Scroll down to see the full archive of all 2017 London LASER events with details of speakers and links to video recordings of talks.

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2017: In brief…

London LASER 23: with Charissa Terranova, Andrew Carnie and Alexa Wright, and Gemma Anderson.

London LASER 22: on Biodesign Challenge with Carole Collet and presentations from award winners and participating students.

London LASER 21: with Astrid Alben, Annie Cattrell and Marius Kwint, and Mellissa Fisher and Mark Clements.

London LASER 20: in collaboration with Arts Catalyst, an evening on ‘Man Made Clouds’, with artists Hehe (Helen Evans and Heiko Hansen) and writer Malcolm Miles.

London LASER 19: in collaboration with CLOT magazine, an evening on ‘Interspecies Creativity’ with artist Kuai Shen, composer Eduardo R. Miranda and designer Veronica Ranner.

2017: In full…

London LASER 23
Wednesday 18 October 2017
Central Saint Martins

London LASER with Charissa Terranova on polymathy; Andrew Carnie and Alexa Wright on ‘Hybrid Bodies’; and Gemma Anderson on ‘Representing Biology as Process’.

In the talk “Wide Awake! An Exploration of Twentieth-Century Polymathy in British Art-Science-Design,” writer and educator Charissa N. Terranova studies the genealogy of the term “polymathy.” She hews closely to its Indo-European root –mendh, meaning “to learn,” and related words such as the Lithuanian mandras, or “wide-awake,” and the German munter, or “awake, lively” to unite geneticist Conrad Waddington, embryologist Joseph Needham, entrepreneur-cum-designer Jack Pritchard, architect Walter Gropius, and painter and set-designer Yolanda Sonnabend. Associate Professor of Aesthetic Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, Terranova’s most recent book is Art as Organism: Biology and the Evolution of the Digital Image (2016).

Andrew Carnie and Alexa Wright introduce ‘Hybrid Bodies’, a long-term, multidisciplinary research project that brings together the arts, ethics, medicine and social sciences to investigate the complexities of heart transplantation. Andrew Carnie is an artist and academic. His artistic practice involves interaction with neurologists and other medical scientists. The work is often time-based, involving slide projection using dissolve systems or video projected onto complex screen configurations. Alexa Wright is an artist and Reader in Visual Culture at University of Westminster. Alexa uses a wide range of media in her work, including photography, video, sound, interactive installation, performance, objects and books. Many of her projects involve collaborations with medical scientists and/or people with medical conditions or disabilities.

Artist and researcher Gemma Anderson introduces her work in the context of the current AHRC project ‘Representing Biology as Process’ she is working on with Biologist James Wakefield and Philosopher John Dupré at the University of Exeter. Anderson has collaborated on a number of innovative art/science projects including ‘Hidden Geometries’ with the Mathematics Department at Imperial College London; ‘Isomorphology’ and the ‘Cornwall Morphology and Drawing Centre’ with the Natural History Museum, London; and ‘Portraits: Patients and Psychiatrists’ (Wellcome Trust Arts Award 2009) in collaboration with psychiatrists and patients at Bethlem Royal Hospital. Her work has been exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Freud Museum and the Wellcome Collection, London. Her new book Drawing as a Way of Knowing in Art and Science (Intellect Press) launched in October 2017.


London LASER 22
Tuesday 27 June 2017
University of Westminster

London LASER explores the relationship between biology and design. Professor and designer Carole Collet introduces key themes and concerns within current biodesign practice, followed by presentations from students and lecturers from three London arts universities who have participated in the Biodesign Challenge, from Central Saint Martins, University of Westminster and the Royal College of Art.

Carole Collet is a Professor and Director of the Design & Living Systems Lab at Central Saint Martins. Her research focuses on exploring the intersection of biology and design to develop speculative and disruptive sustainable design proposals. Collet operates within a long-term framework and her research targets the year 2050 and beyond. By anticipating future key socio-economic factors and technological timelines, she aims at impacting today’s design directions so as to enable a more resilient and sustainable future. Collet’s ambition is to elevate the status of design to become a powerful tool that contributes to developing innovative paths to achieve the ‘one planet lifestyle’.

Biodesign Challenge offers art and design students the opportunity to envision future applications of biotechnology in a competition highlighting innovation and interdisciplinary exploration. 24 international colleges have worked with biologists and designers to inspire and support creative responses to pertinent themes affecting our futures. In June 2017 selected projects were invited to New York City to present their designs to members of the academic, industrial, and design communities at the Biodesign Summit.

