Collisions Festival – a weekend of connection among interactive art, wild ideas, and playful humans

Gentle chimes ring out as a gallery viewer carefully turns the handle of a wooden, beautifully-crafted music box, a collaborative piece by Laara Cerman and Scott Pownall. The duet that plays is based on the DNA sequences of two invasive plant species – Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) and Brown Knapweed (Centaurea jacea). Across the room, a robot dutifully paints abstract works in beautiful teal and salmon colours, programmed by the mechanical-engineer-and-painter Joanne Hastie. Elsewhere in the gallery, viewers can contemplate explorations of the invasiveness of technology, chaos, colonialism, plastics, bacteria, plants, and radio signals.  

This was the scene at Curiosity Collider’s inaugural Sci-Art festival The Collisions Festival: Invasive Systems at the VIVO Media Arts Centre from November 8th to 10th. The three-day festival contained work by six individual artists and three artist and scientist collaborative teams. Artworks were a balance of new and traditional medias and explored the delicate and complicated nature of how living things interact with and influence each other and their environment – from technology and infections to pollution and invasive species.

The opening reception, attended by about 100, featured a performance of “The Moose are Life” by sound artist, songwriter and composer, Edzi’u, which speaks to the effects of the colonial inheritance of Indigenous peoples in Tahltan Territory. One participant commented in our post-event survey, “The performance piece about moose was extraordinary, impactful, and valued. Thank you for sharing that.”

Collaborating artists and scientists were also present at the opening night, and this led to great moments of organic interactions. With their curiosity peaked by the artworks, attendees engaged with the collaborative teams inquisitively about their art and the scientific concepts behind them, including questions about the blood brain barrier and invasive plant species and more. Another participant commented, “So happy I went – and brought my 7-year old daughter who was fascinated, thrilled, and intrigued. Loved the collaborative works with artists and scientists and that they were there to talk about their processes and work on the opening night.”

Collisions Festival 2019 showcased what science-art has to offer: playful learning, joyful connection across boundaries, and engagement with complex aspects of our world. 

Media Coverage



We acknowledge that Collisions Festival and its events take place on the traditional, ancestral, unceded territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil- Waututh) Nations. We are grateful for the opportunity to live and work on this land.

Curiosity Collider and VIVO Media Arts Centre gratefully acknowledge the support of:

Highlights from Night Shift: Quantum Futures

Night Shift: Quantum Futures (April 5, 2018) was hosted by UBC Museum of Anthropology and curated by Curiosity Collider Art-Science Foundation, with collaborations from UBC Department of Physics & Astronomy and Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute. This video was created by Curiosity Collider for the event “Et al 3: The Ultimate Bar Science Night” in Vancouver, BC on September 18, 2018.

Photo credits: Sarah Race and Theresa Liao
Music credit: “Quantum” by MMFFF

Participating artists and scientists: Alexander Sheyerman, Angelica Poversky, Étienne Lantagne-Hurtubise, Inverso Productions (Poet: Barbara Adler; Choreographer: Lesley Telford), James Day, Kathryn Wadel, Lesley Telford, Matt Horrigan, Niel Mclaren, Oguzhan (Oz) Can.