Category Archives: Visual Art

Workshop programme announced for ISEA (International Symposium on Electronic Arts) 2020: Why Sentience?

From an August 28, 2020 ISEA 2020 notice (received via email),

DISCOVER THE ISEA2020 WORKSHOP PROGRAMME!đŸ’„

Montreal, August 28 â€” Montreal Digital Spring (Printemps numĂ©rique) unveils the workshop programme for ISEA‘s 26th edition, featuring a range of exciting workshops happening on October 17th and 18th. Facilitated by practitioners, artists and researchers who will focus on the themes and techniques related to their practices and expertise, the workshops will adopt hands-on approaches, experimentations, and discussions on themes raging from data gloves, to artificial intelligence, and bacterial growth.

NEUROMEDIA: ENHANCING SENSORY PERCEPTION FOR ARTISTS AND DESIGNERS

Part1. October 17 – 8:00am – 3:00pm
Part2. October 18 – 8:00am – 10:00am

This workshop offers a unique blend of sensor systems lab exercises from neuroscience, media arts and design to context ideas. Participants must apply in pairs to physically work together on their sensory perception projects. The pairs will meet virtually with the other workshop members to facilitate and attend presentations, and compare results.

With Jill Scott and Marille Hahne

DATA GLOVES

Part1. October 17 – 8:30am – 4:30pm
Part2. October 18 – 8:30am – 4:30pm 

In this workshop, participants will manufacture their very own pair of “Data Gloves,” economic and open-source alternatives for advanced and detailed interaction of VR environments. Participants will have access to all the designs and codes necessary to operate the “Data Gloves” and will be taught how they are built.

With Hugo Vargas

DYNAMICS OF PERCEPTIONS – ENGAGING WITH THE FELT EXPERIENCE OF TEMPORALLY DYNAMIC ALGORITHMS

October 17 – 9:00am – 12:00pm

This workshop looks at the relationship between machine subjectivity and human subjectivity expressed temporally through artistic media, and features a series of short presentations, experiments and discussions.

With Alexandre Saunier, David Howes, Christopher Salter, and Joseph Thibodeau.

ART AND INNOVATION IN THE AGE OF BIG DATA: DESIGN OF INFO-OBJECTS AND INTERFACES FOR DATA VISUALIZATION

Part 1. October 17 – 9:30am – 12:00pm
Part 2. October 18 – 1:00pm – 2:30pm

This workshop focuses on data and representation, and will present a step-by-step approach to identify significant patterns in datasets and to explore innovative methods to make insights visible and tangible. Water will be the central theme for this edition.

With Andrea Sosa, Everardo Reyes, and Homero Pellicer.

NETWORKED ART PRACTICE AFTER DIGITAL PRESERVATION

October 17 – 10:00am – 3:00pm

This workshop traces the edges and boundaries of the preservation of both analogue and digital networked art practice. Participants will collectively identify questions addressing digital preservation (including ‘preventative conservation’ and record-keeping) and work in groups to develop novel approaches, leading towards a greater understanding of the networked conservation concerns of a diverse range of work.

With Roddy Hunter and Sarah Cook. Joined by guest practitioners.

PLAYFUL INVESTIGATIONS ON MULTIPLE SCALES

October 17 – 10:30am – 2:30pm

The city operates on different scales: bikes, people, houses on street level; traffic and communities on neighbourhood level; infrastructure on the city level. This workshop playfully investigates transformations and frictions that occur when instruments that help to make sense of higher scale phenomena are introduced.

With Viktor Bedö and Ida Toft.

THE HUMAN SEARCH ENGINE: A MILLENNIAL TOOLKIT 4 ASSOCI@IVE EXPLOR@ION

Round#1. October 17 – 11:00am – 1:00pm / Round#2. October 18 – 11:00am – 1:00pm

The workshop is aimed at participants looking for a middle-ground approach towards online life. We offer a toolkit to those who wish to neither disconnect nor let habit-forming technologies run their lives. We believe we can “deprogram” these technologies in a way that empowers us.

with Carmel Barnea Brezner Jonas and Gabriel S Moses

EMPIRES, VILLAGES, ECOLOGIES OF EXPERIMENTAL PRACTICES

October 17 – 11:30am – 1:00pm

This workshop invites participants to take creative leaps through experimentation in telematic, embodied learning to break outside the box of traditional pedagogy and electronic art, because extraordinary times and complex problems call for extraordinary vision and groundbreaking solutions.

With Diana Ayton-Shenker and Xin Wei Sha

AVATARS IN ZOOM FOR ALL! (A HANDS-ON TUTORIAL)

October 17 – 1:00pm – 3:30pm

This is a hands-on participatory tutorial, where you will create deep-fake videos using your own materials, and play with various options of becoming an online avatar.

With Eyal Gruss

QUEER AND BIOPHILIC APPROACH OF THE CUTANEOUS MICROBIOME

October 17 – 1:30pm – 4:00pm

This workshop will allow participants to experience the cutaneous microbiome (micro-organisms that live on and in our skin) in a haptic -visual/olfactive- and intellectual reflection about our ubiquitous relationships of hate/love with this part of ourselves.

With Nathalie Dubois Calero

PASS AGAIN THROUGH THE HEART: GESTURE, MEMORY, AND FOOD

October 17 – 2:30pm – 4:30pm

This workshop looks at how knowledge is shared through gestures and feelings by family members. It is informed by an ongoing project that collects recipes from Canadian immigrants and refugees, each touching on acknowledgment and formation of transnational identities within North America.

With Immony MĂšn and Patricio DĂĄvil

MEASURING COMPUTATIONAL CREATIVITY: COLLABORATIVELY DESIGNING METRICS FOR EVALUATING CREATIVE MACHINES

October 18 – 3:00pm – 7:00pm

This half-day workshop extends empirical methods and engages a broader arts and machine learning community to collaboratively define quantitative metrics assessing the creativity of algorithms and machines. This workshop is a first attempt to establish evaluation metrics for the area of creative AI.

With Eunsu Kang, Jean Oh, and Robert Twomey.

Should you be considering the purchase of a pass (from the August 28, 2020 notice),

Important :
These workshops are only available to holders of an ISEA2020 FULL Pass

REMINDER: THE EARLY BIRD RATE
is available only until September 1

PURCHASE THE EARLY BIRD PASS

The ISEA 2020 hosts, Printemps numérique (Montreal Digital Spring) have included some information about their own upcoming programmes (from the Aug. 28, 2020 ISEA 2020 notice),

Major events of Printemps numérique

Contact

isea2020@printempsnumerique.ca

You can find out more about ISEA 2020: Why Sentience? here.

Open Call for Artwork—Ontario Science Centre Auction

The deadline is August 23, 2020 and artists get to keep up to 40% of a winning bid. As for the details, here’s more from an August 20, 2020 ArtSci Salon notice (received this morning Aug. 21, 2020 via email),

Hello ArtSci Salon,

I am working at the Ontario Science Centre and I lead their annual fundraiser. Due to COVID, we are not able to hold our traditional sit-down dinner, however we are organizing an eAuction and this year we are excited to be featuring Art in addition to some unique science themed packages.  We are pleased to be able to offer Artists up to 40% of the winning bids!

Would you consider sharing out our call for art to your SciArt community? Please visit our webpage on our event website for details about the Call for artwork and how to apply today. The deadline to apply is August 23.

I came across your artwork via the Sci-Art Gallery site and I am reaching out to a number of artists to consider participating, in addition to placing some ads (via Akimbo and canadainart.ca and various other local art organizations).

The Science Centre is able to leverage our relationship with various media partners who provide in-kind media space (over $450,000 value of ad space!) to help us promote the eAuction. We are also investing in paid targeted social ads to promote the auction to groups who might be interested in specific packages.

Proceeds from the auction will support the Science Centre as we imagine new ways to deliver accessible and innovative science-based learning experiences and programs.

Please feel free to email me with any questions.

Shannon Persaud Tolnay
Head, Events and Donor Communications
shannon.persaudtolnay@osc.on.ca
Phone: 416-696-3123
Cell: 416-992-7127
www.rbcinnovatorsball.ca
www.ontariosciencecentre.ca

Ontario Science Centre
770 Don Mills Road
Toronto, ON M3C 1T3

I found a few more details on the Ontario Science Centre’s Open Call for Artwork webpage,

Artist Participation Agreement (click to download and view the Agreement)

Selection Criteria Innovative connection to Science, Technology, Nature (30%), Aesthetic expression (30%), Diversity and Inclusion (20%), Ease of transport and delivery (20%).

If the Artwork is not sold, no fee will be paid to the Artist.