Winning team: Liv Bargman and Nina Cutter, ‘Quantworm’

Teams of students from MA Material Futures and MA Art and Science at Central Saint Martins collaborated on projects exploring Biodesign and the Anthropocene. As evidence of the impact of human activities on geological forces increases, there is now a growing argument that we need to acknowledge the beginning of a new epoch. Climate change, deep pollution, ocean acidification, the sixth mass extinction of species are all issues resulting from our activities, having a profound impact on our future lives. Students explored how the intersection of design and biology could lead to new models, services or experiences that could help reduce our impact on the planet.

University of Westminster worked with multi-disciplinary undergraduate students enrolled on a cross-university elective Art/Science Collaboration module. This year the module team was excited to join the Biodesign Challenge as it offered students an amazing opportunity to tackle new challenges. Experimental projects include the design of underwear that changes colour in response to STDs and a new 3D printing material produced from hair and vegetable waste.

The Royal College of Art took food as a central focus, engaging students from across design, fashion, information experience, architecture and visual communication to work with scientists from Imperial College. Food was selected for its blurred borders between disciplines and fields, with food supply chains combining science, technology and culture. Participants interacted with the biological, physical and computer sciences to help understand the practicalities and innovations of the food supply chain, whilst contextualising cultural and economic factors. Students were encouraged to conceive of methods of collaboration between scientific, anthropological and design disciplines to produce a sustainable food future that supports the whole ecosystem we live in.


London LASER 21
Tuesday 16 May 2017
Central Saint Martins

London LASER presents an evening of talks on art and science interactions: with Astrid Alben on poetry and science; Annie Cattrell and Marius Kwint on transformation; and Mellissa Fisher and Mark Clements on negotiated practice.

Artist Annie Cattrell and art historian and curator Marius Kwint discuss and reflect upon their current exhibition and Annie’s public artwork, both entitled Transformation, for the new Science Centre at Anglia Ruskin University. As the title suggests, the subject is metamorphosis, from ancient bodies to modern materials. Annie Cattrell teaches at the Royal College of Art and was previously Reader in Fine Art at De Montfort University. She has completed several important public art commissions, including the award-winning New Biochemistry Building at the University of Oxford and at Oxford Brookes University, and is currently lead artist at the New Museums Site at the University of Cambridge. Marius Kwint is Reader in Visual Culture at the University of Portsmouth. His curatorial credits with Annie as a contributing artist include Einfach Komplex on branching forms in science and visual culture and the highly popular Brains at Wellcome Collection and MSI Manchester. In 2015 he was co-curator of a critically acclaimed Venice Biennale event, Frontiers Reimagined.

Astrid Alben is a poet published by Arc Publications. Her poems and essays are widely published, including in the Times Literary Supplement, Best of British Poetry Anthology and Granta. Alben is also the Artistic Director of PARS, inviting artists and scientists to share their thoughts and research around particular topics in a publication series and at location specific events mixing art, theatre and scientific experiment. She is a Rijksakademie Fellow and a Wellcome Trust Fellow and recently appeared on BBC Radio 4 to talk about her fascination with scientific methodologies and how this impacts her poetry. Astrid Alben reads from her poems and explores how science has influenced their construction. @astridalben

Artist Mellissa Fisher has collaborated extensively with Mark Clements, an established microbiologist and Professor in Science Education at the University of Lincoln, for five years. Together they have created a series of ‘living sculptures’, revealing the invisible microflora of the human skin. They have contributed to Invisible You, a Wellcome Trust funded human microbiome exhibition at the Eden Project in Cornwall and more recently they were commissioned by a production company to create a life size human bacterial sculpture for a BBC documentary on antimicrobial resistance to be broadcast in May 2017.  Mellissa Fisher and Mark Clements talk about ‘negotiated practice’, exploring the relationships between artist, scientist, and the external agencies commissioning their work.

London LASER 20
Tuesday 21 March 2017
University of Westminster

London LASER and Arts Catalyst presented an evening on ‘Man Made Clouds’, inviting artists Hehe (Helen Evans and Heiko Hansen) to discuss their long term ecologically orientated arts practice and writer Malcolm Miles to reflect on the place of aesthetics in these precarious times.

