Navigators in the Playground of Possibility

The third in a series of Science on Stage workshops, director Ruth Ben Tovim led this week-long workshop at Jackson's Lane


Do changing perceptions of how the universe is shaped affect our relationship to the world? Does the purported death of the grande narrative, render conventional story-telling forms meaningless to contemporary audiences?
These were questions addressed by this week of workshops involving scientists and theatre artists, organised by Arts Catalyst and Louder than Words Productions.
Chaos theorist Paul Redfern and cosmologist Pedro Ferreira from Imperial College discussed their search for philosophical answers as well as purely empirical solutions, offering through their work a vocabulary of ideas and terminology to stimular the artist's imagination: strange attractors, absent presences, curved space and fault-lines called 'strings' across the universe.
Louder Than Words' Ruth Ben Tovim led the week with the aim of drawing on the structures of scientific theories to make theatre, rather than trying to convey the content of science. Navigators prompted an investigation into non-linear narratives. 
Although the work produced at the end of the week deliberately left content out, by the end of the week participants realised that there was a desire for the narrative of science as well as structure. 
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Artists and Cosmonauts

Four evenings of artists' film and performance, talks and presentations, featuring legendary Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev

Scientists, philosophers and artists from Britain and Russia presented reflections on the Russian space programme and the nature of living in space. With the legendary Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, member of the first mission to the International Space Station.

Friday 1 & Saturday 2 March 2002 - Lilian Baylis Theatre
MIR Flight 001

New works from The Arts Catalyst's MIR Flight 001, a multidisciplinary microgravity research laboratory for artists, scientists and philosophers at Star City, Russia.

Premieres of:

Gravity: A Love Story -  Morag Wightman & Craos Mor
Zero Genie - Jem Finer and Ansuman Biswas
Wave Particle - Jem Finer and Ansuman Biswas
Kosmos in Blue - Flow Motion
Too G - Andrew Kotting
Universal Substitute - Andrey & Julia Velkanov

Plus talks/presentations by Anthony Bull, Marko Peljhan, Kevin Fong, Louise K Wilson, Mikhail Ryklin, Anna Alchuk, Alexei Blinov

Friday 15 March 2002 - Institute of Physics
Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev

In one of the most beautiful sequences of the film 'Out of the Present' by Berlin film-maker Andrei Ujica, the cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, alone in space on the Mir Space Station, contemplates the rivers, the continents, the perfect sphere or a real world in the setting sun: meanwhile way down below the tanks rumble and humanity, though invisible, stirs restlessly during the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

One of the most experienced cosmonauts and arguably the human who has lived longest in space, Sergei Krikaleve made a rare personal appearance between missions to debate on issues of culture and space with the artists and cosmonauts team.

Friday 19 April 2002 - Lilian Baylis Theatre
A Dancer in Weightlessness

Kitsou Dubois presented the premiere of her film (with Eric Duranteau), 'Trajectoire Fluide' (Fluid Trajectory), emerging from her 4-year research project with the Biodynamics Group at Imperial College. Professor Robert Schroter, Head of the Biodynamics Group, contextualised the project, and Dr Nick Davey, lead scientific investigator, gave a talk and demonstration of the scientific research aspects of the programme.



Ansuman Biswas was born in Calcutta and trained in the UK. He is an artist with an international practice encompassing music, film, live art, installation, writing and theatre. He is actively engaged in bridging the gap between science and art. In 2002-2003 he was artist-in-residence at the National Institute of Medical Research. He has an on-going research interest in consciousness studies, in particular the subjective emotional correlates of objective physiological states.
Ansuman has shown visual and time-based art at Tate Modern, South London Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, IIC New Delhi, Headlands Centre, San Francisco, and many other galleries and museums around the world. He has worked as a composer and musician in a wide range of contexts from jazz to Indian Classical music, pop songs to industrial noise. He has been commissioned by the Sonic Arts Network, the National Theatre, the Royal Ballet, the English National Opera and Guangdong Modern Dance Company in China as well as numerous other ensembles, film makers, theatre and dance companies. His theatre composition credits are numerous as are his film and acting credits.
Flow Motion Anna Piva and Edward George’s interest in the cosmos has its autobiographical roots in the cold war space race of the 1960’s and the landing of the first man on the moon; in black music and its traditions of the exploration of space in sound; in metaphysical and scientific writing on the nature of our universe.
These concerns with the cosmos have surfaced in a number of ways and in a variety of permutations, though their art as Flow Motion, and their music as Hallucinator. Running through their work is a constant weaving of different senses of space, which oscillate around and sometimes blur the line between sonic space and the space of the cosmos.
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Gravity - A Love Story, Morag Wightman & Craos Mor

An interdisciplinary performance comprising dance, suspension, video projection and music

Gravity – a love story embeds video recordings from Morag Wightman’s microgravity project Falling without Fear in a production under the forces of gravity, performed by the company Craos Mor of whom she is Artistic Director.

