Leonardo Art/Science Evening Rendezvous of September 9, 2013

Exploring the Frontiers of Knowledge and Imagination, Fostering Interdisciplinary Networking
San Francisco, September 9, 2013
c/o University of San Francisco
Fromm Hall - FR 115 - Berman Room
Chaired by Piero Scaruffi and Tami Spector

The LASERs are a national program of evening gatherings that bring artists and scientists together for informal presentations and conversation with an audience. See the program for the whole series.

Leonardo ISAST and USF invite you to a meeting of the Leonardo Art/Science community. The event is free and open to everybody. Like previous evenings, the agenda includes some presentations of art/science projects, news from the audience, and time for casual socializing/networking.
See below for location and agenda.
Email me if you want to be added to the mailing list for the LASERs.
See also...

  • 6:45pm-7:00pm: Socializing/networking.
  • 7:00-7:25:
    Allison Leigh Holt (Visual Artist) on "The Beginning Was The End: Hybrid Reality in Javanese Culture" Research on Javanese cultural concepts of time and multi-dimensional reality led to models in diagrams, video-sculptures and a sound installation ... Read more
  • 7:25-7:50:
    Margot Gerritsen (Stanford Computational Math) on "Linear Algebra: the incredible beauty of a branch of math with a bad reputation" The artistic beauty of linear algebra and its many application... Read more
  • 7:50-8:10: BREAK. Before or after the break, anyone in the audience currently working within the intersections of art and science will have 30 seconds to share their work. Please present your work as a teaser so that those who are interested can seek you out during social time following the event.
  • 8:10-8:35:
    Bernie Lubell (Kinetic Artist) on "Intimacy and Entanglement" Exploring the conflicted relationship we have with machines via interactive artworks derived from the mechanistic physiologies of E.J. Marey... Read more
  • 8:35-9:00:
    Helene Mialet (UC Berkeley Ethnography) on "On Stephen Hawking and his extended body" These days, the idea of the cyborg is less the stuff of science fiction and more a reality... Read more
  • 9:00pm-9:30pm: Discussions, networking You can mingle with the speakers and the audience

