As noted in part 1, I’ve taken a very broad approach to this survey of science culture in Canada over the last 10 years. It isn’t exhaustive but part 1 covers science communication, science media (mainstream and others such as blogging) and arts as exemplified by music and dance. Now it’s time for part 2 and the visual arts, festivals, science slams, and more..
Art/Sci or Art/Science or SciArt—take your pick
In 2005 my heart was broken. I had to give up on an event I’d conceived and tried to organize for five years, ‘Twisted: an art/science entrée’. Inspired by an art/science organization in New York, it just wasn’t the right timing for Vancouver or, it seems, for Canada, if the failure of an art/science funding collaboration between the Canada Council and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) during roughly during that time period could be considered as another indicator.
The situation has changed considerably during this last decade (or so it seems). There are more performing and visual artists using scientific ideas and principles as inspiration for their work or they’re collaborating outright with scientists, or scientists are expressing themselves through artistic endeavours. Of course, of consequences of all this activity is a naming issue. (Isn’t there always?) I’m not taking sides all i want is clarity.
Part 1 featured more of the ‘inspirational’ art/science efforts. Here you’ll find the more ‘science’ inflected efforts.
ArtSci Salon located at the University of Toronto was founded in 2010 according to its About webpage,
This website documents the activity of the ArtSci Salon, a group of artists, scientists and art-sci-tech enthusiasts meeting once a month to engage in critical discussions on topics at the intersection between the arts and science.
Started in 2010 as a spin-off of the Subtle Technologies Festival, ArtSciSalon responds to the recent expansion in the GTA [Greater Toronto Area] of a community of scientists and artists increasingly seeking collaborations across disciplines to successfully accomplish their research projects and inquiries.
Based on the demographic, the requisites, and the interests of our members, the goal of ArtSci Salon is:
- To provide outreach opportunities for local and international innovative research projects in the Sciences and in the Arts;
- To foster critical dialogue on topics and concerns shared by the sciences and the arts;
- To facilitate new forms of collaboration across fields.
Our guests deliver short presentations, demonstrations or performances on a series of shared topic of interest to artists and scientists.
Many, many ArtSci Salon events have been listed here. I mention it because the ArtSci Salon website doesn’t have a complete listing for its previous events. While I can’t guarantee completeness, you can perform an ‘ArtSci Salon’ search on the blog search engine and it should get you enough to satisfy your curiosity.
Curiosity Collider‘s first event seems to have been in April 2015 (as noted in my July 7, 2015 posting). i wonder what they’ll do to celebrate their fifth anniversary? Anyway, they describe themselves this way (from the Mandate webpage),
Curiosity Collider Art-Science Foundation is a Vancouver based non-profit organization that is committed to providing opportunities for artists whose work expresses scientific concepts and scientists who collaborate with artists. We challenge the perception and experience of science in our culture, break down the walls between art and science, and engage our growing community to bringing life to the concepts that describe our world.
You can find Curiosity Collider here. I see they don’t have anything scheduled yet for 2020 but they had a very active Fall 2019 season and I expect they needed a breather and now there’s ‘flattening the COVID-19 curve’.
Once Curiosity Collider gets started again, you’ll find they put on different kinds of events, usually evening get togethers featuring various artists and scientists in a relaxed environment or joint events with other groups such Nerd Nite, Science Slam, and others. In 2019, Curiosity Collider hosted its first festival. You’ll find more about that in the Festivals subsection further down in this posting.
ArtSci at Cape Breton University (Nova Scotia) seems to have existed from March 2017 to November 2018. At. least, that’s the period its Twitter feed was active.
… Art the Science facilitates cross-disciplinary relationships between artists and scientists with a goal of fostering Canadian science-art culture. In doing so, we aim to advance scientific knowledge communication to benefit the public, while providing opportunities for artists to exhibit their work in unconventional and technologically innovative ways. By nurturing the expression of creativity, be it in a test-tube or with the stroke of a brush, Art the Science has become one of the most beloved and popular online SciArt (science + art) communities in the world. Since 2015, it has developed numerous digital SciArt exhibitions, and has highlighted the work of both pioneering and upcoming SciArt artists internationally. The organization also promotes the role of SciArt by conducting various outreach initiatives, including delivering lectures and keynote presentations designed to foster public engagement and a deeper appreciation of science and art.
