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04.06.2015 // The Art + Science of Craft Beer @ Brooklyn Brewery

On April 6th, ArtLab proudly partnered with Brooklyn Brewery to host an evening exploring the magic + mystery behind crafting the perfect brew. With Brooklyn Brewmaster Garret Oliver—a former filmmaker—we took a deep dive into a drink that helped establish civilization itself, and then sustained it for thousands of years: beer. Today’s craft brewing is a perfect blend of scientific stringency and pure creative energy, where art is a constant inspiration.

Garrett gave ArtLabbers a unique behind-the-scenes look at how Brooklyn Brewery transforms humble ingredients and ornery microbes into a vast array of delicious flavors. For a quick recap of the evening’s insights, enjoy the above video courtesy of New Learning Times—a series about innovative learning opportunities produced by EdLab at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

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04.25.2014 // Big Green Theater

On Friday, April 25th, ArtLab proudly joined the Big Green Theater Festival to celebrate the intersection between environmental education and creativity in honor of Earth Week. Following a special performance of this year’s eco-inspired Big Green Theater plays, ArtLab sat down with director Jeremy Pickard, The Bushwick Starr’s creative director Noel Joseph Allain, and BGT guest environmental scientists Dr. Jennifer Jacquet + Dr. Katherine Alfredo for a conversation exploring our ecological relationship with food and water and the role of the arts in enhancing science education. Please enjoy audio from the evening’s discussion below!

Now in its fourth year, Big Green Theater [BGT] is a community-based program that brings theater professionals and environmental researchers into Bushwick’s PS123’s 5th-grade classroom to develop a series of original environmentally themed plays. A collaborative effort between eco-theater collective Superhero Clubhouse [SHC] and nonprofit theater The Bushwick Starr, BGT at once promotes environmental awareness while providing students with a creative outlet for the exploration of ecological concepts and concerns. The resulting plays are performed in an annual Big Green Theater festival by an ensemble of professional actors, directors, and designers using green theater methods.

BGT Photo

From start to finish, Big Green Theater epitomizes the many merits of weaving the arts into science education. Coming from a science background, what struck me most about the evening’s conversation was how much the eco-experts actually gained from working in the BGT classroom. Discussing scientific research to a room of 10-11-year-olds posed an interesting challenge in and of itself, forcing them to pare back the jargon and plan a lesson that was both informative and engaging. But incorporating the tools of the theater trade—the warm-ups, the hands-on participation, the performative elements—served to ease the transition from the Ivory tower to the 5th-grade classroom, while fostering a more active + collaborative environment than a traditional lecture-based science class. Drawing these youngsters into a creative conversation about their relationship with the planet had the added benefit of providing further insights into how to grow the public discussion about these ecological concerns by talking about the science behind them in a productive and meaningful way.

I am still in complete awe of the resulting plays themselves—how they brought to life the spirit and unique perspective that can only manifest in the mind of a 5th-grader. From our role in climate change to our devastating impact on the planet’s long-standing ecological systems, environmental science is laden with hard truths that we as adults, so prone to guilt, often shy away from. So to see these young playwrights grappling with these ideas to create their own stories is incredibly inspiring. Rather than simply regurgitating facts, they have fashioned ecological concerns—from colony collapse disorder to water pollution—into tales of bees facing alien abduction and oysters hell-bent on revenge. But what’s more, they’ve infused their own distinctive voices, personalities, and preoccupations into the characters. In so doing, these students have managed to actually insert themselves into the environmental issues at hand, crafting stories that simultaneously reflect their relationship to the BGT’s eco-lesson and mirror their relationships with each other + their community.

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Many thanks again to Big Green Theater for inviting ArtLab into their incredible festival and sharing their insights + experiences with us. To learn more about their program, be sure to check out their official website here. And with that, I’ll leave you with my favorite quote of the evening from BGT director Jeremy Pickard:

Really soon into it, the students realize that this program is about them. It’s not about us or the state curriculum; it’s about them. And that is connected to the way we talk about environmental information in the world. If we think that we should change our lives and our perspective for someone else, it’s not going to happen. But if it’s about us—if the story is about us—then change happens.

