Eye of the Storm - Artists in the Maelstrom of Science

Large hexagonal cylinder shaped laboratory in field, satellite dish in foreground.
Marko Peljhan, Eye of the Storm, Artists in the Maelstrom of Science, Makrolab.

The Arts Catalyst's first International Art and Science Conference

The debate of the millennium ... asked the question: 'What are the big conflicts in science and what have artists got to say about them?

This major gathering brought artists for the first time into the front line of scientific controversy.

Presented at the historic Royal Institution (the site of Faraday's first experiments), the conference focused on some of the major controversies in modern science, with eminent scientists and artists from various areas discussing and debating the issues that will dominate the news of the next decade. Our panelists included scientists Sir Roger Penrose, professor of mathematics at Oxford University, neurologist Professor Susan Greenfield, astrophysicist and editor of Leonardo, Roger Malina, biologist Professor John Maynard-Smith and Professor Grahame Bulfield of the Roslin Institute (progenitors of Dolly the Sheep), and artists Stelarc, Julian Maynard-Smith, Del LaGrace Volcano, artist-astronaut Kitsou Dubois and nuclear sculptor James Acord, with broadcaster Melvyn Bragg.

 

Programme:

Thursday 19 February

Opening address by Chris Smith MP, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Genetics in the 21st Century

What does it mean when humans begin to manipulate the structure of life? Is this part of our own survival as a species?

Panel: artist John Isaacs, Sheila McLean, professor of law and medical ethics at Glasgow University, Professor Grahame Bulfield of the Roslin Institute, and development biologist Professor Lewis Wolpert from University College, London. Chair: Melvyn Bragg

Space

Why do we need to send humans into space when we can get most of the information we want with intelligent robots? Or are there more fundamental reasons for leaving the planet?

Panel: French choreographer Kitsou Dubois (the first to work in zero gravity), Roger Malina, astrophysicist and editor of the US science/art journal Leonardo, and Professor Heinz Wolff of Brunel University. Chair: Pat Kane

The Evolution of Form

Are organisms dynamic self-organising processes, following certain general principles of order, or are they simply carriers and slaves to a selfish genetic code?

Panel: Professor John Maynard-Smith of the University of Sussex, Dr Alan Rayner of the University of Bath, author of 'Degrees of Freedom', Julian Maynard-Smith, director of performance group Station House Opera, and photographer Susan Derges. Chair: David Peat

The Nuclear Age

James Acord, the first and only individual to hold a licence to handle nuclear materials, talks about his life on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and why he wants to sculpt with fissile materials. In conversation with Dr John Hassard from the High Energy Physics Department at Imperial College. Chair: Pat Kane

 

Friday 20 February

Chair for all sessions: Professor Susan Greenfield

Artificial Consciousness

Is consciousness unique to humanity, to mammals, or could an electronic machine like a robot or computer reach a complexity that might be called conscious?

Panel: Professor Sir Roger Penrose, author of 'The Emperor's New Mind', Professor Stuart Hameroff from the University of Arizona, Stelarc, the artist who takes the human-machine interface to extreme limits, Professor Kevin Warwick, cyberneticist at Reading University and Professor Igor Aleksander from Imperial College.

Sex

Are humans still unconsciously sexually behaving like hunter-gatherer primates or is our culture moving us towards a transgendered future in which natural selection no longer dominates?

Panel: Professor Robin Baker, author of Sperm Wars, Dr Josie McConnell from the Rowett Institute, Aberdeen, and artist Del LaGrace Volcano.

The End of Nature

Is there such a thing as nature? Has the world irreversibly changed so that our attempts to preserve the status quo are doomed? Does our crowded planet - filled with electronic data and suffering from global warming - herald a terminal disruption of the ecosystem?

Panel: Marko Peljhan from Makrolab in Slovenia and Dr Jack Cohen, author of 'The Collapse of Chaos' and 'Figments of Reality'.