Join us for a Round Table Discussion inspired by SPLICE

Dorothy Foster Chubb, Head (Detail), carbon dust, 1942-1945

Join us on Friday October 26, 2012, Bissel Building, room 538  (University of Toronto) from 5 to 7 pm  for a round table discussion  moderated by curator Nina Czegledy,  with Allison Crawford,  Assistant Professor  Psychiatry UofT, Prof David A Steinman, Biomedical Simulation UofT and exhibiting artists Jack Butler and Danielle Drew Belsky. In collaboration with Subtle Technologies, ArtSci Salon and KMDI, University of Toronto.

The round table entitled “The Mediated Body” is inspired by SPLICE : At the Intersection of Arts and Medicine. This show presents a scientific gaze at the human body by showcasing traditional anatomical art, complemented and challenged by contemporary artworks.   Over recent decades the human body has become a key site of scientific, social political and cultural interpretations. The paradigm shifts revealed important questions about alienation, the potential loss of agency and context while at the same time allowing us new opportunities for expressions of identity on a borderless scale. The increased uses of technologies have changed how we see ourselves and the world around us. The panel discussion is intended to investigate and comment on these issues.  The exhibition SPLICE : At the Intersection of Arts and Medicine is curated by Nina Czegledy and is co-presented by Blackwood Gallery and the University of Toronto Art Centre. For more information on the show and other accompying events please visit the Blackwood Gallery  website.

Join us Thursday Night for an Opening Reception with Elaine Whittaker’s Cc:me

We are looking forward to our kickoff event Thursday evening from 7:30 to 10 pm at the Red Head Gallery.

Elaine Whittaker is a Toronto based  bioartist. Elaine has been busy this week installing her show Cc:me.  Elaine’s transdisciplinary work perfectly mirrors Subtle Technologies mandate of bringing together art and science. When you see her work you will agree that she combines art and science in elegant ways.

For this show she combines live halobacteria  with archival fax material collected over a ten year period.

The opening reception will include ambient sound works by Tom Auger and poetry readings by Jim Johnstone, Julie Roorda, Ruth Roach Pierson, and Larry Sulky. For more information on the show and reception please check out this page on our site. See you at the Red Head Gallery!

A Dancing Physicist

We are excited that Krister Shalm will be joining us at our symposium Friday . That day we will look at a number of ideas across the spectrum of art and science, from quantum physics to an artist’s interpretation of motion patterns in bird flight. Krister joined us a number of years ago to speak on some other research he was doing at the time. He was entertaining then and I’m looking forward to his presentation again this year. Not only is he an award winning physicist, Krister is an amazing dancer

Krister Heel Click 606x403 Krister Shalm

His passion for communicating science has led him to team up with a magician, musicians and other dancers.  Krister’s Project Q brought together almost 500 Lindy Hop dancers to demonstrate the power of quantum computing. Hopefully Krister will have a chance to tell and show us more about that project on Friday but he will also speak about some interesting work he recently did with University of Toronto physicist Aephraim Steinberg . Their research was recently awarded Top Physics Beakthrough of the Year by Physics World. This research involved using “weak measurements” to trace the average trajectories of single photons in the classical double slit experiment.

I’m looking forward to hearing more about this work from Krister since I have always been led to believe this was an impossible measurement to make.  This will be a very inspiring presentation not to be missed!

Ecology + dance = ?

We’re really lucky this year to have LINK Dance company coming out to our Festival for a two-night Toronto premiere of EXPERIMENTS: Where Logic and Emotion Collide.

What I’m particularly looking forward to seeing is how the choreographer Gail Lotenberg has synthesised the scientific and the artistic in this piece.

I particularly remember something Gail said when she was visiting the Festival last year to give a talk about this piece. People often talk about how both science and art are similar because they’re both creative, but Gail said something much more interesting: she was struck by the similarity between how scientists and artists observe the world intensely, and by their shared desire to understand the tiniest details.

