Synchronizing fireflies, bush crickets and machines

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Elke nacht, kort na zonsondergang, verzamelen duizenden kleine insecten zich in de struiken van de Thaise mangrovebossen voor een fascinerend paringsritueel. In 2015 ging kunstenaar Robin Meier naar Thailand voor een artistieke verkenning van deze natuurlijke lichtshow. Op donderdag 1 augustus vertelt hij over zijn werk en zijn bevindingen, en reflecteert hij op de algemene relatie tussen wetenschappelijk experiment en artistieke praktijk. De lezing is Engelstalig.

Every night, shortly after sunset, thousands of tiny insects gather in the bushes of the Thai mangrove forests for a fascinating mating ritual: The suitors are male fireflies (Pteroptyx), and they start blinking in a regular rhythm, isolated at first, but slowly coordinating the timing of their flashes in synchrony with their neighbors, leading to waves of light and single synchronized flashes. In 2015, artist Robin Meier went to Thailand for an artistic exploration of this natural light show. Together with a team, he employed computer-controlled LEDs to interact with the natural rhythms and synchronizations of the fireflies, to investigate how the fireflies coordinate their flashing and how their behavior was influenced by the pattern of computer-controlled LEDs. His work inspired the short film Synchronicity (Thailand).

After watching Synchronicity, Robin Meier will present a series of artworks on synchronicity and rhythm in nature, and reflect on the general relationship between scientific experiment and artistic practice.  Art can be seen as a tool for exploring behavior and phenomena that are beyond our control because they emerge autonomously through our engagement with the world around us. Thus, artistic practice can complement scientific exploration or natural phenomena.

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This public event is organized together by the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave and the Lorentz Center. It is an outreach event of the scientific Lorentz Center workshop ‘Synchrony and Rhythmic Interaction: From Neurons to Ecology’, which takes place 29 July -2 August 2019.

Lorentz Center

The mission of Rijksmuseum Boerhaave, the Dutch National Museum for the History of Science and Medicine, is to increase public support for science in the Netherlands. The Museum’s activities are always designed to connect with current issues.

The Lorentz Center is a workshop center located at Leiden University. The Center organizes international workshops in all scientific disciplines, with the aim of promoting innovative and pioneering research, often relating to complex societal challenges. See for more information.

The organizers of the event received the generous support of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

Date:  1 August 2019, at 18:30
Language: English
Location: Rijksmuseum Boerhaave, Lange Sint Agnietenstraat 10, Leiden
Entrance:  Special Guest Card, entrance ticket, friend of the museum, registration required

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