  • Margot Gerritsen is the Director of the Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering at Stanford University. She launched a program at her department called "ICME Artiste" to bring art into the working areas with the goal to show how art and math can impact and stimulate each other. Initial exhibitions featured Francois Miglio, Alison Holt, and Michael Scott. Originally from the Netherlands, she escaped in 1990 to search for hillier and sunnier places. She received a PhD in Scientific Computing from Stanford University in 1996 and joined Auckland University, New Zealand, as a faculty member. In 2001 she returned to Stanford's Department Energy Resources Engineering. Since 2010, she is the director of the Institute for Computational & Mathematical Engineering at Stanford. Her research focuses on the design of highly accurate and efficient parallel computational methods including applications to petroleum engineering, search algorithms and coastal ocean simulation that are extremely challenging because of the very strong nonlinearities in the governing equations. She teaches both energy-related topics (reservoir simulation, energy, and the environment) and mathematics for engineers. She also initiated a consulting course for graduate students in ICME, which offers expertise in computational methods to the Stanford community and selected industries. She also teaches at Bergen University in Norway and she contributes as editor to the Journal of Small Craft Technology.
  • Allison Leigh Holt is a San Francisco-based artist whose work combines video and sculpture, sound, diagrams, and installation to investigate and model the relationships between multi-dimensional reality, knowledge and cognition, and what it means to be human. She is the recipient of a J. William Fulbright Fellowship (Indonesia), a San Francisco Arts Commission grant, and nominations for the SFMOMA SECA Award and San Francisco Artist Award. Her exhibition, performance, and screening venues include Stanford University; SFMOMA; Headlands Center for the Arts; Axiom Gallery for New and Experimental Media (solo); Cemeti Art House (solo, Indonesia); the Boston Cyberarts Festival; and the Urban Screens Conference (Australia). Holt has been a resident artist at Cemeti Art House, the Experimental Television Center, and Kala Art Institute; a visiting artist at UC Santa Barbara, Institut Seni Indonesia, and North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics; and has presented at symposia such as the Video Vortex, Yogyakarta International New Media Festival, (both, Indonesia), the Cultural Studies Association, and Louise Bourgeois' Sunday Salon. She holds a BA from The Evergreen State College and an MFA from Massachusetts College of Art + Design.
  • Bernie Lubell's interactive installations have evolved from his studies in both psychology and engineering. As participants play with his whimsical wood machines, they become actors in a theater of their own imagining. Since the early 1980's his installations have been shown in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Florida, China and Europe. "A Theory of Entanglement" and other large scale installations were recently featured at FACT, Liverpool, UK and v2 in Rotterdam, NL., and "Party of the First Part" in Paris, France. Recent awards include a Guggenheim Artists Fellowship in 2011, an Adolph & Esther Gottlieb artists grant in 2009, a Pollack Krasner Foundation Grant in 2002 and an Award of Distinction for Interactive Art from Ars Electronica in 2007. Lubell's work includes a stone age digital computer, a rainstorm of chaos and nostalgia, a phone booth-confessional network, a mechanism to measure Intimacy, room sized simulations of the human heart, the brain and breathing, a giant cooperative knitting machine, and a mechanical computer that allows people to work together furiously to accomplish nothing. For more information see -- http://bernielubell.com
  • Helene Mialet has held positions at Cornell University, Harvard University and Oxford University where she ran the program in Science Studies; she has also held post-doctoral fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University under the auspices of the Marie Curie Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship, sponsored by the European Union for extremely promising young scholars. She has published widely on subjectivity, agency, innovation and cognition. Her most recent book is entitled L'Entreprise Cratrice, (Paris: Herms-Lavoisier, 2008), which is an ethnographic study of practices and processes of invention in an applied research laboratory in a multinational oil company (Total); this book was a finalist for the Prix ADVANCIA for the best book published in French on Entrepreneurship and Innovation in 2008. She has just completed a new book entitled Hawking Incorporated, Stephen Hawking and the Anthropology of the Knowing Subject (University of Chicago Press, 2012). This work provides an ethnographic study of `abstraction' and formalism, focusing on the case of Stephen Hawking as a means of exploring larger questions having to do with singularity, identity, distributed agency, subjectivity, corporeality (and/or the mind/body problem), socio-technical networks and scientific practice. She is currently working on a new project concerned with the study of new networks of knowledge production and expertise constituted by `laypersons' (e.g., electronic lists organized around specific themes like parents of children with juvenile diabetes).
  • Piero Scaruffi is a cognitive scientist who has lectured in three continents and published several books on Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science, the latest one being "The Nature of Consciousness" (2006). He pioneered Internet applications in the early 1980s and the use of the World-Wide Web for cultural purposes in the mid 1990s. His poetry has been awarded several national prizes in Italy and the USA. His latest book of poems and meditations is "Synthesis" (2009). As a music historian, he has published ten books, the latest ones being "A History of Rock and Dance Music" (2009) and "A History of Jazz Music" (2007). His latest book of history is "A History of Silicon Valley" (2011). The first volume of his free ebook "A Visual History of the Visual Arts" appeared in 2012. His latest book is "Demystifying Machine Intelligence" (2013). He has also written extensively about cinema and literature.

Address and directions:

University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street
SF, CA 94117
Fromm Hall - FR 115 - Berman Room

See the campus map and directions

Extended abstracts


This talk will focus on a series of artworks that draw on the pioneering medical imaging research of Etienne Jules Marey -- 19th century physiologist and father of motion pictures. Between 1995 and 2007 I created a series of pieces that were inspired and informed by Marey's experiments and his mechanistic theories of biological function. Since the 1980's I have been making interactive wood mechanical installations that explore the conflicted relationship we have with machines -- machines upon which we have become so dependent and in which we often see ourselves. Although my installations are interactive my work is adamantly low tech. As they play with my installations, participants tap into a reservoir of tactile knowledge stored in their bodies. The way that pieces feel, move and sound as you rock, pedal and press against them applies the kinesthetic comprehensions of childhood to the tasks of philosophy. The art installations I make often model the models and simulations we make about our world and ourselves often incorporating mechanical analogues for our social psychology. Like medieval diagrams they are maps of ideas that are powered by visitors to the show. Both the way I have made these pieces and the way that visitors to the show play with them helps to reveal how we stumble towards an understanding of who we are. It is epistemology that interests me. How do we know what we think we know?