About Our Guests

pickardJeremy Pickard is the founder and captain of Superhero Clubhouse for which he has written and directed over a dozen productions including his signature series of ecology-inspired Planet Plays. In addition to acting as lead artist on Big Green Theater, Jeremy has collaborated with climate scientists to create site-specific performances at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a project commissioned by PositiveFeedback and Columbia University’s Earth Institute. In honor of Earth Month, he is currently documenting his April-long quest to not throw anything away, in a weekly eblast you can subscribe to here!

jacquetDr. Jennifer Jacquet is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at NYU. She is an environmental scientist interested in human cooperation, with specific interests in overfishing and climate change. Her book about the evolution, function, and future of the use of social disapproval, Is Shame Necessary?, is due out in early 2015. She formerly wrote the Guilty Planet blog at Scientific American, and now contributes to Edge.org. This year, she spoke to BGT students about our impact on trophic cascades and marine food webs.

noel_allainNoel Joseph Allain is the Artistic Director + co-founder of The Bushwick Starr, an Obie Award winning non profit theater that presents an annual Season of new work in theater, dance, and puppetry. As Artistic Director of the Starr, he has presented over 50 companies in the last 5 years and served hundreds of artists. Noel created Big Green Theater with the Starr’s Executive Director Sue Kessler as part of the theater’s commitment to contributing to the local community’s environmental awareness through a creative and interactive process.

Dr. Katherine Alfredo is a Columbia University Earth Institute Postdoctoral Fellow. Katherine’s research interests center on drinking water issues in rural, developing areas of the world. She is currently working with Upmanu Lall, director of the Columbia Water Center, on fluoride and arsenic drinking water issues in India. This year, she spoke to BGT students about international water problems like flooding and drought, and led the students in constructing homemade water filter on a budget of $5.

The Living Museum: Mental Illness Meets Art

In here, nous sommes tous les indésireables—we are all undesirables—but that is not our problem but yours, the spectator from outside. ∇Δ Bolek Greczynski

Once a cafeteria, Building 75 at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center now houses one of the most extraordinary collections of art I have ever seen. Known as The Living Museum, the 40,000-square-foot space is covered from floor to [very lofty] ceiling with the work of over 500 past + present artists-in-residence—all of them patients with mental illness.

Prior to my visit, my only experience with mental illness was through stories I’d heard from friends or via my rampant consumption of popular media. In all honesty, I arrived at Creedmoor’s expansive and remote campus, located in the far reaches of Queens, with more than a hint of discomfort. But on entering that space, surrounded on all sides by unique works of art, all my hesitation fell away. Instead, I became eager to chat with the museum’s artists about their work. Their psychiatric state was immediately irrelevant to me, except in the sense that, for many of them, their symptoms were a prime source of creative inspiration. Indeed, that very shift in perspective—that reidentification from mentally ill to chronically creative—lies at the heart of an arts asylum like The Living Museum.

Building 75 was converted into an arts studio for Creedmoor’s patients in 1983 by psychologist Dr. Janos Marton and artist Bolek Greczynski. By providing patients with the space and resources to create art, Greczynski and Marton encouraged those suffering from mental illness to view their afflictions not as a limitation, but rather as a creative advantage. 

The pair was inspired by the work of Austrian psychiatrist Leo Navratil, who founded what became the Gugging House of Artists—a residential house in which artistically talented patients with mental illness came to live and make art together. Navratil’s work seamlessly wove into the rise of Outsider Art, or Art Brut, which grappled with the nature of individual self-expression and the conventions of mainstream art. The Gugging artists thus found fame—and more importantly, acceptance—in this world of Art Brut as interest in and appreciation of the relationship between mental illness and artistic creativity grew.

Following the Gugging model, Marton and Greczynski sought to create an arts asylum of their own at Creedmoor. Rather than viewing the creation of art as a form of therapy in the traditional sense, the pair believed that the patients at Creedmoor could come to reinvent themselves as creatives… who just so happen to be mentally ill. In fact, Marton asserts that his colleague’s greatest strength was that Greczynski never saw the museum’s artists-in-residence as mentally ill, remaining singularly concerned with the quality of their artistic output.

