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  • Writer's pictureScott Mallory, Jr.

When Science Meets Art

May 11, 2022

Nina Bader, Science & Technology Officer, Consulate General of Switzerland in Vancouver

When science meets art, the most inspiring moments and innovative conversations arise. This is exactly the experience we had at the first Swiss Innovation FEST in Vancouver. After more than a year of planning and organizing, the Swiss Innovation FEST was launched this April. A celebration of art, science and innovation, of the existing partnerships between Switzerland and Canada in these fields, and hopefully a platform for future collaboration between scientists and artists from the two countries. To kick off the event, we invited selected guests to Science World to enjoy the exhibition "Inside CERN" by Andri Pol and a panel discussion on the importance of the connection between art and science.

Science World is a place of encounter. Children meet adults, the general public meets researchers and artists, tourists meet locals. Originally built as an Expo Centre for Expo 1986, Science World now belongs to Vancouver like no other institution. It’s the leading science center and a strong advocate for science, innovation and art.

This is precisely why we decided there was no better place than this for the "Inside CERN" exhibition by Swiss photographer Andri Pol. His colorful images are shown to their best effect in the light-flooded entrance hall. And they reach all these people who meet at Science World.

Andri Pol spent months at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva capturing and visualizing the aura of science. His photographs bear witness to curiosity and respect; revealing the commitment, obstinacy, and optimism of scientists and specialists. His photographs are dedicated to them, to the people at CERN and to scientific freedom.

The cutting-edge research is given a human face and even if we don’t fully understand the processes at work, the pictures allow us to perceive how in this world of the tiniest particles the biggest connections are searched for.

For the panel discussion, we invited representatives from our FEST partner institutions. Stuart Shepherd, communications specialist at TRIUMF, Ingrid Koenig, artist at Emily Carr University, Clara Nellist, physicist at CERN and Andri Pol, the Swiss photographer, discussed with Jen Cook, Creative Director at Science World what impact arts has on science and vice versa.

Andri Pol talked about his time at CERN and how fascinating his work was at one of the most important scientific institutions in the world. While the institution itself makes the biggest scientific discoveries, the calculations for them are often written on blackboards, overwritten and discussed. In general, the whole institution seems very approachable once you're inside.

Ingrid Koenig shared many practical examples. As a lecturer at Emily Carr University, the art university in Vancouver, and artist in residence at TRIUMF, she was able to perfectly combine science and art and show this connection to her students as well. One example in particular has stayed with me: A scientist practicing his TEDTalk on a scientific discovery with Ingrid's students. During his first talk, really no one had understood anything and he was asked to revise his talk again. Only after several attempts, did the art students realize what he was talking about and the TEDTalk was ready for the public.

Clara Nellist is not only a physicist, but also a strong science communicator. She talked about her experiences with reaching the younger generation and passing on the fascination for physics. She is one of the first at CERN to run a TikTok account, currently reaching over 170,000 people. The interest is immense, as CERN and the subject matter itself is very elusive for many. Clara tries to close this gap by actively interacting with her audience. Stuart Shepherd also has similar experiences. For him, too, it is important to change science and its communication and make it more approachable. Because science needs clear communication.

It was a fantastic start to the Swiss Innovation FEST and the beginning of a series of events that all contributed their part to the discussion around art and science. Stay tuned for more!

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