Molecular Aesthetics
Cover of the publication »Molecular Aesthetics«
Fri, July 15, 2011 – Sun, July 17, 2011, Symposium
We currently find ourselves at the threshold of a material revolution about to make inroads into the molecular level of matter called nanotechnology. The new results expected to emerge from such developments will change aesthetic practices.
As part of a collaborative project on the theme of creativity and innovation implemented by the ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, the Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, in cooperation with the DFG Center for Functional Nanostructures of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), and launched by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of State, in 2007, the symposium »Molecular Aesthetics«, aims to establish a connection between current developments in the molecular sciences and the arts and music. The objective is to initiate an interdisciplinary exchange of perspectives and ideas which could give rise to a new definition of aesthetic experience.

In the words of Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect, we can describe the modern aesthetics of the industrial society as »Machinery, Materials and Men« (Kahn Lectures, 1931). In the postindustrial age, we just have to replace the words »machinery« and »materials« by the words »media« and »molecules« and we know that we are entering the age of »La révolution moléculaire« that the French philosopher and psychoanalyst Félix Guattari proclaimed already in 1977. Today, molecular aesthetics represents what the Bauhaus movement of the 1920s called “material research”. At that time, new industrial materials, such as metals, wood, perspex and aluminum, were used as raw materials. These materials, however, were determined by their macro features. By way of the developments in nanotechnology, it is now possible for material research to advance into new micro realms of the molecular. Modern computer-based technology has facilitated insights into a material far removed from existing conceptions, namely, into the world of molecules, atoms and subatomic particles.

As a concept, molecular aesthetics may thus be understood as a virtual field that emerged thanks to our ability to visualize matter at the macromolecular level. In the cooperation with the DFG-Center for Functional Nanostructures, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), which has focused on the support of nanostructures with specific functionality, the ZKM seeks to unfold new approaches for art and science. For art, this opening signifies access to a new area: the eye perceives something which it would otherwise not see. The molecular sciences acquire the possibility to articulate their results socially and artistically.

The symposium speakers include

Joe Davis, artist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge and Harvard Medical School, Boston
Thierry Delatour, Nancy-Université, France
Eric Francoeur, École de technologie Supérieure, Montreal
Ljiljana Fruk, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, KIT
Jens Hauser, Ruhr University Bochum
Leonard F. Lindoy, Emeritus Professor, University of Sidney
John Marks, University of Nottingham, UK
Robert E. Mulvey, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
Robert Root-Bernstein, Michigan State University, USA
Hermann Josef Roth, Emeritus Professor of pharmaceutical medical chemistry at the University of Tübingen
HA Schult, artist, DE
Conrad Shawcross, artist, UK
Georg E. Schulz, Emeritus Professor, University of Freiburg, Freiburg
Tami I. Spector, University of San Francisco, USA
Chris Toumey, University of South Carolina, USA
Peter Weibel, ZKM | Center of Art and Media,Karlsruhe, Germany


Fri, July 15, 2011

6:00 pm Welcoming speech
6:45 pm Evening lecture Leonard F. Lindoy
7:30 pm Film-Screening: »The Power of the Elements«
Evening reception

Sat, July 16, 2011

10:00 am-01:00 pm Lectures by Eric Francoeur, Robert E. Mulvey,
Peter Weibel/Ludger Brümmer/Jens Barth
01:00 pm-02:30 pm Lunch break
02:30 pm-07:30 pm Lectures by Thierry Delatour, Robert Root-
Bernstein, Georg E. Schulz und HA Schult
07:30 pm-08:30 pm concerts
Tim Otto Roth: »Music of Life« for 20
stringed instruments
With the KHG Student Symphony Orchestra, Freiburg
Gerhard Winkler »Pièces fluides« (2011, UA)
Composition for piano and electronics
Piano: Rei Nakamura, sound direction:
Gerhard Winkler

Sun, July 17, 2011

10:00 am-01:00 pm Lectures by Chris Toumey, Tami I. Spector und
Joe Davis
01:00 pm-02:30 pm Lunch break
02:30 pm-07:30 pm Lectures by John Marks, Conrad Shawcross, Jens
Hauser, Hermann J. Roth und Ljiljana Fruk
07:30 pm Film screening »The Race for the Double Helix«

As a second part of this support for the innovation and creativity of research in the arts, the symposium »Neuro-aesthetics« will be held on November 22nd−24th, 2012.

The concept of neuro-aesthetics seeks to understand creative processes as expressions of the brain’s functions. At the same time, it attempts to grasp the neurobiological foundations of aesthetic experience. It thus expresses an attempt to connect the various approaches to the concept of art and human experience with one another. Until now, the rapid development in the neurosciences has generated a complex scope of knowledge which has advanced both the understanding of artistic judgment as well as the developmental process of creativity. The enhanced understanding of the way the brain works, and, by extension, of the way the senses process data, not only facilitates a greater understanding of the causes and the effects of works of art, but also makes possible new artistic ideas.

Among those invited are: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, Martin Kemp, Warren Neidich, Ernst Pöppel, Daniel Levitin, Wannan Tang, Brian David Josephson, Björn Franke, Martin Dresler, Louise Wagner, Erhard Oeser, Wolf Singer, Semir Zeki, Gábor Paál, Eva Ruhnau, Charles Vacanti et al.
Organization / Institution
DFG-Centrum für Funktionelle Nanostrukturen (CFN) des KIT | Karlsruher Institut für Technologie
Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst Baden-Württemberg