Before his passing in 1994, Greczynski often suggested: “Use your vulnerabilities as a weapon,” which remains the museum’s guiding mantra almost twenty years later. Now under the directorship of Dr. Marton, the museum’s sole employee, The Living Museum remains dedicated to fostering the creative spirit of its 100-or-so current artists-in-residence. On visiting the museum, which is open to the public by appointment, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Dr. Marton. Below, you can read more about his experiences with The Living Museum and his insights into the interrelatedness of mental health and creativity.

What is the guiding philosophy behind The Living Museum?

We’re not doing anything else but turning people into artists. The therapeutic goal is that you change your identity from a mental patient to a mentally ill artist. Our philosophy here is more a practical, pragmatic one—that it gives you the identity. And if you think of yourself as a mentally ill artist—as a painter, as a video artist, as a poet—that’s a much more comfortable identity than that of a mental patient. And that’s a huge leap in terms of healing.

The foundation for that philosophy is that there are two symptoms of mental illness that most people are not aware of, and these two principles are the foundation for The Living Museum. First, extreme creativity and mental illness overlap; it’s almost a symptom of mental illness. And the second part, which is absolutely unknown to most people—especially to those who work with mentally ill people—is that mentally ill people are nice. So these two aspects are the foundation for an art asylum. Processed with VSCOcam with se3 preset There’s this old question of whether all artists are crazy or touched in some way. What is your take on the relationship between mental illness and creativity, especially given your own experiences with The Living Museum?

I would think that what I was saying about extreme creativity and mental illness works the other way around. I think that all artists have neurodiversity happening in their brains, and if they don’t, I would bet they cheat with drugs and alcohol. Navratil believed his dozen or so artists would be great artists even if they did not have mental illness. I don’t think that’s the case. With the mentally ill, there are a number of pedestrian factors that contribute to this creative artistic output.

One of them is just time. Patients have too much time on their hands, so institutions are always forced to fill their time and keep them occupied. And time is something that you really need for art. In fact, Malcolm Gladwell brought up the 10,000 hours of happy activity to become a genius. I believe in that. You become very good at what you do constantly. So people who come here and create day-in and day-out become incredibly good at their craft. In a way, what we do here is a solution for the mental health field because once you are caught by the bug and the idea that you are an artist, the only thing you want to do is create create create. It’s so satisfying and so essential to your life.

Another factor is that great art—versus decorative or political art—is the art that remains relevant hundreds of years from now. And great art is created in that ahistoric, mythical space where you hear voices and you literally meet Jesus. It’s not created in the here-and-now. Here, mental illness is a great advantage because you truly have that experience of the space where the angels fly. I would put down my money even in this mythical domain, that art is in that privileged sphere where you are hearing the voices and you are handicapped ultimately.

Another aspect that makes creativity important is the issue of trauma, of PTSD. When you are hurt, when you are under attack, when you are an outsider—that motivates people. People with mental illness certainly qualify; they experience a lot of hardship and discrimination and rejection and that requires from them a song. There’s this line in a Jimmy Cliff song: “’Cause the wicked carried us away in captivity required from us a song.” So that type of suppression is a good fuel for art.

The word “asylum” in the context of mental health has become a really touchy word, so it’s really interesting and refreshing that you’ve reclaimed it here as a safe and utopian space. Could you elaborate more on the idea of an art asylum and its place in the mental health field?

Mental health policies are generally integrationist, and the asylum is always considered historically bad because it was based on segregationist ideas. But the old asylums had some good positive qualities. So we try to revitalize that and take the good aspects of the old asylums. The idea here is to provide protection and the recognition that mentally ill people are different. Mental illness isn’t like breaking your leg where you go into rehab and you recover and you run a marathon again. Mental illness is chronic and mentally ill people are traumatized people. Loved ones—not just society—reject the mentally ill and that is a big trauma. So it is great to have utopian spaces where your mental illness is not the issue because everybody has it. You can concentrate on other things instead—like your work.

And there’s also the idea of protection, which does not mean you can’t be out in the world if you can handle it. But once you’re not able to handle it, it’s always good to come back to a safe space that belongs to you. I am convinced that this should be the future for the situation of people with mental illness. The big asylums are downsizing in terms of numbers and most importantly in terms of buildings and real estate. So in my mind, instead of selling off these buildings or giving them away, they should reserve this real estate for Living Museum-style art asylums because it works so well. It’s a very inexpensive of protecting people and providing them with meaning.

