What happens when ten artists work together with twenty scientists? Wageningen University & Research together with Creative Innovation is searching for innovative ideas within the WUR domains.
The official beginning of Creative Innovation will be on 10 March. A jury has selected ten (novice) artists from 81 applications. Each artist will work together with two scientists for two months on campus. Together they will explore useful innovations that fit into the scientists’ research and education domains. With this project, WUR aims to inspire both researchers and artists to reinforce each other and their domains.
Lana and Marthe Schneider | playField
Emerging system properties & Climate feedbacks (Environmental Science Group & Plant Science Group)
Lana Schneider (°1991, Belgium) is a young visual artist and theater maker, she works in a variety of media; she makes drawings, sculptures and conceptual artworks. Her work directly responds to the surrounding environment. The artist uses data visualization of everyday experiences, framed instances that would otherwise go unnoticed, and different scientific perspectives on the world around her as a starting point.
Marthe Schneider (°1994, Belgium) is a young actress, theater maker and writer. In her work she approaches the tension between fiction and reality by creating performances that reflect on our future perspectives which in a way encourages the audience to revise their current social environment.
Both artists are part of the young art collective playField.
PlayField. explores the boundaries between actor and spectator. Through interactive installations they invite the audience to join a shared experience. From the first invitation to participation onwards, the unscripted dialogue between the audience and the actors, as well as the collective experience, are important for the spectators perception. The outcome of a performance therefore lies not only in the hands of its creators, the spectators are equally responsible in this matter. playField. uses philosophical, sociological, data scientific, astronomical and mathematical research as a starting point to reflect on society and la condition humane. playField. explores these topics by putting the focus on the spectator in a dramaturgy, which combines reality and fiction.
Plants are often considered to be rather passive organisms that make up the green parts of our planet. Do not be fooled! We normally only see their aboveground half, and not how belowground their precious roots scavenge nutrients and water to support life aboveground. In turn, leaves take up CO2 through photosynthesis and release oxygen and water to the atmosphere, processes that influence the climate. As dead leaves return to soil, nutrients in them can be recycled through decomposition and mineralization. The process of decomposition, however, also implies release of CO2 into the atmosphere so that balances between carbon uptake through photosynthesis and carbon release through decomposition and respiration critically depend on factors limiting plant growth like the availability of nutrients and water. Could shifts in this balance, e.g. due to climate change, further increased releases of CO2 en so further enhance global warming?
I believe that design should not be defined over its borders, but in itself be a multidisciplinary approach to improve and challenge current situations. Looking at my physical work it defines me as a product designer, although working on installations jumping between the borders of art and design is something that I enjoy a great deal.
Through design I want to strip away the artifice from the object; it should be an improvement without falsification. What always stays is a big love and fascination for material which is the driving force behind all my work.
Dialogue of inclusion and diversity (Social Science Group & Agro and Food Science Group)
Based in Berlin, Lauryn Mannigel works as an artist, curator, and researcher at the intersection of art, the humanities, and sciences. Born in former East Germany, she received her M.A. in Contemporary Art and New Media from Universite Paris 8 (2009). She uses her artistic practice as a form of knowledge production, which is known as research-creation1. Mannigel primarily explores non-visual perception. Currently, she is investigating the affective perception cognition of body scent.
The main motivation behind my current artistic research is to gain an understanding of the devaluation of body scent. I do so by questioning the social stigma of body odor control and the long-standing repression of human olfactory perception in Western aesthetics (Classen et al. 1994; Le Guerer 2002). In this regard, my artistic research is the first to offer an in-depth insight into the affective perception cognition of human body scent. My work draws from current research in Neuroscience and Neurobiology, which suggests that body scent is vital for navigating human social interaction. Through playful encounters with human body scent, my work thus fosters awareness about the pivotal role body scent plays in communication with others. Contrarily to most experiments in laboratory settings, my method for inquiring into the affective perception cognition of body scent is innovative since it includes the influence of social communication, as well as any condition of a participant. Finally, by providing a valuable insight into contemporary affective perception cognition of human body scent, my work contributes to the building of a classification system for the perception body scent which does not yet exist.