HeHe’s work reflects on the energy needs of contemporary life, visualising social, industrial and ecological paradoxes through installations and performances of technological landscapes. Their repertoire touches on worst-case technological accidents, exposing the hidden dimensions and implications of ecological threats. The actors of HeHe’s performance installations are the machines themselves: oil rigs, nuclear power plants, incinerators, cars, cranes, trains, and the electric devices of mass consumption. Installed in real world environments or eerie staged settings, technology is staged, placed in apocalyptic chromatic landscapes and dressed in an unnatural green afterglow. Hehe’s Helen Evans reflects on how clouds occupy a special place in our imaginations with their countless forms and combinations offering infinite possibilities for metaphor – whilst much has been written about clouds, and they are often represented in art, design and architecture, few have addressed the man-made clouds produced by consumer culture. In visual culture, far from being neutral, representations of clouds embody distinct ideologies.

Malcolm Miles is author of Limits to Culture (2015), Eco-Aesthetics: art, literature and architecture in a period of climate change (2014), Herbert Marcuse: an aesthetics of liberation  (2011), Urban Utopias (2008) and Cities & Cultures (2007); until 2016 he was Professor of Cultural Theory in the Architecture school at University of Plymouth and is now an independent writer and researcher on critical theories of culture and society. Here he will explore the role of aesthetics in oblique moves towards social change. In these dark times, threatened by climate change, struggling with precarity and social atomism, with no political light in sight, he argues the case for aesthetics. Beginning with HeHe’s projects Nuage Vert, Fracking Futures, and The Future was about Fracking, and drawing on cultural history and theory from the 1880s to the present, the talk offers possible formulations of an engaged eco-aesthetic and activism for the early 21st century.

Arts Catalyst commissions art that experimentally and critically engages with science, producing provocative, and risk-taking projects to spark dynamic conversations about our changing world. Arts Catalyst plays a leading role in the development of artists’ engagement with science, and critical discourse around this field. Through their commissions, exhibitions and events, they enable people to have distinctive, thought-provoking experiences that transcend traditional boundaries of art and science.

London LASER 19
Tuesday 21 February 2017
Central Saint Martins

London LASER and CLOT magazine present an evening on ‘Interspecies Creativity’ with artist Kuai Shen, composer Eduardo R. Miranda and designer Veronica Ranner.

Bringing together a group of practitioners engaged in creative practices with nonhuman life forms we explored issues connected with interspecies communication, co-creation and collaboration. Discussion included considerations of working creatively with living matter, the implications of shared authorship, notions of nonhuman subjectivity, and issues of care and control.

CLOT Magazine is an online curatorial platform dedicated to art explorations into science and technology, curated and edited by Meritxell Rosell and Lula Criado. Founded and based in London, CLOT Magazine curates intellectual content, generates debate and creates new frontiers of exploration by researching trends in areas of: biomedia, biodesign, body architectures and cyborgs, bio robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), sound art, computing art, kinetics, synthetic biology among others.   @ClotMagazine

Eduardo R. Miranda is a composer and Artificial Intelligence (AI) scientist working at the crossroads of biology & music. He studied Music Technology at the University of York and received a PhD on the topic of music with AI from the University of Edinburgh. Currently, he is Professor in Computer Music at Plymouth University where he heads the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research, which is pioneering the development of biological and quantum computing technology for music. Here Prof Miranda introduced his research into harnessing the Physarum polycephalum slime mould to build bio-processors and interactive musical bio-computers.    @bio_computer

Kuai Shen is an artist whose ant-mediated installations reflect on the interspecies relationship between insects and humans as a metaphor for a post-human ecology, in which mutualisms between artefacts and organisms take place. He has published his research about ant stridulation in “Biologically-Inspired Computing for the Arts” from the University of Colorado, in the Leonardo MIT Journal for the Siggraph, as well as in the Acoustic Space Journal published in the context of the 5th Renew Media Art Histories conference. His current research focuses on ant mimicry in the post-biologic technology of humans based on emergence, resiliency and imitation.

Veronica Ranner is a designer, artist, and researcher interested in networked cycles, emerging bio-technologies and bio-fabrication, systems design, and new roles for designers. She currently pursues an AHRC funded PhD at the Royal College of Art and holds a Visiting Scientist position with SilkLab at Tufts University in Boston (MA, USA), examining the burgeoning domain of the bio-digital — a converging knowledge space where computational thinking meets biological matter. She holds degrees in Industrial Design from Pforzheim University, a Masters in Design Interactions from the RCA, and has worked on trans-disciplinary projects with a range of science institutions and biomedical companies. She lectures and exhibits internationally and is the founder of Polyphonic Futures, a design-science research platform that cross-connects experts with the public in real-world events and digitally.             @vroniranner