What happens when you put science & art together?

We want to understand how science can benefit from art and vice versa. That is why we brought these enticing science & art collaborations on stage at Techfestival and opened the discussion.

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How do you make people understand how microscopic air particles work? How do you show what effect climate change has on the air we breathe? These are questions artist Josefina Nelimarkka has pursued to answer in her exhibition Kairos, recently presented at Helsinki Art Museum.

On September 8th, Nelimarkka and climate researcher Stephany Mazon stood on stage at Copenhagen’s Techfestival to showcase the work they did together to give rise to Nelimarkka’s exhibition. “I rarely plan the outcome of my work beforehand”, says Nelimarkka who took a deep plunge into the world of climate sciences at Hyytiälä forest station just to understand how air particles work.  

Stephany Mazon was one of the scientists who helped her gain an understanding.

“Josefina wanted to know all about the science. Her questions were intriguing. She asked things that we often take for granted in the lab, such as the shape and form of the air particles.”

Mazon thinks art is a great companion for science as it can help to increase understanding of difficult topics.

“It is easier to get people to feel something through art than through science. If someone becomes interested in the art, they can ask me for the science.”

Nelimarkka finds it important to create art that shows people all the great research that is being made around big issues such as climate change. In her work she uses real-time data from Hyytiälä forest station to describe the current quality of air. “The more you know and see, the more solutions you have.”

Reetta Rönkä & Stephany Buenrostro Mazon
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The future of robots lies in the minds of the artists

With a PhD in theatre and background in puppetry and performance, Elizabeth Jochum is not new to working with artists. She is currently conducting research on robots and works as an associate professor at The Faculty of Humanities at Aalborg University.

When Jochum moved to Denmark from The United States, she found a match for her research from Stages of Science, a theatre group that uses artistic venues as research environments. Now Jochum collaborates with the group on a project they have named The Robot Project.

Thomas Corneliussen, the founder of Stages of Science, sees theatre as an excellent venue for exploring human psychology and social issues. The idea of science-based theatre is to create stories grounded in data and real-life issues. “When people can relate to the stories on stage, they can feel a connection. This can be a transformative experience.”

Jochum sparked an interest for robots when she was first working on a robotic puppet project for Disney and learned to build marionettes. She then realised how much technology – and engineers in particular – could learn from art.

“When engineers build robots, they don’t necessarily think about how we as humans are going to interact with them.”

The Robot Project explores how people interact and adapt themselves to robots in their close environment. It also explores the ethical concerns that are an important part of robotics research.

Jochum believes the time for a more creative and empathic perspective on robot technologies is now. “Artists and scientists shouldn’t be working alone – the most unexpected and creative solutions in robotics will come from collaboration with artists”.

To share your thoughts on what scientists and artists should collaborate on, please fill in our quick questionnaire here. 

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