Leonardo Art/Science Evening Rendezvous of November 4, 2013

Exploring the Frontiers of Knowledge and Imagination, Fostering Interdisciplinary Networking
San Francisco, November 4, 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:
    Laura Richard (UC Berkeley Art Historian) on "An interdisciplinary introduction to artist Maria Nordman" The history of science and technology can illuminate the meaning of Maria Nordman's masterwork Saddleback Mountain... Read more
  • 7:25-7:50:
    Paul Skokowski (Stanford Philosopher) on "Are you a zombie?" It turns out you might be.... 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:
    Tania Lombrozo (UC Berkeley Psychologist) on "What makes an explanation beautfiful? And why does it matter?" Why are humans so motivated to explain?... Read more
  • 8:35-9:00:
    Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik (Visual Artist) on "The Edible Body: Food as Political Strategy in a Contemporary Art Practice" Using food-based materials for art making as a strategy for political engagement... Read more
  • 9:00pm-9:30pm: Discussions, networking You can mingle with the speakers and the audience

  • Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is an interdisciplinary artist and educator born and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles to Indian and Japanese Colombian parents. After receiving her B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, Sita moved to the Bay Area where she holds an M.F.A. from California College of the Arts and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies. She is a lecturer at UC Merced and RayKo Photo Center. Sita has collaborated with organizations such as Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, The San Jose Museum of Art, SomArts, 18 Reasons, 826 Valencia, Asterisk SF, Whitman College, Cal-State Fullerton, Stanford University, and the Future Food House in Rotterdam. She has been the art features editor for Hyphen magazine, writer for Art Practical, and a board member at Kearny Street Workshop. She is currently a Research Fellow at the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles and a Lucas Artist Program Resident at Montalvo. Her favorite spice is cardamom.
  • Tania Lombrozo is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as an affiliate of the Department of Philosophy and a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard University in 2006 after receiving a B.S. in Symbolic Systems and a B.A. in Philosophy from Stanford University. Dr. Lombrozo's research aims to address foundational questions about cognition using the empirical tools of cognitive psychology and the conceptual tools of analytic philosophy. Her work investigates explanation and understanding, conceptual representation, categorization, social cognition, and causal reasoning. Recent projects have focused on the role of explanation in learning and how explanations guide inference, with related strands of work in both children and adults. Dr. Lombrozo is the recipient of numerous early-career awards including the Stanton Prize from the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, the Spence Award from the Association for Psychological Science, and a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, as well as a James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award in Understanding Human Cognition. She is also the Psychology Director for a project funded by the Templeton Foundation on "Varieties of Understanding: New Perspectives from Psychology, Philosophy, and Theology," which will begin in the summer of 2013, and she blogs about psychology, philosophy, and cognitive science at Psychology Today and for NPR's 13.7: Cosmos & Culture.
  • Laura Richard (UC Berkeley) works in Modern and Contemporary Art with a Designated Emphasis in Film. This past Spring she taught a course on Installation Art and last summer her article, "Anthony McCall: The Long Shadow of Ambient Light," appeared in the Oxford Art Journal. Since 2009 Laura has been the co-coordinator of the Townsend Working Group in Contemporary Art at UC Berkeley, whose mission is to foster interdisciplinary and inter-institutional conversations. She is currently writing her dissertation on the early film and room works of Maria Nordman, a portion of which she presented at the UCSD Visual Arts Graduate Student Conference in March.
  • 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.
  • Paul Skokowski is a philosopher and cognitive scientist who teaches in Symbolic Systems and Philosophy at Stanford, and runs a research initiative with workshops on consciousness in conjunction with the Stanford Humanities Center. He has been a Visiting Professor in Philosophy at UC Berkeley, McDonnell-Pew Visiting Fellow at Oxford University, Professor of Surfing at Yahoo!, and Director of the Institute for Scientific Computing Research for the UC Livermore Lab. Paul has published in philosophy, physics, cognitive science and computing. Paul received a PhD in philosophy from Stanford and a BA and MA in physics and philosophy from Oxford. His current research interests include consciousness and philosophy of quantum mechanics. Paul is an avid runner and can be found most weekends on trails in the coastal range from the Peninsula up into Marin County.

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


As an installation artist I use food-based materials as a strategy for political engagement. In my installation To Curry Favor (2010-ongoing), a site-specific project where curry powder is dusted onto the walls of the gallery, the savory scent often precedes the visual. Why curry powder? As I discovered early on, a simple search on Google for the "smell of curry" turns up endless entries complaining about the offensive smell of a neighbor or coworker. "Help, my neighbor smells like curry" wrote one person on Yahoo! Answers. Another replied, "Call the INS." Shocked and intrigued by the immediate association between scent, body, and legal status, I began to think about how we sense difference. It is something that we construct not just with our eyes but also with our noses and our tongues. In other projects I have blended cinnamon and gentrification (Querida Calle 24 | Dear 24th Street, 2012) and mint chip ice cream and race (Eye Screamery, 2012). I've apprenticed with a perfumer, created scavenger hunts, and led workshops. Throughout these projects food is a constant but it is not the point. Food presents an opportunity, an excuse, a conversation starter, an opening. The savory scents and delicious treats are not sense for sense's sake; it's about how we experience each other. What flavor are you?


Children and adults, like scientists, are driven to explain the social and physical world around them. Why are we so motivated to explain? And why are we so picky when it comes to explanations, with some striking us as deeply satisfying, and others deeply dissapointing? Drawing on research from cognitive science, I'll discuss three mysteries of explanation and what they tell us about the nature of human cognition and our remarkable ability to function in a complex world.


Certain recent philosophical theories offer the prospect that zombies are possible. These theories argue that experiential contents, or qualia, are nonphysical properties. The arguments are based on the conceivability of alternate worlds in which physical laws and properties remain the same, but in which qualia either differ or are absent altogether. But one can show that qualia are, on the contrary, physical properties in the world.

Laura Richard

Between 1969 and 1979, German-born but Los Angeles-based conceptual artist Maria Nordman created more than a dozen ephemeral room works that manipulated existing architecture to train sunlight into certain spatial effects. Because her rooms physically resembled the formal and perceptual installations of other Southern California artists like Robert Irwin and James Turrell, Nordman is often miscategorized as part of the Light and Space movement. This talk will focus on an important site-specific work-Saddleback Mountain (1973)-to explore how Nordman's unique use of materials and conditions actually creates situations that are as outwardly expansive and allusive as they are about "seeing yourself seeing." More specifically, I will draw on the history of science and technology to extend the reading of Saddleback Mountain from the phenomenological into the geopolitical.

Photos and videos