It is generally assumed that diversity and inclusion should be enhanced, but what are the scientific implications of this? Do we actually understand diversity well enough to transform intentions towards inclusion and diversity into practices and numbers and sustain them. What are the barriers we are facing and how can we take them away?
Adaptability of cultures and ecosystems (Social Science Group & Environmental Science Group)
Cody Healey-Conelly is a New York based visual artist working primarily in video and photographic medium. He graduated from Emerson College (Boston, MA) in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts in New Media. While attending Emerson, he first discovered the Netherlands when studying abroad at Kasteel Well. Since that time he has worked professionally in the motion graphics industry for companies such as the New York Times, Yahoo News, Vh1 and BBC America. Artistically, his work has recently been shown at the New York Transit Museum, Vice Magazine’s Motherboard, and the Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival.
Working under the theme of “Adaptability of cultures and ecosystem”, a projection mapped installation will demonstrate to viewers the effects of climate change on a local and global level, as well as explore creative and unconventional ways to combat the negative effects on ecosystems and human cultures. Collaborating with scientists would be essential to learning facts about both local and global hypothetical scenarios about the future impacts of climate change on ecosystems and human culture.
Working with scientists involved with ground-breaking methods of producing more food, would be an excellent starting point for thinking about how to apply lessons learned in Wageningen food production to other areas of the world as ecosystems change.
Both cultures and ecosystems can adapt to changes triggered by internal and external forces. The capacity of any given culture or ecosystem to adapt, however, varies greatly and depends on its intrinsic characteristics and the nature of the forces acting on it. Some ecosystems, such as rocky intertidal areas or fire-prone landscapes, actually rely on disturbance for their very maintenance. By contrast, other ecosystems may be completely devastated or fundamentally altered by similar disturbances. The same is true for cultures: some flourish in the face of change; others disappear. An example of the interaction between the two can be found on isolated oceanic islands. Colonisation of such islands can greatly affect earlier colonisers and ecosystems that mutually adapted to each other over long periods of time. How can social and environmental scientists cooperate to help alleviate adverse environmental effects on local cultures?
Sensing tipping-points in system earth (Environmental Science Group & Agro and Food Science Group)
Since 2012 I have been researching the embodied intelligence inherent to our skin, muscles and bones for new artistic experiences. I am interested in how our sensory mechanisms read the environment through the membrane that wraps the body, how sensations are translated into meaningful information and the somatic, affective and physical implications of these (often social) experiences. At the moment I am pursuing a master study at the Art Sense(s) Lab, in the PXL-MAD School of Arts, Hasselt, Belgium (graduating in July 2018). My master project relates our tactile sensations of weight, balance and lightness with Gravity and ultimately the invisible forces that connect us to Earth.
The sense of Touch has been profoundly ignored by Western sciences also underrepresented in Art History ever since Antiquity. Urban modern societies have become increasingly audio-visual oriented, forgetting that humans are equipped with more senses than the eyes and the ears. The sense of Touch is a generalisation for many abilities embedded in our skin and muscles. Through a complex web of skin receptors, we feel pressure, vibration, temperature, pain, movement and perhaps even other sensations. The domain of Touch also conveys fundamental aspects of social and psychological human experience, such as proximity, risk, intimacy and empathy. By enhancing our ability to touch the others (organic or inorganic), we may be improving and/or discovering other modes of communication, learning and/or understanding the dynamics of our planet.