Employees of the Ontario Science Centre and RBC (title sponsor of the eAuction) are not permitted to submit Artwork for the eAuction, unless they agree to donate 100% of the proceeds.

Jury

Mary Jane Conboy, Chief Scientist, Ontario Science Centre

Ana Klasnja, Senior Multi Media Producer, Ontario Science Centre

Sabrina Maltese, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art

Tash Naveau, Artist and Indigenous Arts Administrator

Shannon Persaud Tolnay, Head, Events and Donor Communications, Ontario Science Centre

Personal information is collected by the Centennial Centre for Science and Technology under the authority of section 6 of the Centennial Centre of Science and Technology Act, R.S.O. 1990 c. C.5. for the administration of the juried competition to participate in the Ontario Science Centre’s  RBC Innovators’ Online Art Exhibition and eAuction. Any questions about the collection of your personal information should be directed to shannon.persaudtolnay@osc.on.ca.

Tax receipts will not be issued to Artists for Artwork submission in the RBC Innovators’ eAuction. Should the Artist wish to donate their fee back to the Science Centre, a tax receipt can be issued for the amount of the donation.

Acknowledgment, promotion and recognition will begin early October. In advertising materials (i.e. print: Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, National Post, Restobar and digital: PATH Video walls, globeandmail.com, VerizonMedia, etc) In targeted Social Ads: Paid Facebook / Instagram; Paid Twitter; LinkedIn posts; In donor, member and supporter eNewsletters, On RBC Innovators’ Ball event websites www.rbcinnovatorsball.ca/auction | bidsfortheball.ca POST EVENT: 2020/2021 Annual Report, Sponsor / Donor Wall for one year / Donor newsletter. 2019 in-kind media value total $470,855.

the auction runs from October 26 – November 9, 2020. Good luck!

News from the Canadian Light Source (CLS), Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) 2020, the International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA) 2020, and HotPopRobot

I have some news about conserving art; early bird registration deadlines for two events, and, finally, an announcement about contest winners.

Canadian Light Source (CLS) and modern art

Rita Letendre. Victoire [Victory], 1961. Oil on canvas, Overall: 202.6 × 268 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift of Jessie and Percy Waxer, 1974, donated by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, 1988. © Rita Letendre L74.8. Photography by Ian Lefebvre

This is one of three pieces by Rita Letendre that underwent chemical mapping according to an August 5, 2020 CLS news release by Victoria Martinez (also received via email),

Research undertaken at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan was key to understanding how to conserve experimental oil paintings by Rita Letendre, one of Canada’s most respected living abstract artists.

The work done at the CLS was part of a collaborative research project between the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) that came out of a recent retrospective Rita Letendre: Fire & Light at the AGO. During close examination, Meaghan Monaghan, paintings conservator from the Michael and Sonja Koerner Centre for Conservation, observed that several of Letendre’s oil paintings from the fifties and sixties had suffered significant degradation, most prominently, uneven gloss and patchiness, snowy crystalline structures coating the surface known as efflorescence, and cracking and lifting of the paint in several areas.

Kate Helwig, Senior Conservation Scientist at the Canadian Conservation Institute, says these problems are typical of mid-20th century oil paintings. “We focused on three of Rita Letendre’s paintings in the AGO collection, which made for a really nice case study of her work and also fits into the larger question of why oil paintings from that period tend to have degradation issues.”

Growing evidence indicates that paintings from this period have experienced these problems due to the combination of the experimental techniques many artists employed and the additives paint manufacturers had begun to use.

In order to determine more precisely how these factors affected Letendre’s paintings, the research team members applied a variety of analytical techniques, using microscopic samples taken from key points in the works.

“The work done at the CLS was particularly important because it allowed us to map the distribution of materials throughout a paint layer such as an impasto stroke,” Helwig said. The team used Mid-IR chemical mapping at the facility, which provides a map of different molecules in a small sample.

For example, chemical mapping at the CLS allowed the team to understand the distribution of the paint additive aluminum stearate throughout the paint layers of the painting MĂ©duse. This painting showed areas of soft, incompletely dried paint, likely due to the high concentration and incomplete mixing of this additive. 

The painting Victoire had a crumbling base paint layer in some areas and cracking and efflorescence at the surface in others.  Infrared mapping at the CLS allowed the team to determine that excess free fatty acids in the paint were linked to both problems; where the fatty acids were found at the base they formed zing “soaps” which led to crumbling and cracking, and where they had moved to the surface they had crystallized, causing the snowflake-like efflorescence.

AGO curators and conservators interviewed Letendre to determine what was important to her in preserving and conserving her works, and she highlighted how important an even gloss across the surface was to her artworks, and the philosophical importance of the colour black in her paintings. These priorities guided conservation efforts, while the insights gained through scientific research will help maintain the works in the long term.

In order to restore the black paint to its intended even finish for display, conservator Meaghan Monaghan removed the white crystallization from the surface of Victoire, but it is possible that it could begin to recur. Understanding the processes that lead to this degradation will be an important tool to keep Letendre’s works in good condition.

“The world of modern paint research is complicated; each painting is unique, which is why it’s important to combine theoretical work on model paint systems with this kind of case study on actual works of art” said Helwig. The team hopes to collaborate on studying a larger cross section of Letendre’s paintings in oil and acrylic in the future to add to the body of knowledge.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Rita Letendre’s Oil Paintings from the 1960s: The Effect of Artist’s Materials on Degradation Phenomena by Kate Helwig, Meaghan Monaghan, Jennifer Poulin, Eric J. Henderson & Maeve Moriarty. Studies in Conservation (2020): 1-15 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00393630.2020.1773055 Published online: 06 Jun 2020

This paper is behind a paywall.

Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) 2020

The latest news from the CSPC 2020 (November 16 – 20 with preconference events from Nov. 1 -14) organizers is that registration is open and early birds have a deadline of September 27, 2020 (from an August 6, 2020 CSPC 2020 announcement received via email),

It’s time! Registration for the 12th Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC 2020) is open now. Early Bird registration is valid until Sept. 27th [2020].

CSPC 2020 is coming to your offices and homes:

Register for full access to 3 weeks of programming of the biggest science and innovation policy forum of 2020 under the overarching theme: New Decade, New Realities: Hindsight, Insight, Foresight.

2500+ Participants

300+ Speakers from five continents

65+ Panel sessions, 15 pre conference sessions and symposiums

50+ On demand videos and interviews with the most prominent figures of science and innovation policy 

20+ Partner-hosted functions

15+ Networking sessions

15 Open mic sessions to discuss specific topics

The virtual conference features an exclusive array of offerings:

3D Lounge and Exhibit area

Advance access to the Science Policy Magazine, featuring insightful reflections from the frontier of science and policy innovation

Many more

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to engage in the most important discussions of science and innovation policy with insights from around the globe, just from your office, home desk, or your mobile phone.

Benefit from significantly reduced registration fees for an online conference with an option for discount for multiple ticket purchases

Register now to benefit from the Early Bird rate!

The preliminary programme can be found here. This year there will be some discussion of a Canadian synthetic biology roadmap, presentations on various Indigenous concerns (mostly health), a climate challenge presentation focusing on Mexico and social vulnerability and another on parallels between climate challenges and COVID-19. There are many presentations focused on COVID-19 and.or health.

There doesn’t seem to be much focus on cyber security and, given that we just lost two ice caps (see Brandon Spektor’s August 1, 2020 article [Two Canadian ice caps have completely vanished from the Arctic, NASA imagery shows] on the Live Science website), it’s surprising that there are no presentations concerning the Arctic.

International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA) 2020

According to my latest information, the early bird rate for ISEA 2020 (Oct. 13 -18) ends on August 13, 2020. (My June 22, 2020 posting describes their plans for the online event.)

You can find registration information here.

Margaux Davoine has written up a teaser for the 2020 edition of ISEA in the form of an August 6, 2020 interview with Yan Breuleux. I’ve excerpted one bit,

Finally, thinking about this year’s theme [Why Sentience?], there might be something a bit ironic about exploring the notion of sentience (historically reserved for biological life, and quite a small subsection of it) through digital media and electronic arts. There’s been much work done in the past 25 years to loosen the boundaries between such distinctions: how do you imagine ISEA2020 helping in that?

The similarities shared between humans, animals, and machines are fundamental in cybernetic sciences. According to the founder of cybernetics Norbert Wiener, the main tenets of the information paradigm – the notion of feedback – can be applied to humans, animals as well as the material world. Famously, the AA predictor (as analysed by Peter Galison in 1994) can be read as a first attempt at human-machine fusion (otherwise known as a cyborg).

