POLAR: The Art and Science of Climate Change

A programme focusing on the curation and production of climate change knowledge in the polar regions

POLAR: The Art & Science of Climate Change was a multi-disciplinary project exploring cultural and scientific issues surrounding climate change.

It incorporated a 2-day international symposium, a publication Bipolar, a series of public lectures, and two new artists' commissions from Anne Brodie and Weather Permitting. POLAR was curated by Kathryn Yusoff and The Arts Catalyst, and organised with the British Library and the Open University.

Polar: Fieldwork & Archive Fever - An Interdisciplinary Symposium

Polar: Fieldwork & Archive Fever was an interdisciplinary symposium at the British Library on the 19 & 20 November 2007. It focused on the curation and production of climate change knowledge in the polar regions. Keynote speakers were Professor Denis Cosgrove, University of California, Professor Sverker Sörlin, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, Professor Rachel Weiss, Art Institute of Chicago, and Simon Faithfull, artist.

Full programme and abstracts can be downloaded opposite.

Public Talks

As part of the Polar programme, a series of four public lectures addressed broader cultural and policy-related themes arising from the symposium:

Wed 17 October - Everyday Disasters
Mon 5 November - Climate Change & Human Rights
Mon 19 November - The New Iconography of Climate Change
Mon 26 November - Geopolitics of Cold 

Bipolar Book

Bipolar, a new interdisciplinary publication featuring more than 30 'archives' contributed by the symposium and talks participants, was published by Arts Catalyst in June 2008. It is distributed by Cornerhouse Publications.

Two new commissions by Anne Brodie and Weather Permitting were shown at The Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1 on 20 July 2008, coinciding with the launch of the Bipolar book.


The project was supported by a grant from Arts Council England, the Open University and in-kind support from the British Library.


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Universe Gallery

The Universe Gallery was a major collaborative project between The Arts Catalyst and Mulberry School for Girls

Antony Hall, Joanna Griffin & Kate Tierney worked with Mulberry School students to transform the bare school corridors into a multimedia interactive exhibition dealing with the physics of the early universe.

The project won second prize in the Rolls Royce Science Awards announced on 14th June 2007. The Universe Gallery was officially opened by Susan Greenfield on 29th June 2007.

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Eye of the Storm 2

Two-day symposium debating how artists are responding to today's hot issues of belief and experiment, dissent and discord, big science, high finance, geopolitics and the legislation of uncertainty around subjects including climate change, biotechnology, genetics and astrophysics.

From esoteric arguments over the structure of the universe to highly charged public controversies around the use of stem cells, Eye of the Storm brought together an extraordinary international group of artists, scientists, and other experts to spark two days of dynamic conversations. Speakers included artist Eduardo Kac, Sheila Jasanoff, one of the major voices in science and technology studies, artist Rod Dickinson, Oron Catts, pioneer in the use of bioscience as a medium for artistic expression, Helen and Newton Mayer Harrison, pioneers of environmental art, astronomer Roger Malina, and science sociologist Harry Collins.

Podcast of the Conference

Audio files of the entire conference available on the Tate Podcast Feed

or on iTunes U podcast directory

Selection Committee

Chair: Nicola Triscott, Director, The Arts Catalyst
Michael Bravo, Senior Lecturer, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
Bernadette Buckley, Programme Convenor, MA Art & Politics, Goldsmiths, University of London
Sian Ede, Director of Arts, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
Madeleine Keep, Education Department, Tate Britain
Rob La Frenais, Curator, The Arts Catalyst
Roger Malina, Chairman Emeritus, Leonardo, Director of Research, CNRS

Organisers & Support

Organised by The Arts Catalyst and Tate Britain, in association with Leonardo/OLATS. Suppported by Arts Council England and SymbioticA at the University of Western Australia.

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Satellite Stories

A commissioned participatory activity led by artist Joanna Griffin in collaboration with scientists at Mullard Space Science Laboratory.

Joanna Griffin collaborated with the scientists at Mullard Space Science Laboratory, the UK's largest university-based space science research group, as part of her ongoing investigation into our connection to the orbiting built environment of satellites.

The event - held as part of a day of activities for the public - aimed to draw out stories of space science and create strong memories for participants so that science knowledge filters into local culture and the oral tradition of storytelling.

Participants joined in the exchange of stories while moving through the spaces of the house and gardens, where satellites are woven into the fabric of this extraordinary place. They experienced the voyages of spacecraft through the rooms, minds, garden, lanes, conversations, meetings, oceans, atmospheres, magnetospheres.... Each family was asked to bring along at least one 'satellite anecdote' or stargazing memory (or object) to share.

3:30: Welcome talk – tea + snacks in library
4:00:  Talks / guided tours, children's activities including lantern building workshop
5:00 – 6:00 (twilight): Satellite Stories
6:00: Satellite watching workshop, lights, music, conversation, 'Mullard' wine

An artist and educator based in the South West of England, Joanna Griffin's practice examines structures with political and scientific significance. Her work with Satellite Stories considers the complications around the control of the space of orbiting satellites, and what the technology is used for. What happens when individuals outside of this culture also want access to the view from above? This line of enquiry is detailed beautifully in her blog www.aconnectiontoaremoteplace.net .



