Traditional narratives are not able sufficiently to represent our complex scientific reality anymore. This failure of narrative constitutes an urgency to address a crisis of representation in our culture and society by promoting and teaching systemic thinking.
During our Bridge collaboration with Thanassis, we are producing a non-linear digital narrative as a response to this crisis, based on astrophysical data from the TRIUMF particle collider in Vancouver.
We are using non-traditional data visualization techniques, 3D animation, digital simulations presented partially thru live performance and a planetarium dome projection.
This narrative explores the existential relationship between the practice of fundamental research and socio-historical construction of epistemic structures that constitute fundamental research since the pre-Socratic era. We are looking at technical production of scientific knowledge, facts, and theories, what constitutes platforms that produce such facts, and how are these platforms positioned between the nature and society leading to a profound question: how can we have ideas about our universe that are true and how do we reflect those ideas in culture and society?
In particular, our narrative traces the evolution of the atomist and materialist theory thru the history into recent scientific theories of relativity and quantum physics. We would like to locate addresses of various elements that we are made of, to specific types of stars and eras, where these atoms were born. We would want to contemplate an idea that life is composed of these particles, which in particular patterns became conscious, and they represent a metaphorical way how the universe becomes aware of itself.
The idea of this project started form scratch and slowly evolved into this collaborative framework we have now. We had long conversations about particles, matter, and question surrounding contemporary theories in physics. In the end, we decided to trace back these ideas to their roots in pre-socratic ancient Greece.
We decided to use experimental data Thanassis produced utilizing the DRAGON detector at the TRIUMF research facility in Vancouver and make them part of our narrative. Because this data is in a particular format, we are writing a custom algorithm to access them. At the end of November 2017, I visited Thanassis in Vancouver and took a lot of documentary footage which will be used in interaction with the data.
Simultaneously with the work on the data we started developing the nonlinear narrative structure based on relationships between scientific ideas, philosophy, and society.
I am delighted that I had the opportunity to meet Thanassis thru the SciArt Bridge residency. He has a bright, very open mind and can see the potential of art in connection with fundamental scientific fields. I think this is unique and also powerful position for a scientist.
Our collaboration allowed me to expand my horizons and built on ideas and critical thinking I had been already fostering as part of my Ph.D. research on science, culture, and technology.
To finish our project my institution - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offered me unique opportunity to collaborate with the Tactical Humanities Lab. Right now I am assembling a small team of undergraduate students from Games and Simulation department to help develop the project. We will continue our dialogue with Thanassis, and in April we will present results of our collaboration at the at McMaster University’s McCallion Planetarium, where Thanassis works.
I am thrilled that I was part of this residency and that SciArt enabled such a great opportunity also with the travel funding to visit TRIUMF in Vancouver. Together we will push the borders of Art and science closer, and that could enable us to discover new horizons and impacts of knowledge.
I can’t believe that it has been over six months since I first saw the call for submissions for the
Bridge residency. It was a hot July evening in Vancouver, and I couldn’t stop thinking about
how it would be to work with an artist. I was sure that would be the perfect opportunity to fulfill
that dream of mine and applied without second thoughts. Almost a month passed after that
day and when I got the email that I was matched with Matej I was super excited! Our first
Skype call happened to be during an experiment of mine and I was almost sleepless that day,
though I was so happy to meet both him and Julia. During the next months we had lots of
interesting discussions with Matej, many ideas and at some point our project came to life: a
sci-fi movie about Nuclear Astrophysics. I was really excited that Matej was interested about
my field of research. The highlight of our collaboration so far is definitely our meeting in
Vancouver last November. Even though we stayed couple of days there, we had the chance
to get to know each other better and work towards our project. Matej discussed with many
scientists there, we got interviewed by TRIUMF lab (it will be out soon) and eventually got our
raw audiovisual material for the movie. At the moment we have started editing and we also
work on the story. We hope to be done by this April, to present it at McCallion Planetarium
and potentially to other venues in North America. I hope our collaboration won’t stop with that
project and we might have the chance to create something new in the future. Reflecting back
to that July evening, I’m sure I made the correct choice applying for this residency and I would
definitely recommend it to any researcher. Try collaborating with an artist. It’s an illuminating
and unique experience. Finally, I would like to acknowledge all the effort made by SciArt
Center, and especially Julia who is coordinating this residency. Thanks a lot once again, this
residency has really helped me to develop as a scientist and it was one of the best things that
happened to me last year :)