April 30, 2014

The Spark Project

Frank Kuzler is the Executive Director and a Producer at DecadesOut, an organization dedicated to producing and supporting art that is inspired by science and sharing in the growing dialogue between the arts and sciences.

Our mission at DecadesOut is to foster the communication between the arts and science. We started programming a variety of things in 2009 including documentary work, a theatre development series, and a film festival, but found that although it’s great to have a variety of programs, it would go a long way toward achieving our mission if we focus our programs on one particular issue confronting society today.

So in 2013, we decided to create a festival of events spanning two years that would allow us to bring together a group of artists and scientists who wanted to collaborate and explore different perspectives on an issue.  Of course, we are all in tune and have a healthy concern about climate change and the future, so we decided that that was the most important issue to focus on. It didn’t take long for people to start coming forward when we announced that the theme for our 2014/2015 Systems Festival would be climate change, and the way it related to the systems of humanity.

It’s been an extremely busy year already, but in reality we’ve just started the programming. We’re excited to continue the momentum in order to bring some of the core programs to life including one of the things I’m most excited about: the SPARK Project.

This idea is simple, but it’s also one of the most fundamental for our mission. Basically, what we’re doing is building a multi-phased communication platform between artists and scientists working in the same discipline. The project is going to move in several steps from an online initiative to a live performance or exhibition.

The project will start simply with an introduction of the artist and scientist through a profile of their work and inspirations. The profile will have not only background information but also links to research, artwork, as well as any media provided by the participants. The second phase will be a direct dialogue curated by DecadesOut, including questions for each of the participants formed by us as well as each other. The third phase will be the collaborative inspirations phase, which will hopefully result in the creation of new work for public exhibition. In our ideal vision, this would be a performance piece surrounded by visual art along with a digital presence – a full contemporary media exhibition.

What makes this amazing for us working at DecadesOut is that we get to support artists and scientists that are exploring this topic in some very interesting ways. We really get to see the levels of expression coming forward from both sides and we get to share the results. It’s this idea that goes to the core of our mission. What is also important is that we get to meet people who are similarly dedicated to their own missions of knowledge seeking, creation and social activism. We’ve already had the good fortune of meeting so many fantastic organizations on the science side such as the NY Hall of Science/Climate and Urban Systems Project (CUSP), Columbia’s Earth Institute and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and on the arts side, there’s of course The Civilians, NACL Theatre, and many visual artists.

I think one important aspect of what we’re doing, particularly when it comes to issues like climate change, is adding to the volume of expression in a substantive way. The communication and the dialogue that is being opened – whether collaborative or confrontational – adds value to an intelligent discourse, and this inevitably leads to solutions. There’s so much out there, but I think/hope what makes us unique is that this is our focus. This is this is all we do — Art & Science & Art. We are dedicated to seeing collaborations through and exploring the ideas they generate in the most in-depth way we can.

If you want to know more about DecadesOut and the SPARK Project, please visit our website.

–contributed by Frank Kuzler, DecadesOut

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