Rivers are icons of climate change. They are also highly sensitive indicators of present climate conditions, recorders of historical climate, and predictors of climate in the future. Climate scientists research all of these factors by observing watersheds and the ecosystems they sustain.
Conceived by Jonathon Keats, River Time is a multifaceted civic initiative intended to bolster public appreciation of river systems – and people’s understanding of their significance as climate indicators – by enlisting rivers as timekeepers. Instead of being calibrated by the pulsations of cesium atoms in remote laboratories, local time is measured by the flow of local rivers, speeding up or slowing down with the myriad environmental factors that affect watersheds daily, seasonally, annually, and over the course of generations.
An open-ended investigation of our relationship with time and place, River Time is simultaneously a provocation. The time kept by atomic clocks gives us the false illusion of control: being able to manage the present and predict the future. In fluvial clocks, time is alive with contingencies. We experience the complexity of the global environment. We come to terms with where planning and prediction fail us: the limitations of what we can know about the future – and the threat of hubris.
Originating in Alaska as a SEED Lab project of the Anchorage Museum, River Time is a global initiative, and will be deployed next on the rivers of Switzerland. River Time is also a case study in art-and-science collaboration, which will serve as the basis for research on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research by the Transdisciplinarity Lab at ETH Zurich (Switzerland).
Drawing on insights from the project Shaping Interdisciplinary Dialogues in Europe (SHAPE-ID), an ongoing H2020 project, this discussion will elaborate on pathways to collaborative research. The challenge of including the arts and humanities meaningfully in research and innovation initiatives is not new, but has grown more important in these crisis-ridden times. There is an urgent need for more collaborative work embracing interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research across and between all disciplines. In this context, how can the arts and humanities be activated by scientific questions and deployed to address scientific questions of relevance to the present?
This event is presented as part of swissnex San Francisco’s Human and Planetary Health series examining the future of ourselves and our planet, bridging research, innovation, and art.
09:00am — Introduction by Mary Ellyn Johnson, Head of Exhibitions swissnex SF
09:05am — A New Atlas of Time –From Alaska to Switzerland and Beyond A dialogue with Jonathon Keats, artist and philosopher and Julie Decker, Director of The Anchorage Museum
09:20am — Presentation of research: Bianca Vienni Baptista, Ph.D., Transdisciplinarity Lab, ETH Zurich; Stephanie Vasko, Ph.D., Managing Director for the Center for Interdisciplinarity at Michigan State University
09:30am — How to Foster Collaborative Research in the Arts and Humanities Discussion with Jonathon Keats, artist and philosophe; Bianca Vienni Baptista, Ph.D., Transdisciplinarity Lab, ETH Zurich; Stephanie Vasko, Ph.D., Managing Director for the Center for Interdisciplinarity at Michigan State University
09:45am — Q&A
10:00am — Conclusion
06:00pm — Introduction by Mary Ellyn Johnson, Head of Exhibitions swissnex SF
06:05pm — A New Atlas of Time –From Alaska to Switzerland and Beyond A dialogue with Jonathon Keats, artist and philosopher and Julie Decker, Director of The Anchorage Museum
06:20pm — Presentation of research: Bianca Vienni Baptista, Ph.D., Transdisciplinarity Lab, ETH Zurich; Stephanie Vasko, Ph.D., Managing Director for the Center for Interdisciplinarity at Michigan State University
06:30pm — How to Foster Collaborative Research in the Arts and Humanities Discussion with Jonathon Keats, artist and philosophe; Bianca Vienni Baptista, Ph.D., Transdisciplinarity Lab, ETH Zurich; Stephanie Vasko, Ph.D., Managing Director for the Center for Interdisciplinarity at Michigan State University
06:45pm — Q&A
Mary Ellyn Johnson
Head of Exhibitions at swissnex San Francisco, Mary Ellyn previously worked at the San Francisco Art Institute as a curator and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis as a research librarian. She has masters degrees in both Art History (Richmond University, London) and Cultural Studies (University of London, Birkbeck College, London Consortium). Her main interests are contemporary art at the nexus of research and education, Film and all things Scandinavian.
Jonathon Keats is an artist, writer and experimental philosopher based in San Francisco. His conceptually-driven interdisciplinary projects explore all aspects of society through science, technology, and culture. He has exhibited and lectured at dozens of institutions worldwide, from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Arizona State University to CERN and UNESCO. He is the author of six books on subjects ranging from science and technology to art and design – most recently You Belong to the Universe: Buckminster Fuller and the Future, published by Oxford University Press. He is currently a Polar Lab Artist at the Anchorage Museum and an Artist-in-Residence at the SETI Institute, UC San Francisco’s Memory and Aging Center, and the UC Berkeley’s Sagehen Creek Field Station. A monograph about his art is forthcoming from Hirmer Verlag.
Bianca Vienni Baptista
Bianca Vienni Baptista holds a PhD in Cultural Studies at the University of Granada (Spain), is a postdoctoral researcher of the Transdisciplinarity Lab at ETH Zurich. She works at the project entitled “Shaping interdisciplinary practices in Europe (SHAPE-ID)”, financed by H2020. As a researcher and lecturer, she works in the broad field of Science, Technology and Society Studies, focusing in particular on the study of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary knowledge production processes. As a result, she is interested in methods and tools as well as concepts and theories as means of achieving transformative and developmental change to solve multidimensional social problems. She has focused her research on the specific conditions for inter- and transdisciplinary research in different countries and on the production and social use of knowledge, including the role of universities and other institutions. Bianca was an Associate Professor at the Academic Department at Espacio Interdisciplinario, Universidad de la República (Uruguay) in the priod 2009 – 2017 and a postdcotoral researcher at the Center of Methods of the Leuphana University of Lüneburg (Germany) between 2016 and 2018. She has received both national and international awards and has been invited as a lecturer to several universities in Japan, Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile. In addition to articles and book chapters, Bianca has co-edited and authored several books and papers on interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity.
Julie Decker, PhD, is the Director/CEO of the Anchorage Museum in Alaska, which is a leading center for scholarship, engagement, and investigation of Alaska and the North. Decker’s career has been focused on the people and environment of Northern places and building projects and initiatives that are in service to local and global communities. Before becoming Director/CEO, Decker served as the Museum’s Chief Curator. She has a doctorate in art history, a master’s degree in arts administration, and bachelor degrees in fine arts and journalism. She has curated and designed numerous exhibitions, taught classes, and authored and edited numerous publications on subjects ranging from contemporary art and architecture of the North, to many aspects of the Arctic environment and histories.
Stephanie E. Vasko, PhD, is the Managing Director for the Center for Interdisciplinarity at Michigan State University. She holds a PhD in Chemistry & Nanotechnology, Her research focuses on enhancing communication and collaboration for teams, especially interdisciplinary teams, with the Toolbox Dialogue initiative and via using new technologies such as machine learning, as well as on using new technologies as creative tools. Vasko is a practicing artist; she takes her inspiration from nature and from creating transformative and immersive experiences that evoke a sense of place. She blends natural inspiration and technology to create moments of joy/inspiration/creativity for the viewer and to invite dialogue between artists, scientists, and the general public. As a creator who is formally trained as a scientist but who also identifies as an artist, she draws inspiration and knowledge from science to create art using ceramics, blacksmithing, augmented reality, textiles, photography, and sound. Her piece, “Immersive Forest,” is currently on display at Science Gallery Detroit. She is also the co-chair of the Mayor’s Arts and Culture Commission in Lansing, MI.