The work was commissioned by The Arts Catalyst for the programme of ‘Artists and Cosmonauts’ events held at the Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadler’s Wells London, on 1 March 2002.

Falling without Fear

In October 2001 Morag Wightman took part in the parabolic flight of an IL-76 MDK aircraft departing from the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Russia’s Star City. The flight was organised by Arts Catalyst and Project Atol Flight Operations, Slovenia, for purposes of ‘microgravity interdisciplinary research’ (M.I.R).

During the flight Morag Wightman realised Falling without Fear, a performance spanning 7 flight parabolas creating periods of microgravity, each lasting 25-30 seconds. Zero-G instructor Vladimir Kalentiev contributed to the performance.

Gravity – A Love Story

Gravity – A Love Story is a powerful composition of imagery staged on three projection screens, each of which reveals a different view on the same movement. For her company Craos Mor’s live performance featuring dance and aerial performances, Morag Wightman worked with a script that outlined movements and scenes without stating a detailed choreography. In this way the performance artists had different types of space to inhabit or create individually.


Artistic director: Morag Wightman

Parabolic flight: Morag Wightman (performer); The Arts Catalyst, Marko Peljhan, Andrey Velikanov, Morag Wightman & Zero-G Team (cameras); Helga Goellner (set and costume design).

3-screen video projection work: Gavin Lockhart (video artist).

Performance at Lilian Baylis Theatre at Sadler’s Wells (25 Mins.): Veronica Forioso, Steven Whinnery & Graham Clint (performers); Little Japanese Toy, Amir Shoat & Iain Ross (soundtracks); Helga Goellner (set and costume design); Will Harding (rigging); Kaja Glenne Lund (lighting design); Niall Black (stage management); Hs Cho (performance recording); John Fisher (editing of performance recording).


Screening of 3-screen video projection work & performance: 1 March 2002: at ‘Artists & Cosmonauts’, Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadler’s Wells

Water movement, film & dance research: 4 July 2003: ‘Altered Gravity’, Chisenhale Dance Space, London

Presentation & screening of 3-screen video projection work: 8th December 2002: “Interdisciplinary Microgravity Movement Research: Experiments on a Zero Gravity Flight”, ArtSci2002, The CUNY Graduate Center, New York


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Trajectoire Fluide

Film and installations of dance and movement experiments in weightlessness

Kitsou Dubois has been developing a process of experimental movement performed in an environment of altered gravity conditions. She intervenes in the domain of art and science, creating an insight into the rapport between humans and their environment. In 1999, The Arts Catalyst initiated a long-term collaboration between Dr Dubois and the Biodynamics research group at Imperial College to investigate the control of the bodies in altered states of gravity, including weightlessness.

Trajectoire Fluide was made in collaboration with Eric Duranteau. It was premiered at the Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadlers Wells, London, in March 2002, accompanied by talks by Dubois and Professor Robert Shroter and a demonstration of TMS by Dr Nick Davey. The event formed part of The Arts Catalyst's Aritsts & Cosmonauts season.

Trajectoire Fluide was re-made as a video installation and shown in France during in 2002. From October - December 2003, the new installation Fille-Air was shown at the La Maison de la Photographie, Paris, and in 2003, Dubois made the performance Trajectoire Fluide at La Villette, Paris

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Talking of the Sex of Angels

Dance work inspired by the theories of quantum physics

This high-energy tongue-in-cheek dance show took its packed audiences into the mind-bending world of quantum physics. Created by choreographer Nikky Smedley with advice from scientists of Imperial College's Theoretical Physics Group, Talking of the Sex of Angels was a highlight of the Spring Loaded Season at The Place Theatre, London. An earlier work-in-progress was seen at the Lilian Baylis Theatre as part of the Mosaics Season in 1994.

"Startling and sublime ... a radical reinvention of science"- Wavelength
"Stylish, original and absorbing." - Audience member
"Dance game of wit and energy" - Time Out

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Gravity Zero

A commissioned 4-screen work 'Gravity Zero' by choreographer Kitsou Dubois shown at the Lux Centre

Kitsou Dubois was the first artist to work in weightlessness, having worked with astronauts of the French Space Agency to develop a training protocol based on dance techniques. She and dancers from her company then took part in a series of parabolic ‘weightless’ flights. The extraordinary footage emerging from these flights of dance in zero gravity was shown as a video installation commissioned by The Arts Catalyst for six weeks in March and April 1999, as a night-time projection across the windows of the Lux Centre in Hoxton Square.
Videos of Kitsou's zero gravity dance were also screened at the 291 gallery at an event following the opening at the Lux Centre.
Kitsou Dubois took part in a discussion with Dr Chris Welch in front of an audience at the Lux Cinema, mediated by Rob La Frenais.
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Investigations in Microgravity, Kitsou Dubois and Imperial College Biodynamics Group

In this interdisciplinary research collaboration, choreographer Kitsou Dubois worked with Imperial College's Biodynamics Group to investigate the control of movement in weightlessness

Kitsou Dubois has been developing a process of experimental movement performed in an environment of altered gravity conditions. With focused pre-flight training techniques and disciplined dancers, her choreography tames the adrenalin-fed wayward tendencies of bodies in weightlessness and forms them into shapes of apparently effortless beauty.