The infamous Turing test also tends to blur the lines between humans and machines, between language and informational systems. Second-order cybernetics are often associated with biologists Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana. The very notion of autopoiesis (a system capable of maintaining a certain level of stability in an unstable environment) relates back to the concept of homeostasis formulated by Willam Ross [William Ross Ashby] in 1952. Moreover, the concept of “ecosystems” emanates directly from the field of second-order cybernetics, providing researchers with a clearer picture of the interdependencies between living and non-living organisms. In light of these theories, the absence of boundaries between animals, humans, and machines constitutes the foundation of the technosciences paradigm. New media, technological arts, virtual arts, etc., partake in the dialogue between humans and machines, and thus contribute to the prolongation of this paradigm. Frank Popper nearly called his book “Techno Art” instead of “Virtual Art”, in reference to technosciences (his editor suggested the name change). For artists in the technological arts community, Jakob von Uexkull’s notion of “human-animal milieu” is an essential reference. Also present in Simondon’s reflections on human environments (both natural and artificial), the notion of “milieu” is quite important in the discourses about art and the environment. Concordia University’s artistic community chose the concept of “milieu” as the rallying point of its research laboratories.

ISEA2020’s theme resonates particularly well with the recent eruption of processing and artificial intelligence technologies. For me, Sentience is a purely human and animal idea: machines can only simulate our ways of thinking and feeling. Partly in an effort to explore the illusion of sentience in computers, Louis-Philippe Rondeau, Benoüt Melançon and I have established the Mimesis laboratory at NAD University. Processing and AI technologies are especially useful in the creation of “digital doubles”, “Vactors”, real-time avatar generation, Deep Fakes and new forms of personalised interactions.

I adhere to the epistemological position that the living world is immeasurable. Through their ability to simulate, machines can merely reduce complex logics to a point of understandability. The utopian notion of empathetic computers is an idea mostly explored by popular science-fiction movies. Nonetheless, research into computer sentience allows us to devise possible applications, explore notions of embodiment and agency, and thereby develop new forms of interaction. Beyond my own point of view, the idea that machines can somehow feel emotions gives artists and researchers the opportunity to experiment with certain findings from the fields of the cognitive sciences, computer sciences and interactive design. For example, in 2002 I was particularly marked by an immersive installation at Universal Exhibition in Neuchatel, Switzerland titled Ada: Intelligence Space. The installation comprised an artificial environment controlled by a computer, which interacted with the audience on the basis of artificial emotion. The system encouraged visitors to participate by intelligently analysing their movements and sounds. Another example, Louis-Philippe Demers’ Blind Robot (2012),  demonstrates how artists can be both critical of, and amazed by, these new forms of knowledge. Additionally, the 2016 BIAN (Biennale internationale d’art numĂ©rique), organized by ELEKTRA (Alain Thibault) explored the various ways these concepts were appropriated in installation and interactive art. The way I see it, current works of digital art operate as boundary objects. The varied usages and interpretations of a particular work of art allow it to be analyzed from nearly every angle or field of study. Thus, philosophers can ask themselves: how does a computer come to understand what being human really is?

I have yet to attend conferences or exchange with researchers on that subject. Although the sheer number of presentation propositions sent to ISEA2020, I have no doubt that the symposium will be the ideal context to reflect on the concept of Sentience and many issues raised therein.

For the last bit of news.

HotPopRobot, one of six global winners of 2020 NASA SpaceApps COVID-19 challenge

I last wrote about HotPopRobot’s (Artash and Arushi with a little support from their parents) response to the 2020 NASA (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration) SpaceApps challenge in my July 1, 2020 post, Toronto COVID-19 Lockdown Musical: a data sonification project from HotPopRobot. (You’ll find a video of the project embedded in the post.)

Here’s more news from HotPopRobot’s August 4, 2020 posting (Note: Links have been removed),

Artash (14 years) and Arushi (10 years). Toronto.

We are excited to become the global winners of the 2020 NASA SpaceApps COVID-19 Challenge from among 2,000 teams from 150 countries. The six Global Winners will be invited to visit a NASA Rocket Launch site to view a spacecraft launch along with the SpaceApps Organizing team once travel is deemed safe. They will also receive an invitation to present their projects to NASA, ESA [European Space Agency], JAXA [Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency], CNES [Centre National D’Etudes Spatiales; France], and CSA [Canadian Space Agency] personnel. https://covid19.spaceappschallenge.org/awards

15,000 participants joined together to submit over 1400 projects for the COVID-19 Global Challenge that was held on 30-31 May 2020. 40 teams made to the Global Finalists. Amongst them, 6 teams became the global winners!

The 2020 SpaceApps was an international collaboration between NASA, Canadian Space Agency, ESA, JAXA, CSA,[sic] and CNES focused on solving global challenges. During a period of 48 hours, participants from around the world were required to create virtual teams and solve any of the 12 challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic posted on the SpaceApps website. More details about the 2020 SpaceApps COVID-19 Challenge:  https://sa-2019.s3.amazonaws.com/media/documents/Space_Apps_FAQ_COVID_.pdf

We have been participating in NASA Space Challenge for the last seven years since 2014. We were only 8 years and 5 years respectively when we participated in our very first SpaceApps 2014.

We have grown up learning more about space, tacking global challenges, making hardware and software projects, participating in meetings, networking with mentors and teams across the globe, and giving presentations through the annual NASA Space Apps Challenges. This is one challenge we look forward to every year.

It has been a fun and exciting journey meeting so many people and astronauts and visiting several fascinating places on the way! We hope more kids, youths, and families are inspired by our space journey. Space is for all and is yours to discover!

If you have the time, I recommend reading HotPopRobot’s August 4, 2020 posting in its entirety.

Worried your ‘priceless’ art could be ruined? Genomics could be the answer

First, there was the story about art masterpieces turning into soap (my June 22, 2017 posting) and now, it seems that microbes may also constitute a problem. Before getting to the latest research, here’s are some images the researchers are using to illustrate their work,

Caption: Leonardo da Vinci noted that the fore and hind wings of a dragonfly are out of phase — verified centuries later by slow motion photography. Thaler suggests further study to compare individuals and species with high “flicker fusion frequency” ability. Credit: PXFuel

I’m not sure what that has to do with anything but I do love dragonflies. This next image seems more relevant to the research,

Caption: Photo summary of the various artworks sampled for the study “”Characterizing microbial signatures on sculptures and paintings of similar provenance.” Circles indicate swabbed areas on each sample artwork Credit: JCVI

It turns out, the researchers are releasing two pieces of research in the same press release, neither having much to do with the other. They (art conservation rresearch, first and, then, research into vision [hence the dragonfly] and da Vinci’s eyes) are both described in a June 18, 2020 J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI)-Leonardo Da Vinci DNA Project press release (also on EurekAlert),

A new study of the microbial settlers on old paintings, sculptures, and other forms of art charts a potential path for preserving, restoring, and confirming the geographic origin of some of humanity’s greatest treasures.

Genetics scientists with the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), collaborating with the Leonardo da Vinci DNA Project and supported by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, say identifying and managing communities of microbes on art may offer museums and collectors a new way to stem the deterioration of priceless possessions, and to unmask counterfeits in the $60 billion a year art market.

Manolito G. Torralba, Claire Kuelbs, Kelvin Jens Moncera, and Karen E. Nelson of the JCVI, La Jolla, California, and Rhonda Roby of the Alameda California County Sheriff’s Office Crime Laboratory, used small, dry polyester swabs to gently collect microbes from centuries-old, Renaissance-style art in a private collector’s home in Florence, Italy. Their findings are published in the journal Microbial Ecology .

The genetic detectives caution that additional time and research are needed to formally convict microbes as a culprit in artwork decay but consider their most interesting find to be “oxidase positive” microbes primarily on painted wood and canvas surfaces.

These species can dine on organic and inorganic compounds often found in paints, in glue, and in the cellulose in paper, canvas, and wood. Using oxygen for energy production, they can produce water or hydrogen peroxide, a chemical used in disinfectants and bleaches.

“Such byproducts are likely to influence the presence of mold and the overall rate of deterioration,” the paper says.

“Though prior studies have attempted to characterize the microbial composition associated with artwork decay, our results summarize the first large scale genomics-based study to understand the microbial communities associated with aging artwork.”

The study builds on an earlier one in which the authors compared hairs collected from people in the Washington D.C., and San Diego, CA. areas, finding that microbial signatures and patterns are geographically distinguishable.

In the art world context, studying microbes clinging to the surface of a work of art may help confirm its geographic origin and authenticity or identify counterfeits.

