Roots of Curiosity: symbiosis of art and science

Date: Friday, 30th January, 2015, 21h00 

Venue: Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, Auditorium, 

Speakers: Zach Mainen, Madalena Wallenstein, Semir Zeki, Michael John Gorman, Lisa Jamieson, Harriet Martin, James Wilkes, Michael Punt

Hosts: Ana Rita FonsecaPatrícia Correia, Samuel Viana




Action. Thought. Understanding. Feeling. Exploration. Repetition.

Neuroscientists represent the world using cause-effect relationships, principles, mechanisms. Artists create representations of the world using colors, sounds, movements. Can these representations mutually challenge, feed and complete themselves in a single humanistic experience?

What is this drive for recreating, representing and manipulating reality? Could it be that both artists and scientists are driven by a shared “root” of curiosity?

The art-science project Raízes da Curiosidade – Tempo de Ciência e Arte – (a partnership between Centro Cultural de Belém and Fundação Champalimaud) challenged 5 pairs of artists and scientists to create an object that was simultaneously artistic and scientific. To explore this, a space and a time was created for the pairs to discover convergences and divergences in their motivations and methodologies, allowing them to be immersed in the creative world of the other in as symbiotic a manner as possible. Would it be possible to create a third space between art and science?

The outputs of this project have included (thus far) performances by the artist-scientist pairs as well as workshops for both adults and children. Join us in January 2015, when the cycle Raízes da Curiosidade will culminate at the auditorium of the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown with a two day conference. It’s main focus will be to discuss transversality between Science and Art, and it will include the creators and participants involved in this project as well as a panel of invited national and international guests with experience intertwining art and science within a range of contexts and roles (mediators, artists, scientists, curators etc). The conference will also premiere a documentary by Cláudia Varejão that captures some of the processes and experiences of the artists and scientists throughout the project.

Zach Mainen

Zach Mainen studied psychology and philosophy at Yale University, got his PhD in Neuroscience at UC San Diego and was principal investigator at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, before moving to Lisbon to help found the CNP in 2007. He is currently the director of the CNP and heads the Systems Neuroscience Laboratory. His interests include decision-making and uncertainty from the level of neural circuits to the level of societies.


Madalena Wallenstein

Madalena Wallenstein has been a music teacher since 1987. She has developed extensive work with children and adults on artistic expressions both as a creator, trainer and founder of artistic communitary projects. Currently, she is head of the Fábrica das Artes – the educational project of Centro Cultural de Belém.


Semir Zeki

Semir Zeki is a British neurobiologist and is considered one of the founders of the field of neuroaesthetics. His original interests involved charting visual areas in the primate and his more recent work has involved studying the neural correlates of affective states, such as the experience of love, desire and beauty. Since 2008 he has been Professor of Neuroesthetics at University of College London.


Michael John Gorman

Michael John Gorman is the Founding Director of Science Galery, a cultural space dedicated to science and art, located at Trinity College Dublin. He is also Coordinator of the StudioLab project, a project bridging art and science in partnership with Le Laboratoire (Paris), Royal College of Art (London), Leonardo, Ars Electronica FutureLab (Linz) and Medialab Prado (Madrid). He has a PhD in History from the European University Institute in Florence.


Michael Punt

Michael Punt is Professor of Art and Technology at the University of Plymouth. He practiced and exhibited internationally as a sculptor and film maker until 1990. He is an international co-editor for Leonardo and Editor-in-Chief of Leonardo Reviews that publishes hundreds of articles on science technology and arts every year.


Lisa Jamieson, Harriet Martin, James Wilkes

The Hub at Wellcome Collection is a new space for researchers and other creative minds to collaborate on a project that will explore medicine in historical and cultural contexts, granted by the Wellcome Trust. Formed by a team of scientists, artists, public health experts and other professionals, Hubbub is based in London as the first residents of The Hub at Wellcome Collection. James, Harriet and Lisa are part of the project.



The trio started working together as a team on an earlier Ar event: Creativity: The Playground of The Brain in 2012. This event gathered an artist and a scientist and aimed at discussing the neurobiological basis of creativity. Deeply inspired by all the discussions and unanswered questions, they submitted a successful proposal for a larger project that would gather artists and scientists and be housed at the Centro Cultural de Belém, and this is how Raízes da Curiosidade began!


Ana Rita Fonseca studied Physics Engineering at Universidade de Aveiro and
is now doing a PhD at Systems Neuroscience laboratory studying decision-making. 


Patrícia Correia studied Biochemistry at Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de
Lisboa and is now doing a PhD at Systems Neuroscience laboratory studying the role of serotonin in the brain.


Samuel Viana originally studied biology at the University of Galway, Ireland, and then
became interested in physical theatre where he studied at Ecole Lassaad in Belgium.
He is now doing a practice-based PhD on Art, Movement and Cognition. 

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