Based on my last couple of years of working with artists (having a scientific background myself), I think she’s definitely captured something there. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how this idea of deep observation emerges in EXPERIMENTS.

And of course the images from the production are striking: Here’s a couple of my favorites:

Subtle Technologies Festival Coming Soon!!

It’s that time of year when we look forward to international artists and scientists coming together at our festival to share their work with each other and our audience. Keep your eye on our blog as we present the latest news and tell you more about upcoming events and festival participants.

We have had a great year of doing workshops in science labs throughout the year. At our festival we will be hosting a workshop on (get ready for it) SLIME MOULD. This unique organism has found it’s way into many areas of research including city planning, adaptation and robotics. The workshop is being hosted by visual artist, researcher and educator,  Heather Barnett from the University of Westminster in the UK.

Photo by Heather Barnett

Heather has been conducting a number of experiments with slime mold as part of her art practice. She started an amazing blog entitled The Slime Mould Collective, which invites scientists artists and others who are investigating the properties of slime mold to post their images and comments. The images on the site are visually stunning. Check out the blog and  I think you’ll agree.

Here is an interesting article about Japanese scientist Toshiyuki Nakagaki who is attempting to understand slime molds ability to solve mazes.

There are a limited number of spaces in the workshop so sign up early to guarantee a place. You will get to bring home your own pet slime mold. You can find more information on the workshop here.

Mechanical Bride

Hot Docs is just around the corner and this year Subtle Technologies is excited to be co-presenting  one of the films in the festival.  Allison de Fren’s  Mechanical Bride ( an homage to Marshall Mcluhan’s book )  explores the cultural desire to design the perfect artificial woman. The film travels from the classic early science fiction images of the fembot to the present day reality of the love doll industry which is embracing the latest technologies in terms of robotics and material science . The film takes an intimate  look at both the customers and makers in this industry.

The documentary evolved out of the research Allison De Fren did for her dissertation. “The Exquisite Corps : Disarticulations of the Artificial Female” explored representations of artificial female bodies, from the Renaissance to the present. De Fren’s fascination with men who build artificial women was sparked when she worked as an interactive digital designer with mostly male roboticists at a Silicon Valley “think tank”

The film plays :
Sun, Apr 29 11:30 PM at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Mon, Apr 30 9:00 PM at the Cumberland 3 Cinema
Sun, May 6 9:00 PM at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Tickets for Mechanical Bride are available on the Hot Doc website here.

Norman White, A Canadian Legend of Electronic Art

Splish Splash 2

I’m  looking forward to the upcoming screenings of “Them F*ck!ng Robots”, a documentary film about the career of Norman White.  Norman has influenced many artists, including myself, through the courses he taught at OCAD University (formerly OCAD and before that OCA) and now at Ryerson.   In the early 1990’s I decided to take a leap of faith. I had been working as an engineer in Ottawa and started a company designing satellite communication devices. In the evening I took dance classes. I came to the realization that I wanted to find a way to combine these two sides of my life, art and engineering. After looking around at various options I settled on coming to Toronto and enrolling at OCA . Norman was co-teaching an advanced course on servo control mechanisms at the time.  It was then that I developed an immediate admiration for the work and generosity of Norman White. He played a leading role in re-arranging my brain cells and inspiring me to use my electronics skills as an artist.  Norm always has insightful words to say about every students work and is willing to share his vast knowledge of programming, mechanics and electronics. His sense of humor is as sharp as his sense of aesthetics. The title of the documentary,  “Them F*ck!n Robots” refers to a piece he did with artist Laura Kikauka. This along with other pieces like “The Helpless Robot”  allow us to look at our own behavior through the machines he programs.

Norman Helping "The Helpless Robot"

Having done a BA in biology before he went to art school, Norm and I share a desire to combine disciplines and knowledge systems. Norm presented at one of our first Subtle Technologies festivals.  We are  very lucky to have the filmmakers  of  “Them F*ck!n Robots” join us for the screenings. Ine Poppe and Sam Nemeth are both based in Amsterdam.   A Q and A with the filmmakers and White will be moderated by emerging curator Farah Yusuf. The film is being shown at Ryerson on Saturday March 24th at 8 pm and in Hamilton at Factory Media Arts on Monday March 26th at 7 pm. Thanks to the generous support of the Mondriaan Foundation for allowing the screening of this film across Canada.

