Photobiology meets art: "Light, Plants, Action!"An innovative dissemination project fusing science and art
With the end of the year also arrives the end of the outreach project Light, Plants, Action!. This project, aimed at approximating high-school students to plant science, has mixed elements that are hardly find together: visual arts, an international scientific meeting, young students and video. The videos resulting from the project are now available in form of short capsules in the YouTube channel of CRAG.
Light, Plants, Action! was a join initiative of Elena Monte, CSIC researcher at CRAG, and the Communication department of CRAG, and counted with the collaboration of artists and students from the BAU Design college of Barcelona. The project was funded by the Cuenta la Ciencia call from the General Foundation of the CSIC.
In words of Elena Monte: "Light, Plants, Action! allowed us to establish a dialogue with the artists to interrogate our view of plant and photobiology research, and also created a space that facilitated the conversations between scientists and students".
The main action of the project took place during the International Symposium of Plant Photobiology (ISPP) held in June 2019 at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB) in Barcelona, a wonderful and inspiring place in front of the beach, for both art and science.
During four days, artists and scientists shared an open space in which the scientific poster sessions and the coffee breaks took place. In there, an artistic mural named the “Registry trail” grew: four walls full of papers, cloths, drawings, paintings, notebooks etc. that explained plant photobiology from a different perspective. The cyanotype technique was one of the methods that the BAU artists used to represent the plant photobiology, using leaves and flowers and capturing their shape with a light-sensitive dye. People walking nearby were also surprised by the artistic mural and could approach it, while learning about plant photobiology.
On the fourth day of the ISPP meeting, selected young students were invited to join a poster session. In there, they could meet the international scientists they had been paired with and ask them questions about plant biology and the scientific career. The BAU artist students filmed the interviews and videos in short capsules format were created to facilitate their diffusion in social networks. The aim was to reach young people trough mobile phones, as the final objective was to get this public interested in science. A distended ambient was generated between the scientists, artists and the young students and very interesting and motivating exchanges took place. Scientists answered questions like:
“Why is important to study photobiology?” (from Mercè Cabrera to Peter Quail (UC-Berkley, California, USA) and “Could plants be a new source of renewable energy?” (from Elsa Compte to Charlotte Gommers (Wageningen University & Research (The Netherlands).
The students also used this opportunity to share some of the worries about “being a scientist”, asking questions such as “Is it easy to balance having a family and being a scientist?” (from Àlex Monte to Katie Dehesh (UC-Riverside, California, USA).
The gender issues, also raised in questions such as “Have you found any special challenges on your science career because of being a woman?” (from Sara Barba to Eirini Kaiserli (University of Glasgow, UK). Interestingly, the latest was a point in which the ISPP organizing committee had made a strong effort, achieving an absolutely gender-balanced list of speakers for the meeting.
All this exciting experience is summarized in a video that explains the whole process.