Lead author Manolito G. Torralba notes that, as art’s value continues to climb, preservation is increasingly important to museums and collectors alike, and typically involves mostly the monitoring and adjusting of lighting, heat, and moisture.

Adding genomics science to these efforts offers advantages of “immense potential.”

The study says microbial populations “were easily discernible between the different types of substrates sampled,” with those on stone and marble art more diverse than wood and canvas. This is “likely due to the porous nature of stone and marble harboring additional organisms and potentially moisture and nutrients, along with the likelihood of biofilm formation.”

As well, microbial diversity on paintings is likely lower because few organisms can metabolize the meagre nutrients offered by oil-based paint.

“Though our sample size is low, the novelty of our study has provided the art and scientific communities with evidence that microbial signatures are capable of differentiating artwork according to their substrate,” the paper says.

“Future studies would benefit from working with samples whose authorship, ownership, and care are well-documented, although documentation about care of works of art (e.g., whether and how they were cleaned) seems rare before the mid-twentieth century.”

“Of particular interest would be the presence and activity of oil-degrading enzymes. Such approaches will lead to fully understanding which organism(s) are responsible for the rapid decay of artwork while potentially using this information to target these organisms to prevent degradation.”

“Focusing on reducing the abundance of such destructive organisms has great potential in preserving and restoring important pieces of human history.”

Biology in Art

The paper was supported by the US-based Richard Lounsbery Foundation as part of its “biology in art” research theme, which has also included seed funding efforts to obtain and sequence the genome of Leonardo da Vinci.

The Leonardo da Vinci DNA Project involves scientists in France (where Leonardo lived during his final years and was buried), Italy (where his father and other relatives were buried, and descendants of his half-brothers still live), Spain (whose National Library holds 700 pages of his notebooks), and the US (where forensic DNA skills flourish).

The Leonardo project has convened molecular biologists, population geneticists, microbiologists, forensic experts, and physicians working together with other natural scientists and with genealogists, historians, artists, and curators to discover and decode previously inaccessible knowledge and to preserve cultural heritage.  

Related news release: Leonardo da Vinci’s DNA: Experts unite to shine modern light on a Renaissance master http://bit.ly/2FG4jJu

Measuring Leonardo da Vinci’s “quick eye” 500 years later.

Could he have played major-league baseball?

Famous art historians and biographers such as Sir Kenneth Clark and Walter Isaacson have written about Leonardo da Vinci’s “quick eye” because of the way he accurately captured fleeting expressions, wings during bird flight, and patterns in swirling water. But until now no one had tried to put a number on this aspect of Leonardo’s extraordinary visual acuity.

David S. Thaler of the University of Basel, and a guest investigator in the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University, does, allowing comparison of Leonardo with modern measures. Leonardo fares quite well.

Thaler’s estimate hinges on Leonardo’s observation that the fore and hind wings of a dragonfly are out of phase — not verified until centuries later by slow motion photography (see e.g. https://youtu.be/Lw2dfjYENNE?t=44).

To quote Isaacson’s translation of Leonardo’s notebook: “The dragonfly flies with four wings, and when those in front are raised those behind are lowered.”

Thaler challenged himself and friends to try seeing if that’s true, but they all saw only blurs.

High-speed camera studies by others show the fore and hind wingbeats of dragonflies vary by 20 to 10 milliseconds — one fiftieth to one hundredth of a second — beyond average human perception.

Thaler notes that “flicker fusion frequency” (FFF) — akin to a motion picture’s frames per second — is used to quantify and measure “temporal acuity” in human vision.

When frames per second exceed the number of frames the viewer can perceive individually, the brain constructs the illusion of continuous movement. The average person’s FFF is between 20 to 40 frames per second; current motion pictures present 48 or 72 frames per second.

To accurately see the angle between dragonfly wings would require temporal acuity in the range of 50 to 100 frames per second.

Thaler believes genetics will account for variations in FFF among different species, which range from a low of 12 in some nocturnal insects to over 300 in Fire Beetles. We simply do not know what accounts for human variation. Training and genetics may both play important roles.

“Perhaps the clearest contemporary case for a fast flicker fusion frequency in humans is in American baseball, because it is said that elite batters can see the seams on a pitched baseball,” even when rotating 30 to 50 times per second with two or four seams facing the batter. A batter would need Leonardo-esque FFF to spot the seams on most inbound baseballs.  

Thaler suggests further study to compare the genome of individuals and species with unusually high FFF, including, if possible, Leonardo’s DNA.  

Flicker fusion for focus, attention, and affection   

In a companion paper, Thaler describes how Leonardo used psychophysics that would only be understood centuries later — and about which a lot remains to be learned today — to communicate deep beauty and emotion. 

Leonardo was master of a technique known as sfumato (the word derived from the Italian sfumare, “to tone down” or “to evaporate like smoke”), which describes a subtle blur of edges and blending of colors without sharp focus or distinct lines.

Leonardo expert Martin Kemp has noted that Leonardo’s sfumato sometimes involves a distance dependence which is akin to the focal plane of a camera. Yet, at other times, features at the same distance have selective sfumato so simple plane of focus is not the whole answer.

Thaler suggests that Leonardo achieved selective soft focus in portraits by painting in overcast or evening light, where the eyes’ pupils enlarge to let in more light but have a narrow plane of sharp focus. 

To quote Leonardo’s notebook, under the heading “Selecting the light which gives most grace to faces”: “In the evening and when the weather is dull, what softness and delicacy you may perceive in the faces of men and women.”  In dim light pupils enlarge to let in more light but their depth of field decreases.  

By measuring the size of the portrait’s pupils, Thaler inferred Leonardo’s depth of focus. He says Leonardo likely sensed this effect, perhaps unconsciously in the realm of his artistic sensibility. The pupil / aperture effect on depth of focus wasn’t explained until the mid-1800s, centuries after Leonardo’s birth in Vinci, Italy in 1452.

What about selective focus at equal distance? In this case Leonardo may have taken advantage of the fovea, the small area on the back of the eye where detail is sharpest.

Most of us move our eyes around and because of our slower flicker fusion frequency we construct a single 3D image of the world by jamming together many partially in-focus images. Leonardo realized and “froze” separate snapshots with which we construct ordinary perception.

Says Thaler: “We study Leonardo not only to learn about him but to learn about ourselves and further human potential.”

Thaler’s papers (at https://bit.ly/2WZ2cwo and https://bit.ly/2ZBj7Hi) evolved from talks at meetings of the Leonardo da Vinci DNA Project in Italy (2018), Spain and France (2019).

They form part of a collection of papers presented at a recent colloquium in Amboise, France, now being readied for publication in a book: Actes du Colloque International d’Amboise: Leonardo de Vinci, Anatomiste. Pionnier de l’Anatomie comparĂ©e, de la BiomĂ©canique, de la Bionique et de la Physiognomonie. Edited by Henry de Lumley, President, Institute of Human Paleontology, Paris, and originally planned for release in late spring, 2020, publication was delayed by the global virus pandemic but should be available at CNRS Editions in the second half of the summer.

Other papers in the collection cover a range of topics, including how Leonardo used his knowledge of anatomy, gained by performing autopsies on dozens of cadavers, to achieve Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile.

Leonardo also used it to exact revenge on academics and scientists who ridiculed him for lacking a classical education, sketching them with absurdly deformed faces to resemble birds, dogs, or goats. 

De Lumley earlier co-authored a 72-page monograph for the Leonardo DNA Project: “Leonardo da Vinci: Pioneer of comparative anatomy, biomechanics and physiognomy.”.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper featuring microbes and art masterpiece,

Characterizing Microbial Signatures on Sculptures and Paintings of Similar Provenance by Manolito G. Torralba, Claire Kuelbs, Kelvin Jens Moncera, Rhonda Roby & Karen E. Nelson. Microbial Ecology (2020) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00248-020-01504-x Published: 21 May 2020

This paper is open access.

Architecture, the practice of science, and meaning

The 1979 book, Laboratory Life: the Social Construction of Scientific Facts by Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar immediately came to mind on reading about a new book (The New Architecture of Science: Learning from Graphene) linking architecture to the practice of science (research on graphene). It turns out that one of the authors studied with Latour. (For more about laboratory Life see: Bruno Latour’s Wikipedia entry; scroll down to Main Works)

A June 19, 2020 news item on Nanowerk announces the new book (Note: A link has been removed),

How does the architecture of scientific buildings matter for science? How does the design of specific spaces such as laboratories, gas rooms, transportation roots, atria, meeting spaces, clean rooms, utilities blocks and mechanical workshops affect how scientists think, conduct experiments, interact and collaborate? What does it mean to design a science lab today? What are the new challenges for the architects of science buildings? And what is the best method to study the constantly evolving architectures of science?

