Finally i found some time and here you have my answers. Great to read yours
1- What is your background as a professional scientist? What is your
background in the arts, design or humanities.
I have a PhD in Physics, and i´m researcher in single semiconductor
nanostructure spectroscopy, which belongs to a large interdisciplinar field
of study involving Applied Physics, Nanotechnology, Photonics, Quantum
Optics, Solid State Physics, ... I carried all my career near Valencia
(with some short stays in Edinburgh and Florence), but now I going to
continuous my science research at Sydney for a couple of years.
I don´t have formal studies about art, design or humanities, apart from
some isolated courses. However, i´ve been collaborating as a teacher in the
Visual Arts and Multimedia Master of Fine Arts department of the
Universitat Politecnica de Valencia along the last years. I collaborate
with Salome Cuesta in the Art & Science lectures and develop a lecture
about Communications, Networks and Devices. At the same time, last year
i´ve been pleased to be part of the artists and scientist group at Djerassi
along the 2.0 Scientific Delirium Madness residency, where the "gift of
time " between my colleagues was very productive, enjoyable and rich.
2- When and how did you become involved in a hybrid art/science practice?
I have been involved in some arts from my childhood (I play guitar and I
like to write (Spanish)), in my student days I put some effort to try to
study some art and philosophy lectures to try to complement my physics
studies. I always found science lectures without context. For me it always
was important the concept, but at the same time the history of the concept,
the context of the concept, and the creativity process that allows the
possibility of the concept. In some sense it was always flying around the
idea of science as part of culture. By some interesting platforms and
journals, like Leonardo, Yasmin, Metode, Artnodes, Laboratorio de Luz,
Master de Artes Visuales y Multimedia…, I found this Art & Science
I´ve been working many aspects of science communication and science
collaboration between disciplines. I´m part of the group Piratas de la
Ciencia, located in Valencia, where we made many efforts to link different
disciplines in our activities, which are not merely science popularization
activities. We always been interested in multidisciplinary discussion
forums, and introduce science activity in life, but in a bi-directional
way: to be speakers and at the same time public in these forums. At the
same time we are very interested in this activity as a science activists,
as we understands that social issues must be visualized and highlighted. As
an example, yesterdar we ended a one month course called "science between
disciplines", where we collaborated with new media artists, lawyers,
cookers, philosophers, … to speak about chemistry, visual representation,
genetics, communication, not only as a science topics, as interdisciplinary
topics. We use our city instalations, and, I must say that we always end
our forums drinking some bears and eating some tapas in the Mercado Central
de Valencia, that is the origin of the name of this discussion. I think
this is a visual example of our intentions: try to speak about connections
between science, art, engineering, legal issues, medicine, communication, …
informally and pleasantly in an exchange place.
3- what have been the major obstacles to overcome?
As Roger said, the major obstacle was to develop two CVs. Of course your
science CV must be great, because if not your science supervisors are not
going to allow you to use time outside conventional science. So, the major
obstacle is that all of this activity is not understood as science activity
(even it is). This means that we use most of our free time to do it.
However, for me is a refreshing activity, and give me good feedback to
conventional science work. So, in this sense, even this art/sci work is
outside the conventional CV and the expected science work, the energy
focused there gives me new ideas, strengths, social linkings, collaboration
platforms, and vital energy, which finally is translated to my conventional
science work. However, even I would like to be always optimistic, to be
honest I must say that it is kind of maddening when you receive these
science evaluation forms from projects or fellowships and this work is just
not taken into consideration.
4- what have been the greatest opportunities/breakthroughs?
When I started to discover that art&sci was a real activity and there were
many people in my country and outside I was just fascinating. I could not
believe that, in fact, there were so many people working and feeling this
interest in the interdisciplinary connections. This was a great surprise,
and not i´m really happy that the community becomes larger and stronger (=
with more project proposals). So, the first opportunity for me was to work
in a fashion that I though that was not possible (because in school and
university is usually not showed). If this was not possible i´m sure I will
not be happy with my physics studies, as I need physics but linked with
different inputs. At the same time, this art/sci forum gives you freedom of
thinking and a great reservoir of links, ideas and data. This is just what
I understand that science research needs.
At the same time, there are concrete opportunities. The use of same
technology, and the inclusion of the social dimension in science, arts and
humanities allows to work in similar spaces (Fablabs), or with similar
strategies (Do It Yourself or Citizen Science examples). I´ve been
fascinating about the following example: Quantum Moves.
This is a gamification project from Ahrus University (Denmark) about moving
single atoms with laser light traps. The users (from internet and without
any quantum mechanics background) must move the atom with high fidelity and
short times. All the user plays were recording. Finally, with the data from
users, the research team increased the speed limit to move single atoms
with high fidelity, and publish it in Nature. I recommend to read the link,
where more information can be found. For me this is a great example where
even so focused research and apparently (and it is) very technical and far
from everyday work, can be enhanced by this strategies, where comes from
video-game context, citizen science, and need great and strong
interdisciplinary art, science and humanities teams.
5- what would you do differently, knowing then what you know now?
First, to learn English. Communication is the key in much of the research,
but in the interdisciplinary connections even more. At the same time, to be
confused with people is so easy, because rules are different in each
discipline. You must take special care to details, and things that are
usually true or well accepted in your discipline are not well considered in
another. May be it would have been better not to do some activity than to
do it alone. To do it alone make no sense. And for sure, I MUST have great
time doing it. This is not usually paid, this is not under my CV, I can
accept stress (each activity require it), but this must not be painful
6- any advices to someone who may want to walk in your footstep?
As everything in life, do it if you believe in it. I think empathy is
important in the interdisciplinary relations, helps you to try to
understand the different strategies and procedures (it is hard job, but
with great reward). And understand that collaboration and communication are
the keys to a good interdisciplinary project.
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