27-04-2018 - Talks - Casterman-Hamers Chair: Coping With Complexity in Scientific and Artistic Ways


Lawrence Malstaf
27 Apr 2018

Bozar, Brussels

Are mathematics, statistics and data hoarding the ultimate ways to organize what seem random phenomena? Maybe. Maybe not. Since the arts bring in other dimensions of ordering seemingly random phenomena and chaos. This Crosstalks meeting explores scientific and artistic ways of coping with complexity: from brain cracking science to visual arts and music.

Photo credit: Lawrence Malstaf/EXHALE 


Host: Jean Paul Van Bendegem (VUB - Philosopher/Mathematician)

15:00 - Welcome

15:05 - Marleen Wynants (Director VUB Crosstalks): 'The first computers were women'

15:30 - Lawrence Malstaf (artist, the EXHALE installation and performance goes public on April 28 - 29, 2018): 'The anti-automaton'

15:50 - Michel Tombroff (ULB / University of California Santa Barbara): 'Tautological limitations in conceptual art: A proposal to represent the beauty of truth'

16:10 - André Ariew (University of Missouri): 'Abstract statistical ideas made simple: The case of Francis Galton’s quincunx'

16:40- Q&A + Break

17:00 - Isar Goyvaerts (VUB): 'Symmetry in music: A means of exploring the modern Western classical repertoire'

17:30 - Bruno Letort (Ars Musica): 'Le pavillion Philips: Fusion des arts'

18:00 - Open discussion

18:30 - Festival cocktail

To order your ticket, click here


In the context of When Art Meets Science – April, 27-29 in BOZAR and Tour & Taxis

Bios / Slides

Jean Paul Van Bendegem is professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He studied mathematics and philosophy at the Ghent University and wrote a doctoral thesis on the problem of strict finitism, i.e. the possibility to eliminate the notion of infinity from mathematics and still retain a workable mathematics. In 1985 he spent a semester as post-doctoral researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, PA. In 1993 he spent a month at the University of Brisbane, Australia. While the strict finitism is still one of his main research projects, he closely follows the discussion about the relations between the sciences and religious worldviews and is interested in possible connections between mathematics and the arts. Jean Paul Van Bendegem is director of the Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science and since 1988 he is editor of the logic journal Logique et Analyse and a member of several editorial boards, among them, Philosophia Mathematica and Philosophica. Apart from his academic work, he is also present in the public domain, either through lectures for the broader audience, radio and television appearances, or columns in newspapers and magazines.


André Ariew - Abstract Statistical Ideas Made Simple: The Case Of Francis Galton’s Quincunx.

Sometimes daunting and abstract statistical ideas can be presented simply. I will demonstrate this with an important episode in the history of biology. Francis Galton used a toy machine that he constructed, called a "quincunx", to explain the phenomenon of reversion. With the quincunx Galton showed that reversion is a purely statistical rather than—as Charles Darwin believed—a biological phenomenon. Galton's presentation, though simple, would have profound implications for the development of evolutionary biology and statistics.

André Ariew is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Missouri. He specializes in the philosophy of science. He is currently writing a book about the role of statistics in the development of evolutionary biology. He is confident that it will be finished sometime before the 200th anniversary of Darwin's Origin of Species.

Michel Tombroff - Tautological Limitations In Conceptual Art: A proposal to Represent the Beauty Of Truth

We present a critique of the analytical tradition of conceptual art, and more specifically the tautological drift that caused conceptual art to distance itself from the minimal and essential aesthetic conditions required for a democratic experience of the work of art. We then propose to use mathematics, in particular the theory of infinite sets as invented by Georg Cantor and elevated to the status of ontology by Alain Badiou, as an aesthetic foundation to conceptual art in order to free it from these tautological limitations and reassert its aesthetics ambition. Finally, we present some recent works aimed at empirically testing the validity of this theory.

Michel Tombroff studied Engineering at ULB (Faculté des Sciences Appliquées, 1987) and Computer Sciences at University of California, Santa Barbara (1989). His interests include mathematics, philosophy, evolution theory, contemporary art and kitesurfing. His work sits at the intersection of the theoretical and artistic domains. See


Isar Goyvaerts - Symmetry In Music: A Path to Explore the Modern Western Classical Repertoire

To quite a number of people, a considerable portion of 20th and 21st century Western classical music appears "chaotic" upon first hearing. Compared to compositions of other eras, such music sounds rather strange to our ears and we do often feel little encouraged to consider listening a second time. In this talk, we discuss two short pieces by two different composers and hint at how some insight in certain mathematical concepts may be a path to explore (a part of) the modern repertoire. For this lecture, no background in music theory or mathematics is required.

