News

Exhibition – ‘Critical Zones. Observatories for Earthly Politics’, ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe

May 9–October 4, 2020

Curated by: Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel with Martin Guinard and Bettina Korintenberg

By now everybody knows that there is an existential threat to our collective conditions of existence, but very few people have any idea of how to cope with this new Critical situation. It is very strange, but citizens of many developed countries are disoriented; it is as if they were asked to land on a new territory, an Earth that they have long ignored having reacted to their action. The hypothesis we want to propose is that the best way to map this new Earth is to see it as a network of Critical Zones, which constitute a thin skin a few kilometers thick that has been generated over eons of time by life forms. Those life forms had completely transformed the original geology of the Earth, before humanity transformed it yet again over the last centuries.

Over the years, scientists have installed multiple Observatories to study these Critical Zones and have made us aware of the complex composition and extreme fragility of this thin layer inside which all life forms, humans included, have to cohabit. They have renewed Earth science in a thousand ways and very much in a way that Alexander von Humboldt would have approved. Increasingly, scientists, artists, activists, politicians, and citizens are realizing that society is not centered solely on humanity, but it has to become Earthly again if it wishes to land without crashing. The modern project has been in flight, unconcerned by planetary limits. Suddenly, there is a general movement toward the soil and new attention to the ways people might inhabit it. Politics is no longer about humans making decisions on their own and for themselves only, but has become an immensely more complex undertaking. New forms of citizenship and new types of attention and care for life forms are required to generate a common ground.

The ZKM thus continues the comprehensive engagement and collaboration with local communities and institutions that was explored during the Open Codes exhibition (2017–2019), opening up a space for common action and discussion to recompose the world we live in: Over a period of five months ZKM will host an exhibition conceived as a scale model to simulate the spatial novelty of this new land as well as the diversity of relations between the life forms inhabiting it. It will serve as an Observatory of Critical Zones allowing visitors to familiarize themselves with the new situation. This special combination of thought experiment and exhibition was developed by Peter Weibel and Bruno Latour in their previous collaborations at ZKM. Iconoclash in 2002, Making Things Public in 2005, and Reset Modernity! in 2016 constitute the three former “thought exhibitions” (Gedankenausstellungen) that resulted from their intensive working relationship which now spans 20 years.

The ZKM website will soon publish the intense program accompanying the exhibition.

More info here

‘The Botanical Mind: Art, Mysticism and the Cosmic Tree’ Exhibition at Camden Arts Centre, London

April 17 – June 21, 2020

This group exhibition investigates the subjectivity and being of plants: their significance to wisdom-traditions, and how we engage with and activate them in culture, counter-culture, art and music. It situates the plant as an axis mundi – the Cosmic Tree – and seeks to reveal through the symbolism of diverse cultural artefacts and in the works of visionary, surrealist, modernist and outsider artists, how the vegetal kingdom has been esteemed with metaphysical importance to the development of consciousness and spirituality.

Figures in a Garden

The exhibition brings together an extraordinary presentation of trans-cultural art that reveals an encoded intelligence inherent in plant forms – patterns that can be thought of as blueprints for the natural world. These same patterns relate to ancient metaphysical beliefs shared by diverse cultures globally, manifest in the connected principles of micro- and macro-cosmos, sacred and fractal geometries, and the psychoactive visions induced by mind-manifesting plant medicines.

A major new commission by the Yawanawa people from Acre, Brazil, will celebrate their kene (sacred designs) and music. Passed through ancestral lines, these traditions connect them to the rainforest in which they live and this deeply entwined relationship with plants highlights the way in which music and visual abstraction are active technologies for communicating with a more-than-human world. The exhibition draws a connecting arc to the heritage of a contemporary European worldview, exploring the beliefs that existed before our culture was shaped by the scientific revolution; reappraising the ancestral wisdom traditions that were driven underground by the same colonial values that destroyed indigenous cultures abroad. The modern and contemporary works in the exhibition explore relationships between music and geometric abstraction, mysticism and modernism, psycho-active plant medicines, art and literature of 1960s cultural revolution, and an expanded philosophical and ethical engagement with non-human entities.

More info here

Exhibition and conference ‘Drawn to Investigate’, Ruskin Museum of the Near Future, Lancaster

Conference exhibition : Drawn to Investigate

An exhibition of drawings related to the conference theme ‘Drawing talking to the Sciences’ will be exhibited as part of the conference at The Ruskin Museum of the Near Future at Lancaster University and artists will have the opportunity to discuss their work during the proceedings. The exhibition will look at the potential of drawing used as an investigative tool to make meaningful contributions to knowledge outside the arts. The exhibition complements the conference papers with visual examples of how drawing today continues to work across the porous boundary between observation and expression, empiricism and invention in a range of investigative practices. Using the term ‘science’ in the most inclusive way, the exhibition aims to bring together a range of examples of contemporary drawing undertaking research in dialogue with scientific investigation.