Volunteer Run: Since 2015, Art the Science has been operating with the hard work and dedication of volunteer hours from our board and supporters. We have been busy generating evidence to show the impact and reach of our initiatives. We believe this evidence will help us secure financial support as we move forward.
National events, festivals, and conferences
These days it’s called Science Odyssey and takes place in May of each year. I first came across the then named National Science and Technology Week in 1993. The rebranding occurred in 2016 after the Liberals swept into victory in October 2015 federal election.
In 2020, Science Odyssey (as noted previously, prior to 2016 this was known as National Science and Technology Week and was held in October each year) it was slated to take place from May 2 to May 17. In most years, it functions as a kind of promotional hub for science events independently organized across the country. The focus is largely on children as you can see in the 2019 promotional video,
Cancelled for 2020, its events have ranged from an open house at a maker lab to lectures at universities to festivals such as Pint of Science and Science Rendezvous that occur during Science Odyssey. (I profiled Science Odyssey, Pint of Science, Science Rendezvous and more in my May 1, 2019 posting.)
Pint of Science
Beer and science is a winning combination as they know in the UK where Pint of Science was pioneered in 2012. Pint of Science Canada was started in 2016 and is scheduled for May 11 – 13, 2020,
Pint of Science Canada invites scientists to your favorite local bars to discuss their latest research and discoveries over a drink or two. This is the perfect opportunity to meet scientists and ask questions. You have no excuse not to come and share a drink with us!
Démystifier la recherche scientifique et la faire découvrir au grand public dans un cadre détendu, avec une bière à la main c’est possible. Parce que oui, la science peut être le fun!
There isn’t a cancellation notice on the website as of April 15, 2020 but I suspect that may change.
Billing itself as a free national kick-off festival for Science Odyssey and the country’s largest celebration of science and engineering, it was founded in 2008 and was confined to Toronto in that first year. In 2019, they promoted over 300 events across the country.
This year, Science Rendezvous is scheduled for May 9, 2020. Please check as it is likely cancelled for 2020.
Science Literacy Week
This week first crossed my radar in 2015 and because I love this passage, here’s an excerpt from my Sept 18, 2015 posting where it’s first mentioned,
Just as Beakerhead ends, Canada’s 2015 Science Literacy Week opens Sept. 21 – 27, 2015. Here’s more about the week from a Sept. 18, 2015 article by Natalie Samson for University Affairs,
On Nov. 12 last year , the European Space Agency landed a robot on a comet. It was a remarkable moment in the history of space exploration and scientific inquiry. The feat amounted to “trying to throw a dart and hit a fly 10 miles away,” said Jesse Hildebrand, a science educator and communicator. “The math and the physics behind that is mindboggling.”
Imagine Mr. Hildebrand’s disappointment then, as national news programs that night spent about half as much time reporting on the comet landing as they did covering Barack Obama’s gum-chewing faux pas in China. For Mr. Hildebrand, the incident perfectly illustrates why he founded Science Literacy Week, a Canada-wide public education campaign celebrating all things scientific.
From Sept. 21 to 27 , several universities, libraries and museums will highlight the value of science in our contemporary world by hosting events and exhibits on topics ranging from the lifecycle of a honeybee to the science behind Hollywood films like Jurassic World and Contact.
Mr. Hildebrand began developing the campaign last year, shortly after graduating from the University of Toronto with a bachelor’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. He approached the U of T Libraries for support and “it really snowballed from there,” the 23-year-old said.
The latest edition of Science Literacy Week came to include over 650 events put on by more than 300 partners in over 250 cities across Canada. From public talks to explosive chemistry demos, stargazing sessions to nature hikes, there was sure to be an interesting activity for science lovers of all ages. Science Literacy Week is powered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
According to Science Literacy Week founder Jesse Hildebrand’s LinkedIn profile, he doesn’t seem to be involved with the ‘Week’ (as of December 2019). However, he does remain involved with Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants, from the homepage,
Beaming Science, Exploration, Adventure and Conservation into Classrooms Across North America
Guest Speakers and Virtual Field Trips with Leading Experts from Around the World
Using Technology to Broadcast Live into Classrooms from the Most Remote Regions on the Planet Since
September 2015, We’ve Run Well over 1,000 Live Events Connecting Hundreds of Thousands of Students to Scientists and Explorers in over 70 Countries
Onto another standalone festival.