Over the past four decades, the design of lab buildings has drawn the attention of scholars from different disciplines. Yet, existing research tends to focus either purely on the technical side of lab design or on the human interface and communication aspects.

To grasp the specificity of the new generation of scientific buildings, however, a more refined gaze is needed: one that accounts simultaneously for the complex technical infrastructure and the variability of human experience that it facilitates.

Weaving together two tales of the NGI [National Graphene Institute] building in Manchester, lead scientist and one of the designers, Kostya [or Konstantin] Novoselov, and architectural anthropologist, Albena Yaneva, combine an analysis of its distinctive design features with ethnographic observation of the practices of scientists, facility managers, technicians, administrators and house service staff in The New Architecture of Science: Learning from Graphene.

A June 19 (?), 2020 World Scientific press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, provides more insight into the book’s ambitions,

Drawing on a meticulous study of ‘the social life’ of the building, the book offers a fresh account of the mutual shaping of architecture and science at the intersection of scientific studies, cognitive anthropology and architectural theory. By bringing the voices of the scientist as a client and the architectural theorist into a dual narrative, The New Architecture of Science presents novel insights on the new generation of science buildings.

Glimpses into aspects of the ‘life’ of a scientific building and the complex sociotechnical and collective processes of design and dwelling, as well as into the practices of nanoscientists, will fascinate a larger audience of students across the fields of Architecture, Public Communication of Science, Science and Technology Studies, Physics, Material Science, Chemistry.

The volume is expected to appeal to academic faculty members looking for ways to teach architecture beyond authorship and seeking instead to develop a more comprehensive perspective of the built environment in its complexity of material and social meanings. The book can thus be used for undergraduate and post-graduate course syllabi on the theory of architecture, design and urban studies, science and technology studies, and science communication. It will be a valuable guidebook for innovative studio projects and an inspirational reading for live project courses.

The New Architecture of Science: Learning from Graphene retails for US$49 / ÂŁ45 (hardcover). To order or know more about the book, visit http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/11840.

The building and the architects

Here’s what it looks like,

©DanielShearing Jestico + Whiles

In addition to occasioning a book, the building has also garnered an engineering award for Jestico + Whiles according to a page dedicated to the UK’s National Institute of Graphene on theplan.it website. Whoever wrote this did an excellent job of reviewing the history of graphene and its relation to the University of Manchester and provides considerable insight into the thinking behind the design and construction of this building,

The RIBA [Royal Institute of British Architects] award-winning National Graphene Institute (NGI) is a world-leading research and incubator centre dedicated to the development of graphene. Located in Manchester, it is an essential component in the UK’s bid to remain at the forefront of the commercialisation of this pioneering and revolutionary material.

Jestico + Whiles was appointed lead architect of the new National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester in 2012, working closely with Sir Kostya Novoselov – who, along with Sir Andre Geim, first isolated graphene at the University of Manchester in 2004. The two were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. [emphases mine]

Located in the university campus’ science quarter, the institute is housed in a compact 7,600m2 five-storey building, with the main cleanroom located on the lower ground floor to achieve best vibration performance. The ceiling of the viewing corridor that wraps around the cleanroom is cleverly angled so that scientists in the basement are visible to the public from street level.

On the insistence of Professor Novoselov most of the laboratories, including the cleanrooms, have natural daylight and view, to ensure that the intense work schedules do not deprive researchers of awareness and enjoyment of external conditions. All offices are naturally ventilated with openable windows controlled by occupants. Offices and labs on all floors are intermixed to create flexible and autonomous working zones which are easily changed and adapted to suit emerging new directions of research and changing team structures, including invited industry collaborators.

The building also provides generous collaborative and breakout spaces for meetings, relaxation and social interaction, including a double height roof-lit atrium and a top-floor multifunction seminar room/cafĂ© that opens onto a south facing roof terrace with a biodiverse garden. A special design feature that has been incorporated to promote and facilitate informal exchanges of ideas is the full-height ‘writable’ walls along the corridors – a black PVC cladding that functions like traditional blackboards but obviates the health and safety issue of chalk dust.

The appearance and imagery of this building was of high importance to the client, who recognised the significant impact a cutting-edge research facility for such a potentially world-changing material could bring to the university. Nobel laureate end users, heads of departments, the Estates Directorate, and different members of the design and project team all made contributions to deciding what this was. Speaking in an article in the New Yorker, fellow graphene researcher James Tour of Rice University, Texas said ‘What Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov did was to show the world the amazingness of graphene.’ Our design sought to convey this ‘amazingness’ through the imagery and materiality of the NGI.

The material chosen for the outer veil is a black Rimex stainless steel, which has the quality of mirror-like reflectivity, but infinitely varies in colour depending on light conditions and the angle of the view. The resulting image is that of a mysterious, ever-changing mirage that evokes the universal experience of scientific exploration. An exploration enveloped by a 2D, ultra-thin, black material that has a mercurial, undefinable character – a perfect visual reference for graphene.

This mystery is deepened by subtle delineation of the equations used in graphene research all over the façade through perforations in the panels. These are intentionally obscure and only apparent upon inspection. The equations include two hidden deliberate mistakes set by Professor Novoselov.

The perforations themselves are hexagonal in shape, representing the 2D atomic formation of graphene. They are laser cut based on a completely regular orthogonal grid, with only the variations in the size of each hole making the pattern of the letters and symbols of the equations. We believe this is a unique design in using parametric design tools to generate organic and random looking patterns out of a completely regular grid.

Who are Albena Yaneva and Sir Konstantin (Kostya) Sergeevich Novoselov?

Yaneva is the author who studied with Latour as you can see in this excerpt from her Univerisiy of Manchester faculty webpage,

After a PhD in Sociology and Anthropology from Ecole Nationale SupĂ©rieure des mines de Paris (2001) with Professor Bruno Latour, Yaneva has worked at Harvard University, the Max-Planck Institite for the History of Science in Berlin and the Austrian Academy of Science in Vienna. Her research is intrinsically transdisciplinary and spans the boundaries of science studies, cognitive anthropology, architectural theory and political philosophy. Her work has been translated in German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Thai, Polish, Turkish and Japanese.  

Her book The Making of a Building: A Pragmatist Approach to Architecture (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2009) provides a unique anthropological account of architecture in the making, whereas Made by the OMA: An Ethnography of Design (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2009) draws on an original approach of ethnography of design and was defined by the critics as “revolutionary in analyzing the day-to-day practice of designers.” For her innovative use of ethnography in the architectural discourses Yaneva was awarded the RIBA President’s Award for Outstanding University-located Research (2010).

Yaneva’s book Mapping Controversies in Architecture (Routledge, 2012) brought the newest developments in social sciences into architectural theory. It introduced Mapping Controversies as a research and teaching methodology for following design debates. A recent volume in collaboration with Alejandro Zaera-Polo What is Cosmopolitical Design? (Routledge, 2015) questioned the role of architectural design at the time of the Anthropocene and provided many examples of cosmopolitically correct design.  

Her monograph Five Ways to Make Architecture Political. An Introduction to the Politics of Design Practice (Bloomsbury, 2017) takes inspiration from object-oriented political thought and engages in an informed enquiry into the different ways architectural design can be political. The study contributes to a better understanding of the political outreach of the engagement of designers with their publics.  

Professor Yaneva’s monograph Crafting History: Archiving and the Quest for ArchitecturalLegacy (Cornell University Press, 2020) explores the daily practices of archiving in its mundane and practical course and is based on ethnographic observation of the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) [emphasis mine] in Montreal, a leading archival institution, and interviews with a range of practitioners around the world, including Ălvaro Siza and Peter Eisenman. Unravelling the multiple epistemic dimensions of archiving, the book tells a powerful story about how collections form the basis of Architectural History. 

I did not expect any Canadian content!

Oddly, I cannot find anything nearly as expansive for Novoselov on the University of Manchester website. There’s this rather concise faculty webpage and this more fulsome biography on the National Graphene Institute website. For the record, he’s a physicist.