Both system Earth and its constituent ecosystems are normally in some form of equilibrium. Disturbances in conditions (climate, nutrient run-off, fine dust emissions) can result in big changes that affect species and communities. Tipping points refer to sudden, drastic changes in environmental conditions and species composition and abundances, and ultimately lead to a new equilibrium. The dynamic fluxes of energy and matter and the cycles of life and death can often be considered to be in a stable equilibrium, where losses and gains keep each other in check. Long-term or sudden disturbances can tip the fragile balances out of equilibrium, causing sudden declines in diversity, in ecosystem functioning and in the climate. Predicting when these tipping points are bound to happen is an important research theme; can we detect early warning signals for tipping points?
Life changing micro biomes (Agro Food Science Group & Plant Science Group)
Charlie Williams is an artist working with electronics, sound, software and video. His practice combines the physical (welding, soldering, woodworking) with the intangible (coding, composing, mixing) to create meaning through new combinations. Although technical in nature, the focus of the work is on the emotional experience or journey it can provide.
“Micro biomes” often can be harnessed to provide “value” to humans (bacteria eating oil spills, or fermenting food), but what does it mean to extract value from a pre-existing mutualistic arrangement? Are we contributing to these biomes as well, or merely exploiting them? Might other human activity interfere with our ability to continue profiting from these micro-organisms? What is it like to be in a symbiotic relationship? What does horizontal gene transfer feel like?
Plants have colonized land thanks to symbiosis with fungi. With the help of bacterial symbionts, cows can degrade cellulose-rich plant material for their food supply. And termites have been able to colonize dry, hot savannahs thanks to the symbiotic fungi they cultivate, which provides them, among other things, with air-conditioning conditions. Moreover, microbiomes can be tuned to provide services in nature and society. For example, by creating the proper environmental conditions (oxygen levels, pH, nutrient concentration, temperature), microbiomes can be used to clean wastewater, to recover energy from waste, or to recover nutrients from wastewater for reuse in agriculture. Many more examples can be listed and one can wonder what are the limits to the possibilities of the uses of microbiomes?
Arvid Jense & Marie Caye
Ethics & Genetics (Animal Science Group and Agro & Food Science Group)
Our artist duo is composed of Arvid Jense (MSc designer, programmer, NL) and Marie Caye (BA visual artist, designer, FR) collaborating since 2015 to combine technological expertise with critical thinking (see CVs below). Together, we would be extremely interested to take part in your residency program to continue developing our work. Through our practice we have experienced the advantage of combining our skills and ideas. We strongly believe in the value of practical research on philosophical and provocative questions; in our work we confront reality to get to a truth.
Our explorations into design for the non-human led to the creation of SAM, the Symbiotic Autonomous Machine. This autonomous robot is the association of a machine and bacteria/yeast culture, able to produce its own income by selling fermented beverages and thus able to survive in the human economic world. SAM is both alive and intelligent, but can it ever be seen on an equal basis with working citizens? With SAM we were able to research several of the implications of economically autonomous machines: can we create a non-profit food production system with autonomous robots? If such an autonomous entity participates in the economy, pays taxes and so on, which status do we give this entity? Should our legal system include autonomous machines and to which extend?
Currently the possibilities of genetic manipulation are increasing at a tremendous rate. This will bring scientific progress and may help to create new medicines, and crops resistant to pests and diseases. But how far can we go in this respect? Where are the boundaries, ethically speaking?
Understanding and using evolution to increase resilience (Animal Science Group & Environmental Science Group)
Gionata Gatto (Italy, 1982) is a designer, currently working from Rotterdam, the Netherlands. His approach to design is firmly connected to the objective of questioning the significance of daily-life products, resulting in narrative investigations related to production processes, materials, artefacts and services. The projects of the studio are often perceived by the public as evocative tools and proponents of engagement and dialogues.
The focus of my recent work is on human-plant interaction, particularly the ways in which vegetal life can be actively integrated in interaction design processes. During the last three years of my doctoral research I was given the opportunity to explore possible new meanings for design in the context of trans-disciplinary environments, with a focus on the emerging intersections between design, biology and sensing technologies. Challenging the role of the designer as a mediator of possible futures, in my PhD thesis I explore how intersections of disciplines facilitate alternative modes of deploying scientific and artistic knowledge. Geomerce, one of my recent works, discusses this, alongside with accounts of human-plant interaction. In doing so, the project wants to reveal that a collaborative future can only exist if we learn to foster non-anthropocentric visions of life where mutualism emerges as a condition of working, a necessary ‘prerequisite’ to address future global changes.