How would you distinguish art therapy from what happens here?

I think this is something that is misunderstood a great deal in the art therapy community. In my mind, the biggest difference between what art therapy does and what we do here is a legal difference. The most important aspect of any therapy is confidentiality—that we have a contract that whatever happens here between us remains confidential. So artwork that is produced in the context of therapy shouldn’t really be exhibited. It should remain a part of the process. But at The Living Museum that does not exist. Here, you publish things, you go out in the open, you use your own name. I encourage people to do that. So it’s not a therapeutic contractual agreement.

This is more work rehab and less of a psych therapy program. Just because making art is good for you does not mean it’s therapeutic. So there’s a confusion of terms and a problem with the paradigms. You might be enjoying our conversation right now, but this is not therapy. It might make you feel good and it might make you feel good about what you’re doing, but that’s not dealing with your inner demons.

A common criticism of medication that I hear often is that it has this numbing effect that seems counter-productive for creativity. But the artists at The Living Museum are encouraged to keep up with their medication, so it must not be so black and white. Could you share your thoughts on the relationship between medication and creativity?

While the criticism might have some foundation, my experience over these 30 years is that if you have severe chronic mental illness, medication is the bottom line. You have to take it. So we embrace medication here because it works. My experience has been that each person is really different and each person has to be taken at his or her own case. For some patients, medication takes away their particular form of art. But for many patients, it doesn’t tamper with their creativity. It depends very much on what kind of work you are doing.

One patient, for example, channels Beethoven’s spirit, but when he’s stable, the spirit of Beethoven is not communing with him. Or, there’s a woman and God or Jesus appears to her physically and she is inspired to write a spiritual song. The music that she writes is authentic religious music. But when she’s stable, Jesus doesn’t appear to her, and so she doesn’t have that motivation. Though she can still perform her songs—and perform much better—when she is stable.

Again, mental illness is not a dichotomous thing where you have it or you don’t. It is a continuum. In my opinion, the best definition of mental illness is the inability to tolerate stress. That’s much better than any of these scientific definitions in the DSM. When you are psychotic there is very little you can do; you’re happy to be surviving. So my experience has been that when people are off their medication and they are unstable, they can create very interesting work. But it just might not be worth it.


Major hat tip to Heather McKellar, program coordinator at the NYU Neuroscience Institute, who organized a screening of The Living Museum—a documentary following six of the museum’s artists directed by Academy Award Winning documentarian Jessica Yu—for 2014’s Brain Awareness Week. Enjoy a trailer for the film below.

Photographs taken by Maryam Zaringhalam.

danceroom Spectroscopy: Waltzing through the Invisible World

At its most basic, science is a quest to understand the invisible forces that underlie everything from our emotions to our planet’s inevitable orbit around the sun. These forces are fundamentally dictated by the dynamics of an invisible world—of atoms and molecules vibrating, of tiny bonds breaking and forming. But given that human perception is restricted to the observable world, all we can know are the consequences of these forces at work—that an apple loosed from a tree will fall downwards or that a single fertilized egg will reliably divide and morph into a little human being over nine months.

Scientists go through years of training in order to imagine the world that stretches beyond the realm of our five senses, developing techniques, formulas, and models to give us insights into this world. But scientific ways of knowing, while deeply embedded in empiricism, are still to a large extent a translation of these invisible forces into the observable world of experimentation and data collection. The best we can do is to develop an intuition for these unseeable forces and rigorously test that intuition against our scientific method.

But what if you could actually inhabit the invisible world? What would it be like to witness and engage with the collection of atoms that form the molecules that form the complex structures that make your macro self and surroundings?

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danceroom Spectroscopy dome installed in Brunel’s Passenger Shed. Photo by Paul Blakemore

danceroom Spectroscopy [dS] is an interactive simulation of what it could be like to wander the nano-quantum world. Recruiting the power of a supercomputer and the rigor of quantum mechanics, dS uses data collected from 3D motion capture to solve the equations of motion for up to 40,000 atoms, transforming humans into dynamic energy fields. The result is captivating: an immersive sonic + visual environment sculpted by users’ individual movements and their interaction with surrounding fields of energy.