Admission to Satellite Stories was free.

Satellite Stories was produced in collaboration with the scientists of Mullard Space Science Laboratory, a department of University College London (UCL). The project was the first part of The Arts Catalyst's programme with UCL as a partner in their 'Beacons of Public Engagement' programme.

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Art + Science Now - Science Fair

The Arts Catalyst teams up with super/collider for their monthly laidback pop science evening

The Arts Catalyst teams up with super/collider for their monthly pop science evening to welcome Professor Stephen Wilson from San Francisco State University, author of Art+Science Now, along with artist Gina Czarnecki.

Stephen Wilson will talk about Art & Resarch:  Who said that scientific research and technological innovations belong only to the technicians?  Research has become a white hot center of cultural foment.  It is affecting everything from the gizmos of everyday life to basic philosophical notions about the nature of reality and what it is to be human. He will explore the idea that the arts can assume their historical role at the edge of culture by becoming the independent zone of research, undertaking investigations ignored or discredited by commercial interests and academic science.  And will present examples from his own artworks in areas such as gps, body sensing, telepresence, and ai and from other artists around the world.  It also explores areas of emerging technolgy and scientific inquiry that call out for artist attention.  The presentation is based on material from his new book Art+Science Now and his MIT Press book, Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology.

Artist Gina Czarnecki will be talking about Wasted a body of inter-related artworks exploring the life-giving potential of ‘discarded’ body parts and their relationship to myths, history, cutting edge stem cell research and notions of what constitutes informed consent.

This is the latest in the series of Science Fair events presented by super/collider – bringing together scientists and stylists, chemists and creative-types, artists and astronomers. with discussions, DIY experiments and a chance to ask why it's just like being back in science class. except with a bar and music and more awesome.

Art + Science Now

A new publication by Stephen Wilson which presents a global overview of the ways in which contemporary artists draw on scientific and technological developments to explore new forms of creative expression.

In the twenty-first century, some of the most dynamic works of art are being produced not in the studio but in the laboratory, where artists probe cultural, philosophical, and social questions connected with cutting-edge scientific and technological research. Their work ranges across disciplines—microbiology, the physical sciences, information technologies, human biology and living systems, kinetics and robotics—and takes in everything from eugenics to climate change to artificial intelligence.

This comprehensive overview covers a dazzling array of work produced by some 250 artists from America, Japan, Germany, France, the Netherlands, the UK, and elsewhere. It presents a broad range of projects, from body art to bioengineering of plants and insects; from music, dance, and computer-controlled video performances to large scale visual and sound installations.

Stephen Wilson is Professor of Conceptual and Information Arts at San Francisco State University and coeditor of Leonardo, the international journal of art and science. He is the author of Information Arts and Using Computers to Create Art.

ISBN 978-0-500-23868-4 · 91/4" x 11" · 270+ color illustrations · 208 pages


Stephen Wilson

Gina Czarnecki


The Book Club


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Eye of the Storm - Artists in the Maelstrom of Science

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.



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


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.


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'.




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Art and the Atomic State

A discussion event to accompany the Atomic exhibition.

Panelists: Artists James Acord, Carey Young, Mark Waller with Keith Franklin, BNFL, Mark Ramsay, Imperial College Radiation Safety Officer, and Helen Wallace, Greenpeace. Chaired by Nicola Triscott, Director of Arts Catalyst

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Space Day

Arts Catalyst, in collaboration with the art and science departments at Lambeth Academy (a secondary school in Clapham), ran an art-science day focusing on Space

The whole school was taken off timetable (600 students) and all lessons delivered that day were hands-on and/or interactive and dealt with space topics.

Nicola Triscott, director of Arts Catalyst, delivered a talk on art, space and weightlessness to the whole school. Five artists ran workshops with students through the day: Artist Antony Hall worked with sound and podcasts, Joanna Griffin developed an orbital installation with the students using Google Earth and satellites; Mandinga Arts created alien masks and Dimitri Launder and Joel Grey landed a Space Pod in the school atrium that became a debating forum on the politics of space travel.

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Laurie Anderson (Space Soon)

NASA's former artist-in-residence, returning to the UK after the success of her show End of the Moon, reflects on her NASA experience and her visit to Russia’s space programme.

When NASA appointed the musician and artist, Laurie Anderson, as their first official artist-in-residence, they probably had in mind a celebratory and hi-tec output – perhaps lasers bouncing off the moon. But Anderson, disturbed by NASA’s revived plans to revisit and exploit the moon, created the performance piece The End of the Moon. NASA swiftly decided that there would be no further artists-in-residence.

In 2005, Anderson visited Russia’s space programme – the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre and mission control – with The Arts Catalyst and saw a very different side of the human spaceflight story, where the post-Soviet cash-strapped Russian space agency sells flights into space to Japanese dotcom billionaires at $20 million a time.

Anderson paid a special flying visit to London to take part in The Arts Catalyst's Space Soon event at the Roundhouse on Tuesday 12 September to reflect on her experiences, show her photographs and videos from her visit to Star City, in conversation with the author and critic Kodwo Eshun.

Artist's website:

Laurie Anderson


Laurie Anderson's trip to Star City was supported by The Arts Catalyst and Forma.


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