Leonardo Art/Science Evening Rendezvous of 9 July 2019

Exploring the Frontiers of Knowledge and Imagination, Fostering Interdisciplinary Networking
9 July 2019, 7pm
c/o University of San Francisco
Fromm Hall - Berman Room
2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco
Chaired by Piero Scaruffi and Tami Spector

The LASERs are an international 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 and the dates for the Bay Area.

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...

Program (the order of the speakers might change):
  • 7:00-7:25: Vanessa Chang (California College of the Arts) on "A Poetics of Mediated Movement" The choreographic coupling of human embodiment and digital media in new media art of the 21st century... Read more
  • 7:25-7:50: Lea Witkowsky (Innovative Genomics Institute/ Policy Analyst) on "CRISPR, Rewriting DNA, and the Societal Questions it Raises" How genome editing works and its controversial applications... 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: Caroline Cocciardi (Art Writer) on "Leonardo's Knots" Overlooked for centuries, Leonardo's passion for intertwining knots is visible in several of his masterpieces... Read more
  • 8:35-9:00: Piero Scaruffi (Cultural Historian and L.A.S.E.R. founder) on "The Two Cultures in the age of A.I." On the 60th anniversary of CP Snow's "The Two Cultures" about the gap between the humanities and sciences, let's update it to the age of A.I./Deep Learning... Read more
  • Discussions, networking You can mingle with the speakers and the audience

  • Vanessa Chang is a writer, scholar, curator and educator who builds communities and conversations about our virtual and physical encounters with new media and technology. She works with artists, dancers, scholars, technologists, coders and musicians to understand how we might live and move in a technologically mediated world with humor, grace, deliberation, responsibility, and a sense of play. Her first book project, Tracing Electronic Gesture: A Poetics of Mediated Movement, focuses on the choreographic coupling of human bodies and new media art of the 21st century. Examining hybrid human-machine gestures in such digital art objects and practices as virtual dance, electronic poetry and musical controllerism, she maps the potential of these kinetic engagements to generate new forms of sensory experience and creative agency. Her current research explores the emerging field of art and artificial intelligence. Bridging cultural representations of early automata and artificial intelligence in film, literature, and performance with the recent deployment of machine learning algorithms in art-making, this project considers how the erotic dimensions of this cultural past have shaped how we build our digital automata. She also writes about circuses, street art, hip-hop, disability, and digital motion capture, and has published essays in Popular Music, Animation: an interdisciplinary journal, American Music and in media res. Vanessa holds a Ph.D. in Modern Thought & Literature from Stanford University, and is a Lecturer in Visual & Critical Studies at California College of the Arts. She is a Curator with CODAME ART + TECH. She was a Geballe fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center, as well as the coordinator of the Graphic Narrative Project, a Stanford Humanities Center research workshop dedicated to comics, cartoons and other forms of graphic storytelling.
  • Caroline Cocciardi is a writer, filmmaker, and interior designer. Cocciardi produced a documentary, “Mona Lisa Revealed,” in 2009, and in 2018 she published “Leonardo’s Knots”, the outcome of 20 years of research on Leonardo DaVinci's paintings.
  • Piero Scaruffi is a cultural historian 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 "Intelligence is not Artificial" (2013). He has also written extensively about cinema and literature. He founded the Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous (LASER) in 2008. Since 2015 he has been commuting between California and China, where several of his books have been translated.
  • Lea Witkowsky is a Policy Analyst at the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI), a non-profit research partnership between UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, dedicated to improving and applying genome engineering to solve major world problems. Lea has a B.A. in Chemistry from Willamette University and received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 2016, where she studied mechanisms of gene regulation and CRISPR-based gene editing in human cells. She joined the IGI in September 2017 to work on science policy and help shape the IGI's engagement activities. Lea runs a monthly ethics discussion group that brings together life scientists, social scientists, lawyers, and ethicists. She aims to inspire and facilitate scientifically informed ethical discussions about genome editing through communications with regulators and policymakers and by convening international events that feature diverse perspectives.

Extended abstracts:

Seven short years ago, CRISPR-Cas9 made its debut as a tool to rewrite the genetic code of life. Already, the ability to edit DNA sequences has changed the way we conduct reserch, enabling experiments and questions that were unthinkable just years prior. What's more, genome editing has begun to move from the lab to the real world. The first clical trials using CRISPR to treat disease are underway in the U.S., and a growing list of genome-edited crops have been through regulatory confirmation with the USDA. With this genome editing revolution comes questions about its place in society. Applications with some of the biggest ethical and regulatory challneges are no longer hypothetical - in November, a Chinese scientist announced the births of the first genome-edited human babies, prompting widespread comdemnation and reneweed efforts to establish international regualtions. CRISPR expert and policy analyst, Dr. Lea Witkowsky, will review how genome editing works, and dive into some of the most controversial applications of genome editing, focusing on the ethical and societal dilemas they raise.

In this talk, I trace a poetics of what I call electronic gesture. Briefly tracing the arc of the project as a whole, I will discuss the choreographic coupling of human embodiment and digital media in new media art of the 21st century. Encompassing different mediations of gesture, from practices of inscription, gesture as signmaking and markmaking, to movement in recorded and live performance, this project moves across the whole art system. It traces how digital media quicken, remediate, morph or otherwise alter these existing mediations. Examining experimental new media such as electronic poetry, virtual dances created with digital motion capture and musical “controllerism,” I discuss the dynamics of distributed creative agency across electronic gesture. Looking more closely at one of these examples, I will discuss how, across media, both human and digital actors collaborate in these creative gestures. Ultimately, I show how our gestures invent our machines as well as ourselves.

This talk will introduce you to a facet of Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci overlooked for centuries yet present in his artworks: his passion for intertwining knots. While living in Italy in 1999, Cocciardi witnessed the reopening of Leonardo da Vinci’s fresco "The Last Supper" after a lengthy restoration. The visit started a 20-year journey trying to make sense of the profound experience it had on her. In 2007 Cocciardi saw an exhibition of revelatory photographs of Mona Lisa by French engineer Pascal Cotte, in Paris, France. He had devised a multi-spectral camera and uncovered five centuries of secrets within Leonardo’s iconic painting. The experience leads her to a da Vinci discovery. Overlooked for centuries yet visual to the naked eye Cocciardi detected the minute, interlocking knot pattern on Mona Lisa’s dress deviated from the decorative embroidery of the day to a mathematical pattern based on its angular crossing patterns. She realized it was invented by the painter and served as Leonardo’s ‘logo’ or trademark. Leonardo's combined expertise in art and mathematics gave him the unique ability to translate these miniscule, interlaced wonderments into the glorious visual beauty found in his masterpieces.

In 2019 we celebrate many important anniversaries, but one is particularly relevant for the LASERs. "The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution", a Cambridge University lecture by physicist and novelist Charles Percy Snow (7 May 1959), which expanded on a previous article titled "The Two Cultures" (1956), started the debate on how to close the gap between the humanities and the sciences. Sixty years later, as Deep Learning technology bestows a (primordial) form of intelligence on machines, the gap can be reframed as a gap between humanity and machine: the machine has been and is being designed largely in labs that are insulated from the humanities, despite the fact that the machine is increasingly being asked to replace and collaborate with humans. What is the nature of the gap between Deep Learning and Humanities, and what is being done to close it? Do we need a new discipline, "Deep Humanities"? (Credit SJSU for coining the term in 2018!)

Photos and videos of this evening