Tickets for Toronto Screening

Tickets for Hamilton Screening

Technoscience Salon :: MILIEU

‘TechnoScience Salon’ featuring Hannah Landecker (UCLA), a leading scholar of the histories of legacies of cell science and technologies, and artists Jack Butler, Heidi McKenzie, Nadine Valcin, and Jennifer Willet.

VENUE: Centre for Social Innovation, 215 Spadina Ave, Room 120

DATE: Monday, March 19, 4pm – 6pm

SPONSORS: Technoscience Salon, USA Mission in Canada (Community Partnership Grant), Subtle Technologies

CURATOR: Zulfikar Hirji


Hannah Landecker

is an author and Associate Professor of Sociology at UCLA. Her research interests are the social and historical study of biotechnology and life science, from 1900 to the present, the intersections of biology and technology, with a particular focus on cells, and the in vitro conditions of life in research settings. Hannah Landecker was Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Rice University through 2007. She was a visiting scholar at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Texas’s Institute for Medical Humanities in 2004, where she worked on a project that examined the changing human relationship to living matter in an age of biotechnology. Through a history of the technical manipulation of living cells, she looked at how biological things, including those made with human tissues, have been turned into tools and commercial objects. She is also worked on developing new methods and curricula for teaching the history and social study of biotechnology to undergraduates. Dr. Landecker has degrees from the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT (PhD), and the University of British Columbia (BSc).

Jack Butler

JACK BUTLER currently lives and works in Hamilton, Ontario. His hybrid practice uses the means and methods of visual art to produce research in two domains – medical science and collaborations with Inuit artists (the current project, Art & Cold Cash). With degrees in visual art and philosophy, Butler exhibits internationally with work in public and private collections including the National Gallery of Canada.

“I draw. Observing my art career over the last forty-five years of drawing, I have come to recognize that I am developing a core trajectory that focuses on sex and sexuality; the aesthetic, sensuous and even scientific experience of being sexual. My work ranges from my current interest in Somatechnics (theories and practices of alternative sex-gender embodiment) to early and on-going trans-disciplinary art/bio-medical research projects in genital embryogenesis (sexual differentiation in the human embryo) which art-based research is bringing me into collaborative work in trans-gender and intersex communities.”

Anima by Heidi McKenzie

HEIDI MCKENZIE is a Toronto-based ceramic artist completing her final year in Ceramics at Sheridan School of Craft and Design. Heidi has been a manager and creative producer with over twenty years’ experience in the not-for-profit arts sector. She has worked in the music industry, architecture, broadcasting, museum development, festival management, and radio and film production. In 2009, Heidi was the first in six generations to return to her father’s ancestral home of India, where she embarked on a three-month ceramic residency at the foothills of the Himalayas. In the spring of 2010, Heidi left behind her work in the cultural sector and committed to her new life path as an artist. Heidi is a the recipient of the 2011 Emerging Artist Award for the Toronto Artist Project juried art show and sale as well as the 2011 Metchosin International Summer School Bursary.

“My studio practice engages the relationship and responsibility of community in healing. This is explored through conceptual and material examination of ways in which clay, in its ceramic form, conveys “static motion.” Clay is inherently of the human body – the sediment of millennia. The medium reinforces the physicality of the implicit corporeal themes of ailment and recovery.”