For the most detail about his career in physics, I suggest the Konstantin Novoselov Wikipedia entry which includes this bit about his involvement in art,

Novoselov is known for his interest in art.[61] He practices in Chinese traditional drawing[62] and has been involved in several projects on modern art.[63] Thus, in February 2015 he combined forces with Cornelia Parker to create a display for the opening of the Whitworth Art Gallery. Cornelia Parker’s meteorite shower firework (pieces of meteorites loaded in firework) was launched by Novoselov breathing on graphene gas sensor (which changed the resistance of graphene due to doping by water vapour). Graphene was obtained through exfoliation of graphite which was extracted from a drawing of William Blake. Novoselov suggested that he also exfoliated graphite obtained from the drawings of other prominent artists: John Constable, Pablo Picasso, J. M. W. Turner, Thomas Girtin. He said that only microscopic amounts (flake size less than 100 micrometres) was extracted from each of the drawings.[63] In 2015 he participated in “in conversation” session with Douglas Gordon during Interdependence session at Manchester International Festival.[64]

I have published two posts about Novoselov’s participation in art/science projects, the first was on August 13, 2018 and titled: “See Nobel prize winner’s (Kostya Novoselov) collaborative art/science video project on August 17, 2018 (Manchester, UK)” and the second was in February 25, 2019 and titled: “Watch a Physics Nobel Laureate make art on February 26, 2019 at Mobile World Congress 19 in Barcelona, Spain.” (I may have to seriously consider more variety in my titles.)

I hope that one of these days I’ll get my hands on this book. In the meantime, I intend to spend more time perusing Bruno Latour’s website.

Call for works for a virtual October 2020 ‘Catalyst: A Sci-Art Exhibition’ (Michigan State University)

McKenzie Prillaman both profiles a 2019 sci-art exhibit at Michigan State University (MSU) and publicizes a ‘call for submissions’ for the 2020 edition in a July 10, 2020 posting on artthescience.com (Note: Links have been removed),

The Exploring Life Through SciArt exhibition united the science and art communities of East Lansing, Michigan. Organized by the Michigan State University Science Communication Organization (MSU SciComm) in 2019, this exhibition featured original science-art collaborations created by university science students and local artists.

The artworks, which were exhibited on MSU’s campus from October 2019 to March 2020 then donated to various locations around the city, are now on display in Art the Science’s Polyfield Digital Art Gallery. 

Fine art photographer Jane Kramer helped plant biology student Emily Jennings share her research on chloroplasts, the structures in plants that convert light energy into plant food. Together, they created the work Micrometer by Micrometer, which showcases the size variation in chloroplasts. Jennings’ research examines how chloroplast size impacts the amount of food a plant can produce.

This initiative taught the photographer that participation in sci-art projects didn’t always mean she needed to be behind the camera. “I lent my skills in conceptualizing how to best present Emily’s work in a way that engages and excites the public,” Kramer says. “It was important for me to incorporate her passion for this research into the final piece and bring her message to light.”

Micrometer by Micrometer (2019) by Emily Jennings and Jane Kramer, 6” x 9”, image capture on acrylic

You can see all 18 artist or artist/scientist pairings for a digital exhibit of the work here at the online Polyfield Digital Art Gallery.

The ‘call for submissions’ is an ‘application’ according to the organizers (from the MSU SciComm ‘Catalyst: A Sci-Art Exhibition’ application webpage),

MSU SciComm 2020 Sci-Art Application

This form is meant to provide us with a more detailed picture of your project. Additionally, information provided on this form will help us get you the resources needed for your project’s success. Thank you and happy planning! The theme for this year’s exhibit is Catalyst: A SciArt Exhibit

Due Date: July 31st at 11:59pm

-Noelia Barvo (MSU SciComm SciArt Chair)

Please email questions at msuscicomm.sciart@gmail.com

There are two questions on the form:

Question 1: Please list a short description of yourself including name, background/affiliation, and degree (completed/in progress) as you’d like it to appear online.

Question 2: Are you an MSU student?

YesNo

Should you be concerned that you’re not a student or member of the MSU community, there’s this from Prillaman’s July 10, 2020 posting,

Applications are now open for MSU SciComm’s next exhibition, Catalyst: A Sci-Art Exhibition, scheduled to open virtually in October 2020. The organization hopes to keep growing and work with international artists [emphases mine] to continue making an impact through the beauty of science-art.

Fro the curious, here’s a brief description of the MSU SciComm’s mission on their organization’s homepage (scroll down),

MSU SciComm is a student-run organization that focuses primarily on promoting awareness of science communication across the various disciplines at Michigan State University. We focus on science writing, speaking, art, policy, & outreach.

Our mission is to empower students and young professionals to communicate complex scientific topics in clear and engaging ways. 

Good luck with your submission/application!

ISEA (International Symposium on Electronic Arts) 2020: Why Sentience? still in October 2020 but virtually in Montréal, Québec

I wonder what happens to geography and time when you hold your conference virtually? Part of the excitement of a conference or other meetings is the promise of the destination with new people and new adventures. Whether 2020 is a pause between in-person meetings, a moment when everything changed, or some combination is yet to be determined but perhaps ISEA2020 will be a harbinger.

I received a June 10, 2020 notice (via email) with the latest news about ISEA2020,

Montreal, June 10, 2020  â€”  ISEA2020 from October 13 to 18, 2020 goes entirely digital, with an innovative experiential format.

The worldwide COVID-19 outbreak has forced ISEA2020 in Montreal to be postponed to October 13 to 18. The physical distancing measures put in place in many countries and the travel restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the pandemic mean that we cannot all be physically present in Montreal. Montreal Digital Spring (Printemps numĂ©rique) – the organizers of ISEA2020 –  have thus decided to make the symposium a 100% online event. Our team is currently working on the platform that will allow us to come together, connect, and exchange knowledge and practices, despite the physical distance. We worked with our partners and collaborators, experts in art, design, science and technology to (if only begin to) reinvent the format of academic interdisciplinary conferencing! 

Our main strategies for ISEA2020 Online:

Programming: ISEA2020 is a full week of research and creation, 100% online, with more than 300 international speakers and artists from over 40 countries.

Connecting: We are working on the online platform to ensure we meet ISEA’s core values of encouraging and promoting creative exchanges between diverse groups; of creating opportunities for networking and informal meetings, in addition to ensuring the good flow of panel sessions.

Programming for all the time-zones: From October 13 to 16, conference presentations will unfold over 16 consecutive hours each day, in order to include participants in all the time zones, from East Asia to the west Americas.

Reduced registration fee: The registration fee has been reduced. In addition to saving travel costs, ISEA2020 Online is accessible at a significantly reduced fee, hoping it will attract a larger number of participants, including more students and independent artists. 

Live Q&A: All presentation sessions, including keynote sessions, will include live Q&A periods, mediated by invited delegates.

Art Programming:  We are working with artists and partners on strategies to showcase the selected projects and special programming.

While we regret not seeing you in Montreal, the new format will make ISEA2020 accessible to a larger number and will certainly contribute to a broader discussion on how to produce and transfer knowledge and showcase art through connected digital communication platforms. Our team is committed to ensuring the high standard of creative and academic contributions that is paramount to ISEA.

We look forward to seeing you online this fall!

REGISTRATION FEE

You can now purchase your ISEA2020 Online Pass at the Early Bird rates of CAD $99 (regular) and CAD $69 (students), offer valid until August 13 [2020].

NEW DEADLINE TO REGISTER (for presenters)

The deadline to register, to upload the camera-ready papers, and to fill in the Zone Festival form is July 27 at 11:59 pm (GMT-5). 

CONTACT

We updated our website. Please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ page. If you have a specific question, please contact: isea.academic@printempsnumerique.ca for academic presentations / isea.artistic@printempsnumerique.ca for artworks / ISEA2020@printempsnumerique.ca for general questions/registration. 

 LIRE LE COMMUNIQUÉ EN FRANÇAIS

How we got here

The academic chairs have written this statement,

ISEA2020 ONLINE: WHY SENTIENCE?
OCTOBER 13-18, 2020

The academic chairs’ statements regarding the ISEA2020 online turn:

Since last August [2019] when we established the ISEA2020 theme of “Why Sentience?”, life on Earth has been dramatically transformed. Our belief in concepts like proximity, justice, equality, indeed, the very concept of the future itself, has been radically uprooted. As cultural organizations worldwide scramble to adapt, the ISEA2020 team has decided to reimagine the event for the anytime/anyplace zone of digital space and to transform it into an online experience. But we have also realized that there is no need to adjust the theme to make it more “responsive” to our current conditions. Despite their almost cataclysmic impact on the political-economic-social-cultural-ecological fabric of the world, the triumvirate forces of the coronavirus pandemic, its disastrous economic consequences, as well as systemic racial injustice have now acutely amplified ISEA2020s question: “Why Sentience?” These conditions sharpen the need to stop, pause and re-examine what it means to be sentient, “the ability to feel or perceive.” They help us reformulate our notions of what the world is with us and beyond us. They give us a front seat perspective on the corporeal and ecological entanglements between power and knowledge, animals and humans, machines and environment, oppression and liberation. They pointedly demonstrate that difference—social-economic-cultural—resonates through the sentient world. The virus—a 120-160 nm in diameter entity that is invisible to our human senses and considered neither living nor dead but ontologically somewhere in between [emphasis mine]—is thus perversely a great teacher and provides us lessons on how the modern splitting up of the sentient and inanimate worlds increasingly makes no sense.

