Evaluation of the First Roundtable

We brought the Silent Signal artists and scientists together for the second time at a roundtable meeting in January 2014.

The meeting was arranged to allow for the artists and scientists to continue a wider exchange and interrogation of ideas during the projects development, as well as to begin a conversation about the projects real world application and public engagement. For Animate Projects, it was an opportunity to discuss the next stages in the projects timeline as well as discussing the funding and possible exhibition venues for the project.

On the day, each project was presented for 15 minutes by the collaborating artist and scientist, following which there was a chance for discussion and critical feedback.

The event was a great opportunity to catch up on everyone’s work progress, and to really get a feeling of how the overall project is coming together from a curating point of view. I think it allowed all participants to get a sense of common direction.

The presentations:

The exchange kicked off with a powerful presentation from Dr Serge Mostowy and Samantha Moore, whose project, Loop, looks at a non-inevitability within scientific enquiry.

Genetic Moo and Dr Neil Dufton followed, proposing a situation where “you’re a pathogen and you’re about to attack the body”. The project looks at how to visualise different responses to the body.

Eric Schockmel and Dr Megan MacLeod’s also look at inventive ways of communicating biology – the discrete T-cell populations. Their project proposes to explore and present this through the medium of a computer game trailer.

Ellie Land is working with Professor Peter Oliver’s research into disruptive sleep patterns on mice to explore its link to schizophrenia while asking questions of its effects on creativity.

Boredom Research are working with Dr Paddy Brock on a creating a fictional landscape based around scientific models of malaria epidemics. In this work, the landscape is invisible and only exposed as the infection rate increases.

Finally, Charlie Tweed and Dr Darren Logan’s project Un-Encrypting Fear takes on a future science fiction aesthetic to examine the reach of current scientific developments.

In all the projects, the collaborations involved negotiating a question about how much the science would influence or inform the art and one issue faced was how to present complex scientific ideas to artists or, at a later date, the public, without being undermining or confusing. Several projects, such as Afterglow from Dr Paddy Brock and boredomresearch use the science to inform projects that are more interactive, playful or create fictional situations out of the the scientific data to help present.

Over the afternoon, the conversations because more lively and fruitful. Just as important as the presentations were the discussions and the intervals between presentations, where the participants all spoke and appeared genuinely interested in the varied practices of all the other people in the room.

If it was just the scientists from such different disciplines brought together we’d struggle to talk, but here we’re all talking around ideas that we don’t normally hear, brought together through art and science.

Many of the questions during the discussions related to the possibilities of presentation for the works; the possibility of a symposium to expand the conversations, and further interactions between artists and scientists. For The Garden of Synthetic Delights, how possible would it be to create a real, functional game? In The Battle of Blister, after the interactive element, how would the project manifest itself for exhibition – as documentation of performance or something completely different?

It was great to get and give constructive criticism of our projects from both the other scientists and artists. I found the suggestions people made to be very helpful.

These six projects are already at exciting stages, and compliment rather than repeat each other. The works within Silent Signal will be relevant to scientific issues around human health, while taking animation practices into different fields. The importance of its cross-disciplinary approach cannot be understated, both in its use for all involved in the collaborations, but also for its public engagement in 2016.


Sam Mercer is an artist currently studying the MRes Art: Moving Image course at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

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