Calgary’s big art/science/engineering festival, Beakerhead got its start in 2013 as a five-day event as per my December 7, 2012 post. It’s gone through a few changes since then including what appears to be a downsizing. The 2019 event was on September 21, 2019 from 5 pm to 11 pm.
According to his profile on LinkedIn, Jeff Popiel is Beakerhead’s interim CEO and has been since 2018. Mary Anne Moser (one of Breakerhead’s co-founders; the other is Jay Ingram, formerly of the Daily Planet science television show) was welcomed as the new Executive Director for Calgary’s science centre, Telus Spark, in April 2019.
Beakerhead’sr Wikipedia entry, despite being updated in December 2019, lists as its most current iteration of the festival that one that place in 2018.
All organizations experience ups and downs; I certainly hope that this represents a temporary lull. On the plus side, the Beakerhead Twitter feed is being kept current. and there is a February 18, 2020 entry on the Beakerhead’s homepage.
Invasive Species (Curiosity Collider) & Special Projects (ArtSci Salon)
The first and possibly only Collisions Festival (from the Curiosity Collider folks), Invasive Species took place in November 2019. A three-day affair, it featured a number of local (Vancouver area) artist/scientist collaborations. For a volunteer-run organization, putting on a three-day festival is quite an accomplishment. So, brava and bravo!
The ArtSci Salon in Toronto hasn’t held any festivals as such but has hosted a number of ‘special projects’ which extend over days and/or weeks and/or months such as The Cabinet Project, which opened in April 2017 (not sure how long it ran) and featured a number of artists’ talks and tours; Emergent Form from April 1 -30, 2018; EDITED (gene editing) from October 25 – November 30, 2018; and, FACTT-Evolution from March 29 – May 15, 2019.
International conferences and the Canadian art/technology scene
I am sure there are others (I’d be happy to hear about them in the comments) but these two organizations seem particularly enthused about holding conferences in Canada. I would like to spend more time on art and technology in Canada but that’s a huge topic in itself so I’m touching on it lightly.
ISEA 2015 and 2020
Formerly the Inter-Society of Electronic Arts, the organization has rebranded itself as ISEA (pronounced as a word [acronym] with a long ‘s’ like ‘z’). The acronym is used both for the organization’s name, the International Society for Electronic Arts, and its annual International Symposium of Electronic Arts, known familiarly as ISEA (year).
ISEA 2015 took place in Vancouver and was held in August of that year (you can read more about in my April 24, 2015 posting where I announced my presentation of a paper and video “Steep (1): A digital poetry of gold nanoparticles.”).
Montreal Digital Spring (Printemps numérique) is proud to present ISEA2020 from October 13 to 18, 2020 in Montreal.
ISEA2020 will be the Creativity Pavilion of MTL connect; using digital intelligence as the overarching theme, this international event aims to look across the board at the main questions related to digital development, focusing on its economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts in various sectors of activity.
Montreal was awarded host of the next edition of ISEA in the closing ceremony of ISEA2019, held in Gwangju, South Korea. Soh Yeong Roh, Director of Art Center Nabi in Seoul, hand over the eternal light to Mehdi Benboubakeur, Executive Director of Montreal Digital Spring. As Benboubakeur stated: “ISEA returns to Montreal after 25 years. Back in 1995, ISEA positioned Montreal as a digital art center and brought emerging local artists into the international spotlight. In 2020, Montreal will once more welcome the international community of ISEA and will use this opportunity to build a strong momentum for the future.”
SEA 2020 turns towards the theme of “Why Sentience? Sentience describes the ability to feel or perceive. ISEA2020 will be fully dedicated to examining the resurgence of sentience—feeling-sensing-making sense—in recent art and design, media studies, science and technology studies, philosophy, anthropology, history of science and the natural scientific realm—notably biology, neuroscience and computing. We ask: why sentience? Why and how does sentience matter? Why have artists and scholars become interested in sensing and feeling beyond, with and around our strictly human bodies and selves? Why has this notion been brought to the fore in an array of disciplines in the 21st century?