Between 1999 and 2003, The Arts Catalyst initiated and coordinated a long-term collaboration between Dr Dubois and the Biodynamics research group at Imperial College to investigate the control of the bodies in altered states of gravity, including weightlessness. The group comprised Professor Bob Schroter, Dr Nick Davey, Dr Olga Rutherford, Dr Anthony Bull, Dr Alison McGregor, Dr Steve Rawlinson, Dr Paul Strutton and Dr Alex Nowicky.

The team participated in 7 parabolic 'zero gravity' flights with the European Space Agency in Bordeaux, France, and the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, Russia. Outputs included a series of video installations, performances and demonstrations, as well as masterclasses, and a scientific paper.

Artistic & Scientific Investigations on Zero Gravity Flights,  Russia and France, 2000 - 2003

In September 2000, Dubois and her dancers took part in a parabolic ‘zero gravity’ flight arranged by The Arts Catalyst Project Atol Flight Operations at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia.  In this flight, Dubois investigated the ability of her dancers to control defined movements in zero gravity.

In March 2002 and April 2003, the group participated in two ESA parabolic flight campaigns in Bordeaux. In these flights, Dr Nick Davey led a neurophysiological study aimed at understanding the corticospinal control of movement in varying gravitational conditions. Dubois was investigation collaborator as well as one of the subjects. More details of the experiment are outlined below under Scientific Investigation .

Alongside this work, Dubois trained 3 other dancers - Mathurin Bolze, Jörg Müller and Laura de Nercy - for work in parabolic flight and in 2000 the company participated in a parabolic flight organised specifically for her research by Arts Catalyst and Projekt Atol Flight Operations at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, Star City, Russia, in which she had the freedom to use most of the entire aircraft interior as a studio/stage for pure complex movement research during 10 parabolas.

During her work with Arts Catalyst, Dubois produced a 4-screen video installation Gravity Zero and a new film Trajectoire Fluide, and then further films and installations using the footage and research from the flight, in collaboration with video artist Eric Duranteau.

Artistic Outputs & Public Presentations

Gravity Zero, Lux Gallery, 1999

In 1999, The Arts Catalyst and Lux presented a new multi-screen video installation commissioned from Dubois: ‘Gravity Zero’ at the Lux Gallery.

Altered States of Gravity, Imperial College Gallery, 2000

In 2000, in London, we commissioned and presented a video installation of Dubois and the Imperial Group’s work, Altered States of Gravity for the “Creating Sparks” festival.

Trajectoire Fluide & Fille Air – film & installation, 2002 - 3

In April 2002, Dubois premiered her new video 'Trajectoire Fluide’ made in collaboration with Eric Duranteau. It was accompanied by talks by Dubois and Professor Robert Shroter and a demonstration of TMS by Dr Nick Davey.

Trajectoire Fluide was re-made as a video installation and shown in France during in 2002. From October - December 2003, the new installation 'Fille-Air' was shown at the La Maison de la Photographie, Paris, and in 2003, Dubois made the performance 'Trajectoire Fluide' at La Villette, Paris

Scientific Investigation

The team set out to investigate how the nervous system controls the subtle process of adjusting posture. And whether people who
are very good at moving their bodies, like dancers, have a better developed control system.

In the first investigation, led by neuroscientist Dr Nick Davey, the team wished to find out how it is that the back muscles contract to counter arm movements on the opposite side. Is this controlled by the brain in a coordinated way – does the brain switch on the pathways to the left back at the same time as those to the right arm? Or is it a reflex response? The team measured how active different muscles were at different times by recording electricity or electromyography (EMG) produced by the muscles, and how active the pathway from the brain was, for which transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was used. With TMS, magnetic pulses stimulate those nerves in the brain that project to back muscles, enabling the team to investigate how the responses in the back muscles to TMS change when the arm is extended.

