Leaning Out of Windows

Art and Physics Collaborations through Aesthetic Transformations

Science, like art, plunges itself into the materiality of the universe though with very different aims in mind. …This is not to say that art does not draw on science or that science does not draw on art, but in drawing on the other’s resources each must transform the work of the other into its own language and its own purpose.

– Art and science philosopher, Elizabeth Grosz

IMAGE: Ingrid Koenig, LOoW Process Design, 2016

Leaning Out of Windows (LOoW) is a four-year SSHRC funded interdisciplinary art and science project, involving four phases between 2016 to 2020. It involves co-designing, curating, testing, and analyzing models of collaboration for art and science. Participants include Emily Carr University’s faculty, art students, visiting artists + physicists, post-doctoral researchers and graduate students working at TRIUMF, Canada’s particle accelerator centre and accelerator-based science located at the University of British Columbia.

In this venture we join together artists and physicists to share the quest to understand the nature of reality. Their diverse experiences, views, and interactions bring each discipline to see a new perspective on the creative process while also broadening the potential for communication between disciplines. Our aim is to transform the grammar of abstract knowledge by specifically addressing the barely discernible phenomena studied by physics through aesthetics, analogy, metaphor, and other inventive methods.

During the collaborative process, scientists frame a physics topic for artists who in turn make material-based, intuitive investigations and responses. These transformations are manifest in visual art forms that include sculpture, painting, drawing, performance, photography, installation, sound, text, interactive media, dance and other cultural forms. The aim is to open new pathways for the possibility of a much richer understanding of human experience than each can attain separately. The process and outcomes of this creative research project has relevance beyond art and physics as it presents an emergent model of practice for the apprehension of complex knowledge and diverse ways of knowing.

At the end of the production period from January to September 2017 the resulting works from 26 artists will be exhibited and performed. In the next Phase beginning in February 2018 we will redesign the experimental set up which will be followed by another production period with artists and scientists in 2018. During 2018/19 the two phases will be analyzed resulting in writing on the project in preparation for a publication. In 2019/20 the four year project will be reconceived as a final exhibition accompanied by the publication with essays, the scientists’ drawings, equations and stories as well as the documented artworks.

Research Creation Questions

1. In what ways can transformative methodologies of collaboration work to engage with the diverse languages employed by artists and physicists?
2. What are possible models for interdisciplinary learning in the studio and science lab that are creative and effective generators of new knowledge and its visualization?

Objectives of the Proposed Research

1. To explore how artists might work with scientists to develop a shared understanding of how knowledge can be translated across their disciplinary communities.
2. To organize and assess a process of interdisciplinary collaboration between art and science that enables “hybrid research” which can then be shared by artists and scientists.


Dr. Randy Lee Cutler

professor, Emily Carr University of Art + Design

As an educator, writer and artist, Randy Lee Cutler investigates the emergence of new cultural forms through an exploration of the intersections of gender, art, science and technology. She has a PhD in Cultural History from the Royal College of Art, UK where she examined the subversion of the sciences in the surrealist enterprise. She contributes essays to journals, catalogues and art magazines. Open Wide: An Abecedarium for the Great Digestive System, her ebook on digestion as a metaphor for experience was launched on iTunes in March 2014. She recently published An Elemental Typology, 2019 an artist book exploring the cultural configurations of minerals in philosophy, mining, science and spirituality. Through installations, photographs, printed matter, collage and performance, her artwork takes up materiality as its primary frame and reference.

Randy has performed and shown work at numerous venues including the 22nd Biennale of Sydney NIRIN 2020, Belkin Art Gallery (UBC Outdoor Artwork), Vancouver Art Gallery, Contemporary Art Gallery, VIVO, Artspeak and Access Gallery in Vancouver as well as at Tate Modern (Turbine Hall) for the Western Front, Nanaimo Art Gallery, Visualeyz Performance Art Festival for Latitude 53 (Edmonton), and 7a*11d Performance Art Festival (Toronto). Her videos have screened nationally and internationally. Randy is a Professor at Emily Carr University in the Faculty of Art on the unceded, traditional and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh).                                                                                     


Ingrid Koenig

associate professor, Emily Carr University of Art + Design

Ingrid Koenig has been Artist in Residence at TRIUMF, Canada’s particle accelerator centre from 2011 to 2021, co-organizing processes of collaboration between artists and physicists. Her pedagogical designs involve courses that intersect science, humanities and visual art. Her studio practice traverses the fields of physics, social history, feminist theory and narratives of science through visual art and relational projects. She is the recipient of grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Goethe Institute, and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Koenig earned her MFA at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design.

Koenig has exhibited her drawings and paintings in public galleries across Canada, Europe and New Zealand. Publications include the book RAW DATA - Artistic Transformation co-written with Berlin artists/collaborators, and an article on her partnership with a physics lab in MIT’s journal Leonardo. In 2019 she was awarded a Canada Council for the Arts grant to join the Arctic Circle art and science residency in the international territory of Svalbard. Based in Vancouver, she is an associate professor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, situated on unceded, traditional and ancestral xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territories.




Higher Education, Interdisciplinary Studies, Visual Arts

Areas of Research:

Arts and Culture, Post-secondary Education and Research, Science and technology


art; science; physics; collaboration; interdisciplinary; aesthetics; transformation; metaphor; analogy; visualization; poetry; cross-disciplinary interactions; process-based research; creative field; knowledge generation; relational; education models