Welcome

On behalf of our team at Subtle Technologies, I’d like to welcome you to the 15th annual Subtle Technologies Festival. We are especially grateful to our sponsors who make it possible for us to bring you the festival every year. Thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council. Also a big thank you for the Community Partnership Grant from the U.S. Mission in Canada who have provided us funding for the “Immortal Body” program on Sunday May 27th. This year we are presenting our festival in partnership with Ryerson University and are grateful for their support in helping us with our mandate of facilitating interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration.

As you will see in the following program we are presenting a number of  events that will capture your imagination and inspire  creativity. We will be holding workshops,  networking sessions, exhibitions, symposia , performances and screenings. Last year if you joined us for the festival you will remember our symposium program was unthemed, unlike previous themed years. This year we are providing a hybrid program. One day of our festival will be unthemed with the rest of the festival being themed. The unthemed day allows us to create a program across the disciplines of art and science, from recent advances in our understanding of quantum physics to an artists interpretation of bird flight data. The second day of our symposium focuses on artists and scientists working in biology.  As well  as  covering a spectrum of disciplines we like to explore topics at different scales. In exploring the theme of biology we will move from the cellular level through to larger systems. At the upper end of this scale one of these presentations will explore ways in which biology can influence robot system design. There is presently a growing movement towards biohacking and DIY biology amongst amongst artists  This year we will learn about some of the techniques being used as well as discuss the ethics in carrying out this work. These questions are becoming more relevant at a time when artists now have the ability to explore the manipulation of life at the DNA level.

The second day of our symposium with a theme of biology will act as a natural springboard into our final day entitled “Immortal Body”, curated by Zulfikar Hirji, associate professor of anthropology at York University. The “Immortal Body” program was inspired by the story of Henrietta Lacks. She was a 30 year old  African American woman who, in 1951,  unwittingly had cells removed from a tumor. These cells would become an immortal cell line that is extremely robust and easily multiply. These cells known as HeLa cells are used till this day in scientific  and medical research. We are excited to be having author Alondra Nelson deliver a keynote talk entitled “Henrietta Lacks in Text and Context”. This presentation along with others during the day will provide some insight into the racialized and gendered biases that exist within  medical and scientific communities.

We are thrilled to have choreographer Gail Lotenberg and her dance company LINK Dance at the festival this year. Gail presented at last year’s festival on her work with scientists.  This year we are programming her full length performance of Experiments at the Winchester Street Theatre. This work is an excellent example of how ideas in science and art can merge to provide a deeper understanding of both disciplines.

This year’s festival comes on the heels of a very busy year of programming for us including our popular ArtSciCamp and a number of workshops in science labs and institutions. We are sure you will have a wonderful time at this years festival and we look forward to the conversations we will have into the future.

Director of Programs, Jim Ruxton

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