Gravity’s action on the body brings into play balance organs in the ear as well as touch and stretch sensitive organs in the skin, joints and muscles, which can confuse the results, so the team wished to perform the experiment in zero gravity. The team applied to and was accepted for participation in the European Space Agency’s 32nd and 34th ESA parabolic campaigns in 2002 and 2003. They found, both on the ground and in zero gravity, that the back muscles were turned on when the arm was extended and that the pathways from the voluntary control areas of the brain were more active when this happened. This told them, overall, that the drive to the back muscles is stronger when the opposite arm is extended and that it is the brain’s voluntary control areas that control the stabilisation mechanism. The team concluded that the sense organs in the skin, joints and muscles were not heavily
involved and that the stabilisation of the body during arm extension was not simply a reflex response.

Another interesting result was the response of the body’s muscle to removing gravity. Rather than relaxing in weightlessness, as one might expect, the muscles of the back in fact became more active regardless of the position of the opposite arm. In other words the spine became more inflexible in zero gravity rather than the more flexible state it is in on the
ground. The team thinks that this process enables the body to orientate itself more easily when its gravitational point of reference is removed.

Scientific Paper

In April 2004, the scientific paper 'Human corticospinal excitability in microgravity and hypergravity during parabolic flight', written by the group, was published in Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine 2004 Apr;75(4):359-63.


The project was commissioned and organised by The Arts Catalyst, and funded by Wellcome SciArt Funds and Arts Council England, and supported by the European Space Agency.


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"All that happened to us..."

An exploration the biomechanics of ageing; the third event in the Speciens to Superhumans series created with Shape

Speciens to Superhumans

A series of events exploring contemporary issues around biomedical science, disability and ethics, and how these are explored, represented and critiqued in art.

A one-day participative workshop exploring the implications of the biomechanics of ageing for contemporary dance practice.

While traditional dance science looks at how to enable an elite dancer to achieve perfection in both performance and aesthetics, this participative event will seek to explore what we can learn from the science of ageing about how a disabled or older dancer’s body works and what they need in order to perform to full capacity and to unlock their body’s full potential.

For both older and disabled dancers, achieving elite standards may be neither possible nor what they are striving for, and this event will seek to explore the nuances between the social model of disability and the medical model of ageing, to see what common ground emerges.

This collaborative event, the third in the Arts Catalyst/Shape series Specimens to Superhumans, was hosted by Roehampton University.  The day was led by choreographers Ann Dickie, Director of From Here to Maturity Dance Company and Anna Bergström, Associate Artist at Candoco Dance Company, audio and digital artist, Trevor Mathison. Drawing from expertise across the University, Professor Raymond Lee and his colleagues Dr Siobhan Strike and Dr Jin Luo from the Active Ageing Unit at Life Sciences Department also participated in the event.

Created in collaboration with and the support of:


Roehampton University’s Dance Faculty

Louise Portlock and Frank McDaniels from Gloucestershire Dance

Funded by

Wellcome Trust People Award


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The Insect Project

Inspired by the ideas in Jan Fabre's A Consilience, Year 9 students (13 & 14 year olds) at Waveney School, Tonbridge, and Haggerston School, Hackney explored the fascinating world of the insect in a project led by artist Sally Hampson.

Over a four week period in January and February 2000, the students examined insects and other 'creepy crawlies' through science workshops, art projects led by artist Sally Hampson, movement workshops on insect behaviour with choreographer Karen Lowe, and a visit to the Natural History Museum in London.

At the museum, the students saw Fabre's video installation, attended seminars from entomologists Gaden Henderson and Linda Pitkin and studied extraordinary specimens from the museum's collections.
Their work culminated in exquisite insect models, striking costumes, self-choreographed movement pieces, project books and an eight minute video.

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Flying & Falling

As part of a research project for NESTA, The Arts Catalyst organised an in-depth project with a Year 3 class at St John the Baptist Primary School in Hoxton, East London.

Flying and Falling was a cross-disciplinary project (spanning art, science, dance, technology and history) that took the children on personal explorations of flight. Regular Arts Catalyst artists Sally Hampson and Tim Millar and dancer Morag Wightman led a series of overlapping workshops looking at the idea and actuality of flight from a number of different angles: human flight, animal flight, machine-enabled flight. The artist-led workshops provided a range of learning styles – visual-spatial, tactile, kinaesthetic, categorising, logical and verbal – contributing to holistic and individual learning experiences.

A class visit to the Natural History Museum’s Dinobird Exhibition and the Science Museum’s Aviation Gallery provided a starting point for the Flying & Falling project.

Performance artist Tim Millar led the children on a hands-on exploration of flight, in particular the technology, mechanics and forces involved in flight, guided by his own unique vision and thorough study of flight.

Aerial choreographic artist Morag Wightman, who usually dances suspended on ropes and has also danced in zero gravity, led workshops exploring the human body’s potential in relation to flight, resulting in the children’s creation of their own choreographed piece.

Textile artist Sally Hampson led workshops based on the exhibition at the Natural History Museum of Dinobirds, centred on studying and making fossils of the Archaeopteryx, the oldest known bird.

Supported by:

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