines and mail-order records to feed my mind. SASE’s sent off to strangers returned weeks later containing photocopied confections filled with [illicit] knowledge about culture, design, music, dishwashing, personal politics, etc.

The look of these DIY publications and vinyl were universally lo-fi, even though the design style ranged wildly. Most were b&w, sometimes with a spot color or two thrown in, and relied on handmade and tactile print reproduction methods for their charm. Many had something of a mod look to them, which I loved—clearly influenced by the design of revolutionary pamphlets of the 1960s, I now know. I had to hide and/or destroy most of them (I was really quite young to be reading most of this stuff), But the memories of this contraband has become further and further romanticized in my mind as I’ve grown older, and found myself in NYC, where I’ve learned that my love for this type of just-pre-internet ephemera and culture is not unique.

The reason I’m telling you all of this is because I think that my fondness for these zines that rescued my adolescent mind may partially explain why I am so head over heels for Raymond Biesinger’s illustrations. Aside from the fact that he is clearly an insanely talented illustrator, he preserves the charm of lo-fi culture in his work: conjuring up this aesthetic realm of photocopier toner, speckled imperfections and shapes clearly made with scissors. But he brings that feeling into a whole new realm of sophistication. Looking at his illustrations on the computer makes me feel incredibly happy and nostalgic, like some cool thing I had forgotten about just arrived in the mail. 

With all of these references mixed in, borrowing from pre-internet ephemera and outsider art and punk-rock album covers*, he ends up with these pieces that are elegant and simple, but so damn full of cultural dimension. Even when he is illustrating obscure concepts from the realm of quantum physics, the work reflects loads of style and a keen awareness of print history and subcultures. I recently picked up an edition of In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat (buy it!), which is filled with delightfully tacky-ink print-y illustrations of things like “Eight slithy toves gyre and gimble in the oxygen wabe; seven in nitrogen.” See for yourself below and enjoy the marvelous illustrations and mystical-but-legitimately-scientific captioning.

Illustration: Raymond Biesinger
“There had been a plot not to agree on an object to be guessed.”

Illustration: Raymond Biesinger
“Eight slithy toves gyre and gimble in the oxygen wabe; seven in nitrogen.”

Illustration: Raymond Biesinger
“All of those advances have been achieved by quantum cookery using the rules that seem to work although no one really understands why they work.”

Illustration: Raymond Biesinger
“Feymann whimsically imagines an experiment involving a machine gun shooting bullets through holes in the wall, and buckets of sand in which to collect them.”

Illustration: Raymond Biesinger
“God does not play dice.”

*Note: These are purely my own observations of Raymond’s work—and an explanation of how I have come to love it. I don’t know him personally and I don’t know if these things that I mention are conscious influences in his work.
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