I notice Philippe Pasquier of Simon Fraser University (Surrey campus, Vancouver area) is a member of the organizing committee. If memory serves, he was also on the organizing committee for ISEA 2015. He was most recently mentioned here in a November 29, 2019 where I featured his Metacreation Lab and when I mentioned the ISEA 2020 call for submissions.
The call for submissions has since been closed and the statistics announced, from the ‘Thank You for all your submissions’ webpage,
… We received a total of 987 submissions from 58 countries. Thank you to those who took the time to create and submit proposals for ISEA2020 under the theme of sentience. We look forward to seeing you in Montreal from May 19 to 24, 2020 during MTL connect/ISEA2020!
Statistics by categories:
- Artworks: 536
- Artist talks: 121
- Full papers: 108
- Short papers: 96
- Workshops / Tutorials: 53
- Panels / Roundtables: 24
- Institutional presentations: 22
- Posters / Demos: 18
Good luck to everyone who made a submission. I hope you get a chance to present your work at ISEA 2020. I wonder if I can attend. I’ll have to make up my mind soon as they stop selling early bird tickets on and around March 16, 2020.
The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), founded in 1947, has a special interest group (SIG) dedicated to computer GRAPHics. Hence, there is SIGGRAPH, which holds an annual conference each in North America and in Asia.
Vancouver hosted SIGGRAPH in 2011, 2014, and 2018 and will host it again in 2022. It is the only Canadian city to have hosted a SIGGRAPH conference since the conference’s inception in 1974. It is a huge meeting. In 2018, Vancouver hosted 16,637 attendees.
If you have a chance, do check out the next SIGGRAPH that you are able to attend. As inspiration you can check out the profile I wrote up for the most recent conference in Vancouver (my August 9, 2018 posting). They’re not as open to the public as I’d like but there are a few free events.
Coffee, tea, or beer with your science?
There are many ways to enjoy your science.Here are various groups (volunteer for the most part) that host regular (more or less) science nights at cafés and/or pubs and/or bars. Although I mentioned Café Scientifique Vancouver in part 1, it doesn’t really fit into either part 1 or part 2 of this review of the last decade but it’s being included (in a minor way) because the parent organization, Café Scientifique, is in a sense the progenitor for all the other ‘Café’ type efforts (listed in this subsection) throughout Canada. In addition, Café Scientifique is a truly global affair, which means if you’re traveling, it’s worth checking out the website to see if there’s any event in the city you’re visiting.
Science Slam Canada
I’m so glad to see that we have a Science Slam community in Canada (the international phenomenon was featured here in a July 17, 2013 posting). Here’s more about the phenomenon from the Science Slam Canada homepage,
Science slams have been popular in Europe for more than a decade but have only recently gained traction in North America. Science Slam Canada was founded in 2016 and now runs regular science slams in Vancouver. Given wide interest and support, Science Slam Canada is continuing to grow, with upcoming events in Edmonton and Ottawa.
Based on the format of a poetry slam, a science slam is a competition that allows knowledge holders, including researchers, students, educators, professionals, and artists to share their science with a general audience. Competitors have five minutes to present on any science topic and are judged based on communication skills, audience engagement, and scientific accuracy. Use of a projector or slideshow is not allowed, but props and creative presentation styles are encouraged.
The slam format provides an informal medium for the public and the scientific community to connect with and learn from each other. Science slams generally take place in bars, cafes, or theaters, which remove scientists from their traditional lecture environments. The lack of projector also takes away a common presentation ‘crutch’ and forces competitors to engage with their audience more directly.
Competitors and judges are chosen through a selection process designed to support diversity and maximize the benefit to speakers and the audience. Past speakers have ranged from students and researchers to educators and actors. Judges have included professors, media personalities, comedians and improvisers. And since the event is as much about the audience as about the speakers, spectators are asked to vote for their favourite speaker.
Our dream is to create a national network of local science slams, with top competitors meeting at a national SUPER Slam to face off for the title of Canadian Science Slam Champion. This past year, we ran a regional slam in Vancouver, bringing together speakers from across BC’s Lower Mainland. Next year, we hope to extend our invitation even further.