The language of science is laden with the language of aesthetics—the beauty of a question, the elegance of a theory, the symmetry of a structure. But this particular brand of beauty typically takes years of scientific training to appreciate, which is what makes danceroom Spectroscopy so incredibly powerful and exciting. By experimenting + engaging with their energy fields, participants can gain an intuitive sense for complex molecular physics principles as they witness themselves immediately influencing them. In so doing, dS effectively brings to life the equations and theories that populate the pages of our often dull + dry 2D textbooks.

Conceived by chemical physicist David Glowacki, danceroom Spectroscopy launched in Spring 2011 with a large-scale exhibition at Bristol’s Arnolfini Centre for Contemporary Arts. Since then, dS has been implemented in educating the general public, furthering advanced research projects, and has even woven its way into dance with Hidden Fields—a multi-award winning performance using the beauty of dance to illuminate the invisible dynamic world.

Above, take a peek into Hidden Fields 2013 performance, which was most recently performed at ZKM Centre for Arts and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. And below, enjoy ArtLab’s Q+A with Dr. Glowacki as he shares his insights into artistry + the invisible and what science can gain from art.

Over the last few years, danceroom Spectroscopy has found applications in everything from education to research to dance performance. But where did the original seed of the idea to create dS come from?

The real reason I started dS is that I just never knew what to tell people about my research. And also, a lot of the problems I work on are just so abstract. So while in principle if we could crack these problems, we could solve anything, I just have no idea whether or not it’s actually feasible to imagine that we’ll crack them in my lifetime. But still, I had always been overwhelmed by the beauty of what I was doing. So I thought if I could just show it to people, and if they thought it was beautiful too, that would at least be some validation for all the stuff that I’m working on. Even if I can’t solve all the problems I claim I’ll be able to solve in my research, the validation would lie in the fact that people would think, “Oh, that’s really beautiful and cool.”

But the fact was, I didn’t have anything tangible or nice to show anybody about the last six years I’d spent doing research—just papers that no one was going to understand. I thought, well I better make something so that I would at least have pictures to show people that they might find compelling. And ultimately, the content that you can learn with something like what we’ve made—and so quickly—is amazing! I can condense a whole semester’s worth of material into one hour with dS and you’ll have an intuitive feel for so many different physical principles.

Just watching Hidden Fields, I’m amazed at how much faster—and actually better—I can grasp those physical principles than when I was learning about them in textbooks and lectures. There’s something really intuitive and immediate about translating these concepts into a more artistic language.

One of the most fun things about the process was sitting down with these artists and just figuring out a shared vocabulary we could use to talk about the project. Because this is a physics simulation, the code has all these equations that don’t mean anything to the dancers or the artists. At the same time, they have their own dance vocabulary for how they talk about motion. So we spent a lot of time talking about the interconnections between the vocabulary of physics and the vocabulary of dance. Lots and lots of talking. I’ve become so much better at communicating what I’m doing as a result of being forced to talk about it to all these people all the time.

When you’re imagining the invisible world of molecules or atoms, you don’t have a clue what they look like. No one knows what an atom looks like and no one knows what a molecule looks like. So your invention of what they look like is purely an artistic leap—and it has to be good artistry if it’s going to be effective for communication. To be able to construct visual representations for our eyes of something that is way beyond our human sensory domain, that’s an artistic and imaginative endeavor.

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Hidden Fields. Photo by Paul Blakemore

People make a divide between science and art, but the future is going to show us very rapidly that there is no divide. This word—scientist—is a really new word in intellectual history that only came into existence around 100 years ago. If you even go back to the late 1800s, people that did what you and I call science called themselves natural philosophers. And the idea of a natural philosopher is that you’re a philosopher, so you’re interested in different forms of knowledge, but there’s this systematic method of gaining information about nature that you tend to adopt because it’s pretty good. Calling yourself a philosopher, a ‘lover of knowledge’, is way less limiting than what we now think of as a modern scientist. Immanuel Kant would call himself a natural philosopher. Newton. Faraday. So the word is part of the problem because it forces you to think about yourself in a way that’s tied to modern institutional structures.