Isar Goyvaerts received a master’s degree in mathematics at Universiteit Gent and obtained his PhD from Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). As a postdoctoral researcher, he worked at Università degli Studi di Torino in Italy. Since 2017, he is back at the Department of Mathematics at VUB. Besides research in algebra, he shows great interest in teaching mathematics and enjoys divulgating mathematical topics to a broad audience.


Lawrence Malstaf - The anti-automaton

Presentation of aspects of his practice as installation artist, dealing with animated objects, anti automatons and coincidence.

The work of Lawrence Malstaf is situated on the borderline between the visual and the theatrical. He develops installation and performance art with a strong focus on movement, coincidence, order and chaos, and immersive sensorial rooms for individual visitors. He also creates larger mobile environments dealing with space and orientation, often using the visitor as a co-actor. His projects involve physics and technology as a point of departure or inspiration and as a means for activating installations. Lawrence Malstaf has received several international awards in the field of art and new technology. He is also well known as an innovative scenographer in the dance and theater world.


Bruno Letort - Le Pavillion Philips, Fusion des Arts?

À la demande de la compagnie Philips, Le Corbusier propose de créer un Poème électronique pour l’Exposition Universelle de Bruxelles en 1958. C’est un collage de projections et d’ambiances colorées, qui fait un bilan du monde moderne en huit minutes, accompagné d’une musique « concrète » d’Edgar Varèse. Il est abrité dans un grand espace noir dont la conception est confiée à Iannis Xenakis qui en profite pour expérimenter pleinement des coques minces en béton pour la couverture. Ce pavillon fut pour les trois créateurs (Varèse, Le Corbusier et Xenakis) l’occasion d’expérimenter tout ce qui se faisait de plus avant-gardiste, dans le domaine des technologies de la création artistique.

Bruno Letort est un compositeur français, né en 1963 à Vichy, il publie au début des années 1980 une série d’albums à la frontière du jazz et du rock. De Manu Katché à Noël Akchoté , en passant par Richard Galliano, Claude Barthélemy, André Ceccarelli, Jean-Paul Céléa, Didier Malherbe, Wally Badarou ou Jean-Claude Petit , il multipliera les collaborations avec des musiciens venus de la scène jazz et improvisée.

La démarche de Bruno Letort a toujours visé à la pluridisciplinarité. En témoigne le nombre d’œuvres qu’il a composées pour le théâtre, le cinéma, la danse, la vidéo, la scénographie. Très lié à Benoît Peeters et François Schuiten , il a réalisé avec ces derniers L’Affaire Désombres, spectacle pluridisciplinaire, créé dans le cadre du Festival 38e Rugissants à Grenoble en 1999. Sa collaboration avec François Schuiten l'emmène au Japon en 2005, où il signe la musique du pavillon de Belgique lors de l'exposition universelle d'Aïchi, puis à Bruxelles pour l'exposition consacré au Transsibérien lors du festival Europalia en 2006. décembre 2017.

En 2013, il devient directeur du festival Ars Musica et compose la même année, la musique pour le Trainworld sur une scénographie de François Schuiten.


Marleen Wynants - The first computers were women 

Marleen Wynants has a M.A. in English philology and a M.A. in Social Studies, KULeuven. She started out as a content developer for the official Belgian Radio and Television in its pre-commercial stage. While writing freelance on music and arts she ran the post-punk magazine Fabiola together with Jan Vanroelen, both leaving the scene in 1988, the year Hillel Slovak, Chet Baker, Divine and Sylvester died.

From the start of her company Nux Publica, she authored children books, short stories and numerous articles on arts, sciences, gender, whistleblowing and the impact of digitization. She was a regular contributor to Wired EU and to Janus, the magazine launched by Jan Fabre. Since 2003 she directs Crosstalks, the transdisciplinary exchange platform at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Crosstalks links academic and corporate research to art, architecture, design and activism.

The Crosstalks' writings and actions explore freedom and wellbeing for all without undermining humanity and nature. She’s a member of the Board of Directors at Kaaitheater since 2012. Since September 2017 she coordinates STAL, a pre-trajectory initiative for a Sciences, Technology and Arts Lab in Brussels, a joint project by BOZAR, VUB and ULB.