Their last Vancouver Slam was in November 2019. I don’t see anything scheduled for 2020 either on the website or on their Twitter feed. Of course, they don’t keep a regular schedule so my suggestion is to keep checking. And, there’s their Facebook site.
Alan Shapiro who founded Science Slam Canada maintains an active Twitter feed where his focus appears to be water but he includes much more. If you’re interested in Vancouver’s science scene, check him out. By the way, his day job is at STEMCELL Technologies, which you may remember, if you read part 1, funds the Science in the City website mentioned under the Science blogging in Canada subhead (scroll down about 50% of the way).
Sometime around 2003, Chris Balakrishnan founded Nerd Nite. Today, he’s a professor with his own lab (Balakrishnan Laboratory of Evolution, Behavior and Other Fine Sciences) at East Carolina University; he also maintains an active interest in Nerd Nite.
I’m not sure when it made its way to Canada but there are several cities which host Nerd Nites (try ‘nerd nite canada’ in one of the search engines). In addition to Nerd Nite Vancouver (which got its start in 2013, if it’s existence on Twitter can be used as evidence), I found ones in Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Edmonton, Calgary, and, I believe there is also one in North Vancouver.
Their events are monthly (more or less) and the last one was on February 26, 2020. You can read more about it here. They maintain an active Twitter feed listing their own events and, on occasion, other local science events.
This US organization (Story Collider; true personal stories about science) was founded in 2010 and was first featured here in a February 15, 2012 posting. Since then, it has expanded to many cities including Vancouver. Here’s more about the organization and its worldwide reach (from the Story Collider About Us webpage), Note: Links have been removed,
The Story Collider is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to true, personal stories about science. Since 2010, we have been working with storytellers from both inside and outside science to develop these stories, and we share them through our weekly podcast and our live shows around the world.
We bring together dedicated staff and volunteers from both science and art backgrounds to produce these shows — starting with our executive director, Liz Neeley, who has a background in marine biology and science communication, and our artistic director, Erin Barker, a writer and experienced storyteller — because we believe both have value in this space. Currently, The Story Collider has a home in fourteen cities — New York, Boston, DC, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, Milwaukee, Toronto, Vancouver, Cambridge, UK, and Wellington, New Zealand — where events organized by local producers are held on a monthly or quarterly basis. We’ve also been delighted to work with various partners — including publishers such as Springer Nature and Scientific American; conferences for organizations such as the American Geophysical Union and the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative; and universities such as Yale University, North Carolina State University, Colorado University, and more — to produce shows in other locations. Every year, we produce between 50 and 60 live events featuring more than 250 stories in total, and we share over a hundred of these stories on our podcast.
Vancouver’s first Story Collider of 2020, ‘Misfits’ was scheduled for February 1 at The Fox Cabaret at 2321 Main Street . You can see more about the event (which in all likelihood took place) and the speakers here.
As for when Story Collider set down a few roots in Vancouver, that’s likely to be some time after February 2012. The two Vancouver Story Collider organizers, Kayla Glynn and Josh Silberg each have active Twitter feeds. Glynn is focuses mainly on local events; Silberg provides a more eclectic experience.
This is a series of neuroscience’ talks held monthly (more or less) held at Vancouver General Hospital. They served wine out of a box and cheese and crackers at the one talk (it was about robots) I attended. Here’s more about the inspiration for this series from the University of British Columbia Brain Talks Vision page
BrainTalks is a forum for academics and members of the general public to create a dialogue about the rapidly expanding information in neuroscience. The BrainTalks series, was inspired in part by the popularity of the TED Talks series. Founded by Dr. Maia Love in October 2010, the goal is for neuroscientists, neurologists, neuroradiologists, psychiatrists, and people from affiliated fields to meet and dialogue monthly, in the hopes of promoting excellence in research, facilitating research and clinician connections and discussion, and disseminating knowledge to the general public. Additionally, the hope to reduce stigma associated with mental illness, and promote compassion for those suffering with brain illnesses, be they called neurologic or psychiatric, was part of the reason to create the series.
