27-04-2018 - Talks - Leerstoel Casterman-Hamers: 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.




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

15:00 - Welcome

15:10 - André Ariew (University of Missouri): 'Abstract Statistical Ideas Made Simple: The Case Of Francis Galton’s Quincunx'

15:40 - Michel Tombroff (ULB / University of California Santa Barbara): 'Tautological Limitations in Conceptual Art: A Proposal to Represent the Beauty of Truth'

16:10 - Isar Goyvaerts (VUB): 'Symmetry in Music: A Path to Explore the Modern Western Classical Repertoire.'

16:40 - Talk by Lawrence Malstaf (Belgian artist)

17:10 - Talk by Bruno Letort (Ars Musica)

17:40 - Open discussion

18:30 - Festival cocktail


Bios / Slides

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.

Lawrence Malstaf

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.