April 15, 2019

Useful Fictions: Symposium + Speed of Light Expedition, Paris

University of California, Davis

Tim Hyde & MCRM, A Useful Fiction, 2019. Photograph, 15 x 23 inches, edition of 5.

Symposium: September 9–13, 2019
Creative research in scientific laboratories + lectures / workshops / discussions
École polytechnique, Institut Polytechnique de Paris, France

Speed of Light Expedition: September 14–15, 2019
Revisit Hippolyte Fizeau's 1879 Speed of Light Experiment + Public Participatory Art Project and Forums
From Mont Valérien, Suresnes to Montmartre, Paris, France

Useful Fictions is a week-long symposium and a public participatory art project in Paris. It is a platform to embrace complex problems by modeling radical openness to research in which tools, laboratories, studios are shared between artists and scientists to expand concepts for ecological thinking. Useful Fictions proposes to see the calculation of a catastrophic future not as an inevitability but as an invitation to innovate and effect change. Bridging the divide between urgency and agency, the project gathers a coalition of artists, designers, humanists, and graduate students to work with globally acclaimed climate scientists in their laboratories to build future machines and write absurd fictions.

This project invites critique of the human-centered narrative that dominates and defines contemporary cultural consciousness. The issues we are faced with challenge us to reclaim knowledge creation by examining the idea of proxy and measurements in ways that will expand anthropocentric lenses. Through the use of both critical discourse and practice-based research in art, design, and science, as well as case studies in climate science and related contextual research, we will ask: “What controls the manufacturing of our systems of belief? What stories do we tell ourselves? Can we imagine differently?”

LAB 1: Climate Measurements at the Site Instrumental de Recherche par Télédétection Atmosphérique (SIRTA) Observatory, Institut Pierre Simon Laplace (IPSL)
LAB 2: A Microclimate of One at the Laboratoire d'hydrodynamique (LadHyX)
LAB 3: 4D Additive Manufacturing: From Print to Animation at the Laboratoire des Solides Irradiés (LSI)
LAB 4: Data Materia at the Fablab
LAB 5: Making, Engagement, and Reflexivity (Humanities Lab)

We are excited to announce that twenty Graduate Fellows will be awarded the opportunity to participate in the symposium and the Speed of Light Expedition. Each Graduate Fellow will receive one week of full room and board while at École polytechnique, Paris, from September 9–13, 2019, but will be on his/her own over the weekend. All lab fees and material expenses are also covered under the Fellowship. We encourage applications from a wide range of disciplines, including the arts, humanities, sciences, and engineering. Applicants from underprivileged socioeconomic areas of the world are especially encouraged to apply. With demonstrated needs specified in the application section “Financial Assistance,” two Fellows will be awarded the funds necessary to cover the expenses of air travel and ground transportation.

Applicants can download the guidelines and application form here.

Any queries should be emailed to Julie Sauret at julie.sauret [​at​] with the subject line “Useful Fictions 2019.”

About the project
This project was initiated through a Global Affairs International Activities Seed Grant with matching funds from the College of Letters and Science and the Office of Research from the University of California, Davis, and the Chaire Arts et Sciences of the École polytechnique, École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs – PSL and The Fondation Daniel et Nina Carasso. Principal Investigator: Jiayi Young (UC Davis), Co-Principal Investigators: Jean-Marc Chomaz (École polytechnique), Tim Hyde (UC Davis), and James Crutchfield (UC Davis), Collaborators: Victoria Vesna (UCLA), David Familian (UC Irvine), Asa Calow (Madlab, Manchester, UK). Since its conception, additional funds have been contributed by the Chaire Arts et Sciences of the École Polytechnique, the École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs – PSL, and the Fondation Daniel et Nina Carasso. The development of the project also received generous support from Samuel Bianchini and Manuelle Freire of La Chaire Arts et Sciences and The Reflective Interaction Group of EnsadLab (the research lab of the École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs – EnsAD, PSL University, Paris), and David Bihanic (University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne / EnsADLab - Reflective Interaction Group). The Speed of Light Expedition: Tim Hyde, Jiayi Young, and Jean-Marc Chomaz.

Guest Editors and Advisors: James Housefield (University of California, Davis) and Jens Hauser (Michigan State University)

​Communication Manager: Julie Sauret
Student Intern: Ragnhild Ståhl-Nielsen

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