The structure is a casual environment with brief presentations by local experts that challenge and inspire dialogue. Discussions focus on current knowledge about the mind and our understanding of how the mind works. Presentations are followed by a panel discussion, catered snacks, and networking.
BrainTalks is now part of the programming for the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychiatry. The Department of Education, and the Department of Continuing Professional Development include BrainTalks at UBC as part of their goal to enhance public knowledge of psychiatry, enhance clinician knowledge in areas that may affect psychiatric practice, and disseminate recent research in brain science to the public.
Thanks to Alan Shapiro (founder of Science Slam Canada) and his Twitter feed for information about a new science event that may be coming to Vancouver, SoapBox Science founded in the UK in 2011 puts on events that can be found worldwide (from the homepage),
Soapbox Science is a novel public outreach platform for promoting women scientists and the science they do. Our events transform public areas into an arena for public learning and scientific debate; they follow the format of London Hyde Park’s Speaker’s Corner, which is historically an arena for public debate. With Soapbox Science, we want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy, learn from, heckle, question, probe, interact with and be inspired by some of our leading scientists. No middle man, no PowerPoint slide, no amphitheatre – just remarkable women in science who are there to amaze you with their latest discoveries, and to answer the science questions you have been burning to ask. Look out for bat simulators, fake breasts or giant pictures of volcanoes. Or simply hear them talk about what fascinates them, and why they think they have the most fantastic job in the world!
2020 is an exciting year for us. We are running 56 events around the world, making this the biggest year yet! Since 2011 we have featured over 1500 scientists and reached 150,000 members of the public! Soapbox Science was commended by the Prime Minister in 2015, and was awarded a Silver Medal from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in June 2016. Both Soapbox Science co-founders were also invited to provide oral evidence at a 2016 Parliamentary inquiry on science communication.
I believe 2020 is/was to have been the first year for a SoapBox Science event in Vancouver. There aren’t any notices of cancellation for the Vancouver event that I’ve been able to find. I expect there will although with a planned June 2020 date there’s still hope, In any case, you might find it interesting to view their ‘Apply to speak’ webpage, (Note: I have rearranged the order of some of these paragraphs),
Are you a woman* who works in science and who is passionate about your research? Are you eager to talk to the general public about your work in a fun, informal setting? If so, then Soapbox Science needs YOU! We are looking for scientists in all areas of STEMM, from PhD students to Professors, and from entry-level researchers to entrepreneurs, to take part in this grassroots science outreach project.
*Soapbox Science uses an inclusive definition of ‘woman’ and welcomes applications from Non-binary and Genderqueer speakers.
The deadline for applications has now passed but you’ll find on their ‘Apply to speak’ webpage, a list of cities hosting 2020 SoapBox Science events,
Tucumán- 12th September
Sydney- 15th August
Brussels- 27th June
Maceio- 22nd November
Rio de Janeiro- 18th July
Salvador- 5th June
Calgary- 2nd May
Hamilton- Date TBC
Ottawa- 19th September
Toronto- 27th September
St John’s- 5th September
Waterloo- 13th June
Düsseldorf- 25th July
Munich- 27th June
Dublin- Date TBC
Lagos- 7th November
Kuala Lumpur- April
Lisbon- 19th Sept
Cape Town- September
Uppsala- 16th May
Gothenburg- 24th April- Closing date 31st January
Arusha- 8th August
Aberdeen- 30th May
Birmingham- Date TBC
Brighton- 30th May
Bristol- 4th July
Cardiff- Date TBC
Edinburgh- Date TBC
Keswick- 26th May
Leicester- 6th June
London- 23rd May
Milton Keynes- 27th June
Newcastle- 13th June
Nottingham- Date TBC
Plymouth- 30th May
Stoke-on-Trent, Date TBC
Swansea- Date TBC
York- 13th June
Boulder- 26th April
Denver- Date TBC
Philadelphia- 18th April
SoapBox Science maintains an active Twitter feed.
For anyone who missed it, part 1 covers science communication, science media (mainstream and others such as blogging) and arts as exemplified by music and dance: ‘The decade that was (2010-19) and the decade to come (2020-29): Science culture in Canada (1 of 5)‘.