How has this project affected your own research, in terms of the scientific questions you’re interested in asking and your approach to actually answering them?

My research has taken some new directions that I never expected. Now we’re working with dancers to use their motion to manipulate proteins, which has been really exciting and a real, serious research project. So we’re working with the idea that now we can use all these algorithms and technologies we’ve developed to get people to manipulate proteins in a way that’s a lot faster than a computer would be able to manipulate them just using iterative blind search algorithms. In fact, I just wrote a paper showing that human users can accelerate a protein dynamics simulation by a factor of almost 10,000!

Before this project I was more of a pure theorist in that I would worry about equations and methods. I was less concerned with the computer science side, even though I would simulate everything on a computer. This project has really forced me to get up to speed with the state-of-the-art in computer science, which has actually driven things massively forward in my science research. And that just came from worrying about how to make a really good art piece! It’s definitely got me thinking about how it might be possible to have a more holistic relationship between the different disciplines—producing work on the cutting edge of research science and also the cutting edge of arts practice.


Major hat tip to Columbia University’s CUrioisty3 series, where I first heard Dr. Glowacki speak about his incredible project. To learn more about danceroom Spectroscopy, be sure to peruse the official website. To stay up-to-date on the latest + greatest from this project, Like on Facebook // follow on Twitter!

Of Brain Games + Space Jams: Jan 24th Weekly Roundup

Highlight of the Week: Dolphin Dance Project

“When you approach dolphins with dance, they recognize it as intelligence.”

Conceived by dance educator + musculoskeletal research scientist Chisa Hidaka, the Dolphin Dance Project brings humans and wild dolphins together in a collaborative + improvised underwater dance for film. Incredibly, the dolphins dance of their own free will, engaging in a cross-species movement-based conversation, without the temptation of a treat or reward, inspiring respect for the intelligence and beauty of underwater life. As someone who has become increasingly concerned about the state of our oceans + our impact on life underwater, this project has really resonated with me since I first learned about it at Cursiosity3’s Dance in Art + Science event last week. For more video and information, visit the Dolphin Dance Project online here!

Tweeter’s Digest

sweet selections brought to you by my twitter feed

The sound of space: Voyager provides music from solar system and beyond by Samuel Gibbs [@guardiantech]

Data visualization is all the rage this day, but Domenico Vicinanza, project manager at Géant—Europe’s high-speed data network powering Cern + the Large Hadron Collider—has translated data from NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 into music that’s out of this world!

Science Goes to the Movies: ‘Her’ [@SciFri]

On this edition of Science Friday, scientist film critics weigh on on Spike Jonze’s latest film, Her: the story of a man who falls hard for his operating system, adding a new dimension to *technophilia*!

Dreamcasters: how video games alter our subconscious by Katie Drummond [@verge]

Intrigued by her son’s video-gaming hobby, psychologist Jayne Gackenbach investigates the effects of hardcore gaming on dreaming + the unconscious: “The major parallel between gaming and dreaming is that, in both instances, you’re in an alternate reality… It’s interesting to think about how these alternate realities translate to waking consciousness, when you are actually reacting to inputs from the real world.”

Review: Auditory Hallucinations, Composed by Ajai Raj [@TheScientistLLC]

The music in your head. Stanford music professor Jonathan Berger transports audiences into the world of imagined sound with Visitations—a pair of one-act chamber operas inspired by the science + sensation of auditory hallucinations.

Brain Games: Move Objects With Your Mind To Find Inner Calm? by Amy Standen [@NPRAllTech]

Playing with brainwaves: the rise of commercially available EEG headsets a la Emotiv + NeuroSky’s MindWav Mobile has made for some pretty awesome projects—from Orbit brain-controlled helicopter to funky//fresh NeuroDisco.

The Art of Science: Hiroshi Sugimoto Gets Right to the (Infinity) Point by Michelle Banks [@finchandpea]

Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto sculpts his way to the infinity point, artfully modeling equation for a surface containing a single point extended to infinity in his piece Mathematical Model 009 [below].