Evolution is the driving force behind all biodiversity, from viruses and bacteria to plants and animals. Natural selection, one mechanism of evolution helps to ensure that organisms are well adapted to their environment. But what happens when environments change faster than their inhabitants can adapt? For millennia humans have employed artificial selection to domesticate plants and animals. Some scientists even think we can domesticate disease-causing organisms to make them harmless.
Can we harness evolutionary processes such as selection to increase resilience in the face of accelerating global change?
Big Data & Fake Data (Social Science Group & Plant Science Group)
I am interested in how we perceive land: how we romanticise, translate and define urban and rural spaces. I look at how politics, ownership, management and commercial value all influence our surroundings and have made extensive investigations into the impact of human activities on nature and the environment. Air pollution, water quality, invasive plant species, weeds, bees and weather are all subjects my work has dealt with previously with the results taking the form of installations, interventions, habitat creation, drawings, maps and walks. Most recently I was invited to Montalvo, California where I was researching extreme weather episodes and connected to scientists at NASA Ames Research Centre, Stanford University and UC Berkeley.
Gathering information from members of the public and experts alike is important to my practice. In the past I have worked alongside botanist Owen Mountford from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology; anthropologist Dr Andrew Whitehouse at the University of Aberdeen; honorary curator of bees, wasps and ants Carl Clee at the Museum of Liverpool; ecologist Richard Scott from Landlife and geologist Alan Bowring from Brecon Beacons National Park.
The term big data refers to our recently acquired capability to rapidly collect and store extremely large quantities of data from all aspects of life –where we travel, whom we meet and what/and with whom we communicate, what genetic traits we have and how these relate to our health. Big data are stored and distributed around the world, and may present sensitive and valuable information, for example for governments, security organizations, or healthcare providers. Manipulation or misinterpretation of big data can lead to fake data that may have an immense and lasting impact on individuals or society. The access and ownership of these data is a delicate issue. How do we balance transparency so that our data are available and useful for other scientists, while also protecting the data collectors intellectual property and any potentially sensitive information?
Erik Overmeire & Kasia Molga
Interconnectivity of plants and animals (Animal Science Group & Plant Science Group)
“World Wilder Lab” (Kasia Molga & Erik Overmeire) is a platform focusing on inter and intra species communication. We work on the intersection of art, science, design and technology to facilitate artistic expression for biological entities, have a dialogue with nature & promote the notion of collaboration & partnership with natural systems. We do so by making art installations, tools and workshops, so that through our work we can introduce all living organisms - such as plants, microbes or corals - as creative constituents of our environment. We advocate the open source soft-, wet-, bio- and hard- ware technologies and investigate how those technologies can become agents between human culture and other living organisms; how we can empower people to explore natural systems around us and learn technology from nature; how we can embrace other entities into what we call “culture”; and how we can alter our attitudes towards other living organisms to consider them as equal co-designers of our mutual habitats. We believe that art and positive narrative can expose those concepts to the wider audience and help to shape our attitude towards the future.
Animals and plants – among others – inhabit the earth and are crucial for human survival. Animals and plants are tightly linked. For example, animals depend on the oxygen fixed by plants during photosynthesis, while plants require carbon dioxide that is produced by animals. Over hundreds of millions of years of evolution animals and plants co-adjusted their physiology, their mode of reproduction, their feeding habits, their niches – an interconnection that cannot be broken. However, production systems with increased specialisation and artificial production of mineral nutrients partly decoupled the interconnectivity. How will the future look like, further decoupling or tighter coupling or just a different kind of coupling?