Still from Nadine Valcin's 'Fire and Fury' (Credit: Fabrice Strippoli)

Born in Montreal and now based in Toronto, NADINE VALCIN fell in love with cinema after earning a degree in architecture. For the past decade, she has written, directed and produced television programs and magazines. Intrigued by cultural-identity and mixed-race issues, she took on her first film as an independent producer in 1996. Modulations, an experimental project, was followed by the documentary Black, Bold and Beautiful (1999) which picked up an honourable mention at the prestigious ‘Columbus International Film and Video Festival’ before it was adopted into university programs in Women’s Studies and African-American Studies. In A School Without Borders (2005) delves into Nadine Valcin’s questions about the education system and the process of integrating cultural minorities. More recently, she directed the short fiction film Fire that recounts the story of a slave accused of burning down half of Montreal in the 18th century. She is presently in the process of writing her first feature film dealing with a former child soldier seeking refugee status in Canada.

Jennifer Willet

DR JENNIFER WILLET is an internationally successful artist in the emerging field of bioart. From 2000-2007 Willet and Shawn Bailey collaborated on a project called BIOTEKNICA. She taught in the Studio Arts Department at Concordia University from 2000-2007, and completed her PhD in the Interdisciplinary Humanities Program at the same institution. She now works as an Assistant Professor in the School of Visual Arts at The University of Windsor in Canada. In 2009 she opened a bioart research and teaching lab called INCUBATOR: Hybrid Laboratory at the Intersection of Art, Science, and Ecology at the University of Windsor.

Exhibitions include: the Arnolfini Museum, Bristol UK (2010), Exit Art Gallery, New York, NY (2009), Ars Electronica festival, Linz (2008), FOFA Gallery, Montreal (2007), ISEA San Jose, USA (2006), Biennial Electronic Arts Perth, Australia (2004), The European Media Arts Festival Osnabrück, Germany (2003), La Société des arts et technologiques (SAT) Montreal, Canada (2005), and The Forest City Gallery London, Canada (2004), amongst others.


Our 3rd Expedition Series Workshop


Saturday March 24 & Sunday March 25, 10am – 5pm
$180 / $120 for students and unwaged (light lunch included)
Only 12 spaces available!
Register here

As part of our Expedition Series of workshops, Subtle Technologies is excited to be presenting this workshop with award winning physicist Stephen Morris at the University of Toronto.

This workshop explores the fascinating world of Nonlinear Physics as it relates to Pattern Formation. Stephen Morris’s research lab investigates examples of emergent, self-organized structures that occur in Nature. The workshop will look at the driving forces behind such patterns as ripples on blown sand, crack patterns in dried mud, spirals in oscillatory chemical reactions and ripples in icicles. The workshop will also introduce participants to the equipment and techniques used in the lab.

Robert Deegan from the University of Michigan will be a special guest in the workshop and will discuss his research into pattern formation  from exploding seed pods to the bizarre nonlinear physics of vibrating cornstarch.

Participants taking this workshop will have a new appreciation for the patterns of nature and the mechanisms which drive these formations. This workshop will be of special interest to artists, designers and architects; however it is accessible to all those who are curious about the art of natural phenomena. Join us for this very engaging and thought provoking weekend.

The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living.- Henri Poincaré


ArtScienceCamp2: marshmallows, swords, cognitive science, architecture, open data….

The second ArtScienceCamp happened over the weekend. The whole event felt full of energy and a serious attitude towards having fun. The first set of photos uploaded so far (taken by our wonderful volunteer photographers Gail Edwin-Fielding and Quirien Wijnberg; more photos to be uploaded soon) should give you a sense of how it was.

More than 100 people were there on the opening on Friday night to share their ideas for sessions while talking over a glass of wine.

Once we had all the ideas together, we collaborated on figuring out how to put them together to make Saturday’s schedule of events.

On Saturday, the fun began at 10am with a short taste of what it means to teach someone how to sword fight – among 6 different parallel sessions. The day was full of conversation on topics from cognitive science to architecture to open data, interspersed with activities like building marshmallow structures and horsing around in the photobooth.

It was fun to see a lot of U of T students joining in. Typical end-of-day comments expressed a pleasant state of exhaustion from the quantity of new ideas and intensity of the conversations.

Thanks again to our sponsors, our coorganizers and volunteers, and especially to Zoe Dille and the staff at Hart House for making this whole fantastic day possible.

We’re looking forward to next year already!