ISEA’s mission aims to foster interdisciplinary academic discourse and exchange among culturally diverse organizations and individuals working with art, science and technology. As we write, ISEA2020 should have already passed into history. The new digital space of ISEA2020 will link the local community in Montreal with the international one beyond so that we can collectively rethink the form of such an event. The new platform will also allow us to examine close up these new and, at the same time, ongoing historical set of conditions; conditions that demand a response if we are to live in the coming (post)-pandemic world. 

Christine Ross – McGill University (Montreal, Canada)

Chris Salter – Concordia University/Hexagram (Montreal, Canada)

2020 Trailers

There is a conference trailer for this new ‘virtual’ version of the 2020 conference,

Montreal Digital Spring (Printemps numérique) produced both the English language version and this one in French***, Note: Video [credit]: Guillaume Guardia,

I’m not sure why the French language version is so much shorter*** (maybe I found an abridged version?), in any case, the content is quite different and you may want to check out both trailers.

***ETA June 22, 2020 at 1550 PDT: The answer to my question as to why one trailer was shorter? Two different (but this year related) events. I failed to note that the second trailer was for “MTL Connect.” Here is Manuelle Freire’s description (academic programme manager of ISEA2020, Printemps numerique) of MTL Connect,

The latter is an annual event organised in Montreal by Printemps numérique, consisting of different thematic pavilion. This year ISEA2020 is the art and creativity pavilion of MTL Connect, so part of a larger endeavour that is affected by this online turn in its entirety.

As for MTL Connect, there’s this from the homepage,

BRINGING TOGETHER DIGITAL MINDS, DIGITALLY

6 DAYS OF PROGRAMMING ‱ +400 SPEAKERS ‱ 50 COUNTRIES REPRESENTED ‱ +10,000 ATTENDEES ‱ THOUSANDS OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR INTERACTION

That’s it for the correction. ***

Meeting technology, cyber security, and local involvement

I emailed (Friday, June 19, 2020) a couple of questions to the organizers which they have kindly answered.

  1. Are you going to be using Zoom as the technology for virtual
    attendance? Will there be security measures for attendees?
  2. [A]re there going to be any local (Vancouver, BC) virtual or in-person get-togethers? By October it might be possible to have small groups (with appropriate precautions) meet in person for ISEA2020 discussions/participation in virtual events held elsewhere. (Just a thought)

They responded by Sunday, June 21, 2020). That is quickly. The short answer to both questions is: “We don’t know yet.”

More specifically, Manuelle Freire (Printemps numerique) had this to say,

I will have to forward your first question regarding the technology of the platform, specifically cybersecurity, to the platform development project manager. Cybersecurity is an important matter that we have discussed internally and will be included in the FAQ and the IEA2020, as soon as we have stabilized the different features of the platform and we are ready to release.

As for the second question,

In what comes to small groups meeting in person. It is indeed possible that groups [might] be able to meet in October [2020], but at this stage, with social distancing and travel restrictions in place, we are still facing degrees of uncertainty. While we regret not meeting everyone in MontrĂ©al, moving the symposium 100% online seemed the only safe and certain solution. No in-person activities are scheduled for now.

The questions were also sent to Philippe Pasquier, a locally based (Vancouver, BC) member of the ISEA2020 academic committee and he had this to say about the possibility of local, in-person get-togethers,

As for (2), this is a good idea. Let’s wait and see what will be possible and revisit this idea closer to the date. 

The responses have made me happy. Hearing that they take cybersecurity seriously is downright musical and learning that they are open to local, small, in person get-togethers is spirit-lifting.

Final words

In 2009, I attended an ISEA being held in Northern Ireland and Ireland and asked one of the organizers if any of their symposia had been held in Canada. Yes! Montréal, my source raved at length, hosted a great meeting.

The next Canadian ISEA host was Vancouver in 2015 and guess what? Someone in a lineup was raving about the Montréal meeting. It seems that 1995 meeting has taken on a legendary glow.

It was a privilege being able to attend two meetings in person. Legendary, problematic, or good, the meetings bring together exciting talent and disturbing and/or mind-expanding ideas and experiences. Given the circumstances, the organizers find themselves dealing with, I wish them the best of luck although I’m confident that despite all the obstacles, ISEA2020 will be an extraordinary affair.

On a practical note, the $99 (or less) fee for the online pass is a good deal. (I know because I had to pay for mine when they were here in Vancouver in 2015. By the way, I’ve never regretted a penny of it.)

They all fall down or not? Quantum dot-doped nanoparticles for preserving national monuments and buildings

The most recent post here but not the most recent research about preserving stone monuments and buildings is a December 23, 2019 piece titled: Good for your bones and good for art conservation: calcium. Spanish researchers (who seem particularly active in this research niche) are investigating a more refined approach to preserving stone monuments with calcium according to a May 8, 2020 news item on Nanowerk,

The fluorescence emitted by tiny zinc oxide quantum dots can be used to determine the penetration depth of certain substances used in the restoration of historical buildings. Researchers from Pablo de Olavide University (Spain) have tested this with samples collected from historical quarries in Cadiz, where the stone was used to build the city hall and cathedral of Seville.

One of the main problems in the preservation of historic buildings is the loss of cohesion of their building materials. Restorers use consolidating substances to make them more resistant, such as lime (calcium hydroxide), which has long been used because of its great durability and high compatibility with the carbonate stone substrate.

Now, researchers at Pablo de Olavide University, in Seville, have developed and patented calcium hydroxide nanoparticles doped with quantum dots that are more effective as consolidant and make it possible to distinguish the restored from the original material, as it is recommended for the conservation and restoration of historical heritage.

An April 28, 2020 Pablo de Olavide University press release (also on Alpha Gallileo but published May 5, 2020), which originated the news item, provides more details about the nature of the materials,

“The tiny quantum dots, which are smaller than 10 nanometres, are made of zinc oxide and are semiconductors, which gives them very interesting properties (different from those of larger particles due to quantum mechanics), such as fluorescence, which is the one we use,” explains Javier Becerra, one of the authors.

“Thanks to the fluorescence of these quantum dots, we can evaluate the suitability of the treatment for a monument,” he adds. “We only need to illuminate with ultraviolet light a cross-section of the treated material to determine how far the consolidating matter has penetrated.”

In addition, the product, which the authors have named Nanorepair UV, acts as a consolidant due to the presence of the lime nanoparticles. Consolidation is a procedure that increases the degree of cohesion of a material, reinforcing and hardening the parts that have suffered some deterioration, which is frequent in historical buildings.

The researchers have successfully applied their technique to samples collected in the historic quarries of El Puerto de Santa María and Espera (Cadiz), from where the stone used to build such iconic monuments as Seville Cathedral, a World Heritage Site since 1987, or the town’s city hall, was extracted.

“In the laboratory, we thus obtain an approximation of how the treatment will behave when it is actually applied to the monuments,” says Becerra, who together with the rest of the team, is currently also testing mortars from the Italica and Medina Azahara archaeological sites.

Oddly, this work is not all that recently published. In any event, here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Nanolimes doped with quantum dots for stone consolidation assessment by Javier Becerra, Pilar Ortiz, José María Martín, Ana Paula Zaderenko. Construction and Building Materials Volume 199, 28 February 2019, Pages 581-593 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2018.12.077 Available online 19 December 2018

This paper is behind a paywall.

Two online events: Wednesday, May 20, 2020 and Saturday, May 23, 2020

My reference point for date and time is almost always Pacific Time (PT). Depending on which time zone you live in, the day and date I’ve listed here may be incorrect. For anyone who has difficulty figuring out which day and time the event will take place where they live, a search for ‘time zone converter’ on one of the search engines should prove helpful.

May 20, 2020 at 7:30 pm (UK time): ComplicitĂ©’s The Encounter

I received this May 19, 2020 announcement from The Space via email,

Over 80,000 people have watched ComplicitĂ©’s award-winning production of The Encounter online and now the recording has been made available again – for one week only – in this revival, supported by The Space. You can watch online via the website or YouTube channel [from15 May until 22 May 2020.].