Exhibition dates are 10th -17th January

Summer Academy – “Science and Art – Art and Research Today.” Switzerland, August 22-29, 2020

Organised by Hans-Jörg Rheinberger and Staffan Müller-Wille

The theme of the Summer Academy for the Schweizerische Studienstiftung in Magliaso/Ticino from August 22-29, 2020 is “Science and Art – Art and Research Today.” The Studienstiftung supports talented students in all disciplines with bursaries, and the Academy is meant to bring bursary holders together for discussion and socializing at Lake Lugano.

The Summer Academy aims at giving an insight into the actual discursive landscape around the relation between the sciences and the arts. Besides art historians and historians of science, artists and art & science mediators will present their views and projects. The academy will also include a look back onto the development of the relation between the sciences and the arts from the Early Modern period to the first half of the twentieth century (see attachment in German).

I will contribute to the Summer School as an artistic researcher and art mediator giving a lecture on my approach to connecting the sciences and the arts and engaging the participants in practical exercises.

Alternative format session at The International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology, Oslo

‘Representing Protein Dynamics’

ISHPSSB Oslo 7–12 July 2019
John Dupré, Gemma Anderson and JJ Phillips

This session derives from our AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK) funded project, ‘Representing Biology as Process’ (http://www.probioart.uk), which, in turn, grew out of John Dupré’s ERC-funded project, A Process Ontology for Contemporary Biology. The latter project developed the argument that Biological Systems of all kinds should be understood as processes rather than substances or things. This raised questions about the best ways of visually representing biological systems without occluding their dynamic nature.

Core members of the interdisciplinary team are Dupré, artist Gemma Anderson, and cell biologist James Wakefield, and the team will address problems of representation across a range of biological scales. Anderson has been collaborating with a diverse range of scientists for several years, and following pioneering work by artists such as Paul Klee, she has had a longstanding interest in representing transformation through two-dimensional images. The first, largely completed, target of the present project was mitosis, especially the energetic body of spindle formation. Anderson and Wakefield collaborated in generating a series of entirely novel images of mitosis, and the team continues to work on exploring the meaning and utility of these images.

The current phase of the project addresses protein dynamics, especially the energy landscape associated with protein folding, and Anderson is collaborating on this with protein biophysicist Jonathan Phillips. The conventional image for representing protein dynamics in biology is the ‘Folding funnel’, an irregular, broadly conical shape that corresponds to an energy landscape down which the protein is imagined to flow as its structure achieves lower energy formations. While this image represents some features well, others are obscured.

The proposed presentation at ISHPSSB, Oslo will describe the methods of interdisciplinary collaboration and the objectives of the project, and then present the images developed for protein folding and some discussion of their significance. As with the mitosis project, a number of novel modes of representation are being explored. We will present a series of new images that function as visual metaphor for the protein energy landscape – as process – based on a maze structure, and experiment with the maze as a metaphor for process beyond proteins, such as mitosis and speciation. Anderson, Phillips and Dupré will jointly present this work, providing scientific, art-theoretic and philosophical perspectives on the project and its results.

Research Visit to European Molecular Biology Laboratory

04/03/19- 08/02/19

Research Visit to European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany

I will visit the Leptin Lab at EMBL with Historian of Science Janina Wellmann for one week to study cell formations in gastrulation (early embryogenesis) with specific focus on drawing and movement as modes of enquiry.

Art/Science Interest Group (ASIG), Natural History Museum

15th November, 2018 

Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, Natural History Museum, London

Speakers: Dr Chiara Ambrosio (UCL) and artist’s Caroline Ward and Michiko Nitta present their work followed by group discussion.

*Founded in 2016 by Artist Gemma Anderson and NHM Scientist Gavin Broad, the Art and Science Interest Group (ASIG) at the Natural History Museum is a bi-monthly forum that fosters a community of Scientists and Artists who are interested in the field of ‘Art/Science’. ASIG provides a programme of Invited speakers at each meeting, who share practice and ideas and excite new conversations in the group.

‘Molecules of life: Exploring Proteins through drawing, movement and origami’ – Art/Science/Philosophy Workshop at the Eden Project, Cornwall

28th May 2018

Artist Gemma Anderson, Philosopher John Dupré and Scientist Johnathan Phillips from the University of Exeter, bring an experimental and multi-modal art/science/philosophy workshop ‘Molecules of Life: Exploring Proteins through drawing, movement and origami’ as part of  the Eden Project’s Invisible Worlds Launch Week. Please note that you must pre-book a place for the workshop on the afternoon of Monday 28 May. This workshop is part of a packed timetable of science-themed talks and workshop in the Eden Projects brand-new ‘Lab’.

Details of how to book will be added to this page soon.