Hiroshi Sugimoto. Mathematical Model 009 [2006]

Dance, Factors, Dance: A Variation On Yorgey’s Factorization Diagrams by Stephen Von Worley [@DataPointed]

Inspired by Yorgey’s factorization diagrams, DataPointed artist + scientist Stephen Von Worley crafted the Factor Conga: “a promenade of primes, composites, and their constituents” breaking numbers down into their prime factors.

Talk Piece: Modes Of Perception And Communication Discussed At NYC Leonardo LASER by Ashley P. Taylor [@SciArtinAmerica]

How can we take advantage of all our senses? SciArt in America thoughtfully recaps the work and discussion presented at last week’s NYC Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous [LASER]—featuring artist-activist Eve Mosher, installation artist Nina Yankowitz, communication + perception researcher Mark Paterson, and New York-based artist Sherry Mayo.

Beauty and the Brain [@BBCRadio4]

What can the brain tell us about art? Can there ever be a recipe for beauty? Or are the great works beyond the powers of neuroscience? BBC Radio 4 explores the world of neuroesthetics.

SciArt in the City

01.27.2014 – SciArt Speed Date // Collaborate // 7:30pm @ The West

Beer, Brooklyn, breaking boundaries. ArtLab + SciArt in America have joined forces to co-opt the speed date format as artists + scientists pair off in a series of conversations geared towards creating cross-disciplinary collaborative connections. If you’re interested in participating as a “dater,” be sure to email me. Or if you’re just curious, stop by and say hello!

01.29.2014 + 01.30.2014 – CULTUREMART 2014: Science Fair // 7pm @ HERE

Science Fair is an opera-singer’s love-song to the scientific worldview. Conceived and performed by mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn, and featuring pianist Mila Henry, Science Fair melds Science and Opera into a witty evening of songs, slides, and live experiments.

Through 03.02.2014 – Science Inspires Art: The Cosmos @ New York Hall of Science

View images from ASCI’s 15th Annual international competition and exhibition. These stunning images relate to astronomy, space exploration, extra-terrestrials and the nature of matter or time in relation to universal laws.

My Pic of the Week

metastasis of music
The Metastasis of Music. These cancerous vinyls by artist Jasmine Murrell were inspired by cancer researcher Dr. Scott Lowe’s work. The piece was showcased at the Ligo Project’s Art of Science Gallery Night as one of four works to come out of six-month long collaborations between artists and scientists. For more information, be sure to check out Ligo’s Facebook page!


Got an article or event at the interfaces of art and science? Care to share? Just tweet @thisisartlab or email me!

12.10.2013 // Film + the Unconscious

On December 10th, ArtLab presented Film + the Unconscious: a conversation between cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Heather Berlin and filmmaker Alexandra Stergiou. Through moderated discussion and audience participation, the evening explored what happens in our brains as we watch our favorite films: how does film portray the way we think and dream? How can filmmakers appeal to the unconscious to strike a mood or evoke emotion? What is the neuroscience behind some of filmmaking’s oldest tricks?

Still craving more neuroscience insight? Enjoy this clip of Heather fielding a question from the audience about why filmmakers dream in film.

about the guests

Heather-Berlin-webHeather Berlin is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Using neuroimaging techniques, she explores the complex interactions of the human brain with the goal of improving treatment for impulsive and compulsive psychiatric disorders. She is also interested in the neural basis of consciousness and unconscious processes. An avid science communicator, Heather has appeared as a featured scientist on the Discovery Channel’s Superhuman Showdown and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio, while sharing her work with live audiences at local events including the Secret Science Club and Lucid NYC.

4856_789965730189_4898480_nAlexandra Stergiou is a New York-based filmmaker. A graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, she landed in Brooklyn where she worked at Vice as Associate Producer on the cult TV show, The Vice Guide to Everything. Serving as director and cinematographer on numerous productions, her films have screened across the U.S., being honored by the Columbus International Film and Video Festival (Chris Award for Humanities), New York University’s First Run Film Festival (Wasserman Finalist, Award for Achievement in Documentary, National Board of Review Student Award Nominee), and the Jesse Thompkins III Foundation (Emerging Storyteller Award).


Many thanks to The West for hosting Film + the Unconscious. Stay tuned for more events from ArtLab: The Series!