🎧 Enjoy the binaural sound – Make sure you wear headphones in order to experience the show’s impressive binaural sound design – any headphone will work, but playing out of computer speakers will not give the same effect. 

Join in a live Q&A – 20 May [2020] – A live discussion event and public Q&A will take place on Wednesday 20 May at 7:30pm (11:30 am PT) with Simon McBurney and guests including filmmaker TakumĂŁ Kuikuro (via a link to the Xingu region of the Amazon). Register to join the discussion.

Here’s a little more about the video performance from The Space’s ComplicitĂ© invites you to The Encounter webpage,

In The Encounter, Director-performer Simon McBurney brings Petru Popescu’s book Amazon Beaming to life on stage.

The show follows the journey of Loren McIntyre, a photographer who got lost in Brazil’s remote Javari Valley in 1969.

It uses live and recorded 3D sound, video projections and loop pedals to recreate the intense atmosphere of the rainforest.

In the first live-streamed production ever to use 3D sound, viewers got the chance to experience the atmosphere of one of the strangest and most beautiful places on Earth – all through their headphones.

Complicité is a UK-based touring theatre company known for its imaginative original productions and adaptations of classic books and plays, and its groundbreaking use of technology. The Encounter is directed and performed by Simon McBurney, co-director is Kirsty Housley.

The Encounter is a little over two hours long.

Saturday, May 23, 2020 from 12 pm – 1:30 pm ET: Pandemic Encounters ::: being [together] in the deep third space

This May 19, 2020 announcement was received via email from the ArtSci Salon, one of the participants in this ‘encounter’, Note: I have made some changes to the formatting,

LEONARDO/ISAST and The Third Space Network announce the first Global LASER: Pandemic Encounters ::: being [together] in the deep third space on Saturday, May 23, 12-1:30pm EDT. This online performance installation is a creation of pioneering telematic artist Paul Sermon in collaboration with Randall Packer, Gregory Kuhn and the Third Space Network. (Locate your time zone)

Pandemic Encounters explores the implications of the migratory transition to the virtual space we are all experiencing. Even when we return to the so-called normal, we will be changed: when social interaction, human engagement, and being together will have undergone a radical transformation. In this new work, Paul Sermon performs as a live chroma-figure in a deep third space audio-visual networked environment, encountering pandemic spaces & action-performers from around the world – artists, musicians, dancers, media practitioners & scientists  â€“ a collective response to a global pandemic that has triggered an unfolding metamorphosis of the human condition.

action-performers: Annie Abrahams (France), Clarissa Ribeiro (Brazil), Roberta Buiani (Canada), Andrew Denton (New Zealand), Bhavani Esapathi (UK), Tania Fraga (Brazil), Satinder Gill (US), Birgitta Hosea (UK), Charles Lane (US), Ng Wen Lei (Singapore), Marilene Oliver (Canada), Serena Pang (Singapore), Daniel Pinheiro (Portugal), Olga Remneva (Russia), Toni Sant (UK), Rejane Spitz (Brazil), Atau Tanaka (UK)

For more informationhttps://thirdspacenetwork.com/pandemic-encounters/

REGISTER & SAVE YOUR SPOT

Here’s more about the presentation partners,

The Third Space Network, created by Randall Packer, is an artist-driven Internet platform for staging creative dialogue, live performance and uncategorizable activisms: social empowerment through the act of becoming our own broadcast media.

Leonardo/The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology (Leonardo/ISAST) is a nonprofit organization that serves the global network of distinguished scholars, artists, scientists, researchers and thinkers through our programs, which focus on interdisciplinary work, creative output and innovation.

Global LASER is a new series of networked events that bring together artists, scientists, and technologists in the creation of experimental forms of live Internet performance and creative dialogue.

Because I love the poster image for this event,

[downloaded from https://thirdspacenetwork.com/pandemic-encounters/]

A mathematical sculptor, a live webcast (May 6, 2020) with theoretical cosmologist and author Katie Mack, & uniting quantum theory with Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity in a drawing

I’ve bookended information about the talk with physicist Katie Mack at Canada’s Perimeter Institute on May 6, 2020 with two items on visual art and mathematics and the sciences.

Mathematical sculpting

Robert Fathauer’s Three-Fold Hyperbolic Form exhibits negative curvature, a concept in geometry and topology that describes a surface curving in two directions at every point. Hemp crochet by Marla Peterson. Image courtesy of Robert Fathauer. [downloaded from https://www.pnas.org/content/114/26/6643.full]

You’ll find this image and a few more in a fascinating 2017 paper (see link and citation below) about mathematical sculpture,

Ferguson [Helaman Ferguson], who holds a doctorate in mathematics, never chose between art and science: now nearly 77 years old, he’s a mathematical sculptor. Working in stone and bronze, Ferguson creates sculptures, often placed on college campuses, that turn deep mathematical ideas into solid objects that anyone—seasoned professors, curious children, wayward mathophobes—can experience for themselves.

Mathematics has an intrinsic aesthetic—proofs are often described as “beautiful” or “elegant”—that can be difficult for mathematicians to communicate to outsiders, says Ferguson. “It isn’t something you can tell somebody about on the street,” he says. “But if I hand them a sculpture, they’re immediately relating to it.” Sculpture, he says, can tell a story about math in an accessible language.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Science and Culture: Armed with a knack for patterns and symmetry, mathematical sculptors create compelling forms by Stephen Ornes. PNAS [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences] June 27, 2017 114 (26) 6643-6645; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1706987114

This paper appears to be open access.

Live webcast: theoretical cosmologist & science communicator Katie Mack

The live webcast will take place at 4 pm PT (1600 hours) on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. Here’s more about Katie Mack and the webcast from the event webpage (click through to the event page to get to the webcast) on the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics (PI) website,

In a special live webcast on May 6 [2020] at 7 pm ET [4 pm PT], theoretical cosmologist and science communicator Katie Mack — known to her many Twitter followers as @astrokatie — will answer questions about her favourite subject: the end of the universe.

Mack, who holds a Simons Emmy Noether Visiting Fellowship at Perimeter, will give viewers a sneak peek at her upcoming book, The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking). She will then participate in a live “ask me anything” session, answering questions submitted via social media using the hashtag #piLIVE.

Mack is an Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University whose research investigates dark matter, vacuum decay, and the epoch of reionization. Mack is a popular science communicator on social media, and has contributed to Scientific American, Slate, Sky & Telescope, Time, and Cosmos.

PI is located in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Uniting quantum theory with Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity with a drawing about light

The article by Stephon Alexander was originally published March 16, 2017 for Nautilus. My excerpts are from a getpocket.com selection,

LIGHT IN THE GARDEN: This drawing by the Oakes brothers, Irwin Gardens at the Getty in Winter, inspired the author to think anew about quantum mechanics and general relativity. The meticulous drawing, done on curved paper, allows viewers to reflect on the act of perception. Credit: Ryan and Trevor Oakes [downloaded from http://nautil.us/issue/46/balance/what-this-drawing-taught-me-about-four_dimensional-spacetime]

My aim as a theoretical physicist is to unite quantum theory with Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. While there are a few proposals for this unification, such as string theory and loop quantum gravity, many roadblocks to a complete unification remain.

Einstein’s theory tells us the gravitational force is a direct manifestation of space and time bending. The sun bends the fabric of space, much like a sleeping person bends a mattress. Planetary orbits, including Earth’s, are motion along the contours of the bent space created by the sun. This theory provides some critical insights into the nature of light.

… one summer, I had the most unexpected breakthrough. Beth Jacobs, a member of the New York Academy of Sciences’ Board of Governors, invited me and some friends to her New York City apartment to meet the Oakes twins, artists who have gained attention in recent years for their drawings as well as the innovative technique and inventions they deploy to create them. An Oakes work, Irwin Gardens at the Getty in Winter (2011), an intricate drawing of the famous gardens designed by Robert Irwin at The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, was displayed on the balcony of Jacobs’ apartment overlooking Central Park, with the backdrop of the New York City skyline lit with a warm orange sky moments before sunset.

As I gazed at the drawing, I could feel the artists challenging me to reconsider the nature of light. I began to realize I should consider not only the physics of light, but also how light information is perceived by observers, when theorizing and conceiving new principles to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity. …

Ryan and Trevor Oakes, 35, have been exploring the impact and intersection of visual perception and the physics of light since they were kids. After attending The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City, and years of experimentation and inventing new techniques, the twins exploited the notion that light information is better described when originating from a spherical surface.

Fascinating stuff. BTW, you can find the original article here on Nautilus.