Visual Arts Program

Thursday, November 19, 2015 at 7:00 p.m.


Hallwalls, Buffalo Museum of Science, Techne Institute, and UB College of Arts & Sciences present

Science & Art Cabaret 16.0: Improvisation

The Ninth Ward @ Babeville

Brian Murchison with Kyle Butler
Dialogue and Shared Experience

Intro to Principles & Applications of Improv Comedy

Eva Zurek
Chemical Imagination

Tomás Henriques
On Instrument Design

Steve Baczkowski
On Improvised Music

The Science & Art Cabaret is supported by the Techne Institute for Arts & Technology.The Science & Art Cabaret is an ongoing collaborative program between Hallwalls, the University at Buffalo, and the Buffalo Museum of Science begun in October 2009. The cabaret attempts to bring forth intellectual and creative ideas centered around given themes, in a mash-up of ideas concocted to investigate the connections between these distinct fields of investigation.Improvisation may be a curious subject within which to mash up the fields of art and science, but all the cabaret titles have been curious or, at least, propelled by curiosity.

In the fall of 2013, we presented the theme of NOTHING… apropos of that, nothing is off the table. Regarding the theme of IMPROVISATION, there are distinct angles at work. As Doug Borzynski, Facilitator of Learning at the Buffalo Museum of Science puts it:

"'An atom is like...' — every time a scientist uses a metaphor (an English professor cries) to explain the unseen world and phenomenons, they are improvising. Scientists that are good at communicating large ideas and sections of their research are often using the same tools as improv. The scientific method is a solid procedure for the discovery of new science ideas, but when the right circumstances are not available, we see improv in the laboratory as well. Equipment is re-purposed or used in ways it was not designed for, substitutions of materials and development of new protocols are always changing and scientists are left adapting. Scientists may start with a 'if I do this...then this will happen' hypothesis, but it is still a combination of hard work, insight and a little improvisation that lead to new discoveries."

And UB Professor Will Kinney addresses the theme thusly:
Improvise (verb): to compose and perform or deliver without previous
preparation; extemporize.

The scientific method, at heart, is pretty much the opposite of "improvisation", as least as we usually mean the word. Scientists must
be creative and inventive, yes, but science, done right, is systematic, not extemporaneous. While an experimental scientist may MacGyver a
clever machine to make a measurement, that is not the same as the science itself being extemporaneous. On the contrary: the first rule of
any well-designed scientific experiment is _don't change the rules in the middle_. Violating this rule is the surest way to introduce human
bias into the experiment and, in doing so, to fool yourself. And it’s very easy to fool yourself! For example, scientists routinely employ the
practice of "data blinding", which means not even _looking_ at the data from your experiment until after you have fixed the rules by which you will analyze the data. A failure to do so virtually guarantees a biased result, and bad science. One of the hardest things to learn about being a scientist is learning to resist the very human urge to improvise, so extemporize, to make it up as you go along, because that urge is the enemy of objective inquiry.

The great physicist Richard Feynman explains the systematic nature ofscience in this video clip:

As Hallwalls' curator John Massier explains about the cabaret in general:

"I often refer to the cabaret as Casual Learning Wednesdays and we've stuck fairly true to that tradition. While we always enter into each themed cabaret with confidence in the general idea and the invited participants, we can never determine how it will all play out. In beautifully organic/artistic/scientific fashion, we have found our diverse presenters to often overlap in curious ways, calling back to each others' ideas, and confirming what we always suspected when we began this ongoing program—there force that binds us all. Or two forces, perhaps, each elemental and integral to the fields of science and art: Critical Thinking and Imagination. If we manage to successfully pureé these forces, we've served up a smoothie of ideas not offered anywhere else in town. And that critical, imaginative, interrogative smoothie remains free of charge. With a cash bar! I think it's safe to say that both artists and scientists are exploratory creatures, investigating and re-imagining our world (and all other possible worlds). Sometimes it's not about answers, but about lots and lots of questions. The end of each cabaret, for me, always has a nice lingering effect, not because anything has necessarily been figured out, but because we've filled the air with the whiff of speculation and dreams."

This year's series supported in part with grants from The John R. Oishei Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

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