When I was first introduced to algebra I believed, with many of my friends, that it was a dry and abstract field. If someone had told me then that 30 years later I would be raving about the subfield of linear algebra, I would probably have despaired. But the topic of this talk is indeed about the beauty of linear algebra and its critical role in engineering and physics applications. Although I will use a little bit of algebra in this talk, it's OK to be rusty in algebra or calculus. And for those looking for pretty pictures, I will share some of those also.


As an artist, I translate intangible, abstract ideas into form. In an ongoing project I began during my recent Fulbright Fellowship in Java, Indonesia, I interpreted the traditional Javanese way of understanding reality: for The Beginning Was The End (TBWTE), I conducted original research on cultural concepts of time, multi-dimensional reality, and how they intersect with my own philosophy, creating models in diagrams, video-sculptures, and a sound installation. I was interested in discerning the structure of this beautiful, endangered way of knowing, in what people were experiencing in these "other dimensions," in the tools developed to understand them, and in the extraordinary ways it echoes my own ideas about reality, and consciousness, and cognition, illuminating issues at the heart of my artistic inquiry. Right now, the traditional Javanese way of life is caught between the extremes of Western media influences and those of its many radical Islamic schools (like Ngruki: within 5 mi of home village and run by Jama'ah Islamiyah, it claimed responsibility for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, among others). Without the sense of identity that comes from knowing one's own language and culture, Javanese youth are extremely vulnerable. Since Indonesia is set to become a dominant global power in the coming decades, strengthening indigenous knowledge there seems to me to be critical to resisting / counteracting the forces of corruption that still define this newly independent nation. Introducing systems of thought like Javanese knowledge to the West has the potential to push and transform not only artistic dialogue but to influence technological development. Currently, I am developing a prototype for an interactive new media tool that will cross-pollinate by revitalizing the Javanese language and way of knowing for young audiences. I am inspired by projects like Lisa Jevbratt's Zoo Morph, which consists of plugin filters for video, imaging software, and smartphones simulating how animals see, and for which I also conducted research while in Indonesia. TBWTE received a 2013 San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Artist Grant for completion. Presenting different ways of experiencing ideas of multi-dimensional reality, modeling perspectives that range from indigenous to science-based ways of approaching the world, and emphasizing the contemporary relevance of each, TBWTE yields new ways of approaching the world itself, and creates an experience of knowing that shifts what it means to know.

Stephen Hawking ahd his Extended Body

These days, the idea of the cyborg is less the stuff of science fiction and more a reality, as we are all, in one way or another, constantly connected, extended, wired, and dispersed in and through technology. One wonders where the individual, the person, the human, and the body are-or, alternatively, where they stop. These are the kinds of questions Hlne Mialet explores in her book "Hawking Incorporated: Stephen Hawking and the Anthropology of the Knowing Subject", as she focuses on a man who is permanently attached to assemblages of machines, devices, and collectivities of people: Stephen Hawking. Drawing on an extensive and in-depth series of interviews with Hawking, his assistants and colleagues, physicists, engineers, writers, journalists, archivists, and artists, Mialet reconstructs the human, material, and machine-based networks that enable Hawking to live and work. She reveals how Hawking-who is often portrayed as the most singular, individual, rational, and bodiless of all-is in fact not only incorporated, materialized, and distributed in a complex nexus of machines and human beings like everyone else, but even more so.

Photos and videos