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February 18, 2016
Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/modernlanguages/people/academic/pegoretti/jptwarwick/
Maths and science have always been my strangers since I was young. I always hypnotise myself that I am very bad at numbers and science is just another world of mine. To see a performance talking about Quantum Mechanics sounded quite unappealing to me. Yet I was curious what it would turn out to be.
In the evening of 18th January 2016, I had a chance to see a solo performance called The Principle of Uncertainty. It was a part of the IAS visiting fellowship granted to Dr Andrea Brunello and entitled Jet Propulsion Theatre (JPT) at Warwick, which aims to convey science through theatre and to illustrate how science and humanities are connected.
The performance took place at a middle-sized lecture theatre in Zeeman Building, University of Warwick. We audiences were sitting in the room as if we were students waiting for the class to begin. When Dr Brunello, the main actor, entered the room we could notice that his role was a professor who was going to give us a lecture in the next following hour.
The topic focused on Quantum Mechanics and The Principle of Uncertainty. In the first place, I could feel that most of audiences (who I guessed most of them did not really related to these principles) seemed to be alienated from what the professor tried to explain. However, once the play kept going, the beauty of science was eventually unfolded. The lecture was not only astonishing but also entertaining.
This astonishing moment surprisingly reminded me my past when I was a little girl in a primary school. That girl used to enjoy learning maths and science and find that there was some kind of magic and miracle hidden behind there that she wanted to explore. However, when time passed and I went through a higher education, those magic and miracle finally disappeared. Maths and science turned to be boring lessons in massive tedious textbooks which I just needed to read, remember and fill them in answer sheets. My passion in maths and science was gone. Until that evening while I was watching the play, it unexpectedly came back again. It was the most enjoyablescience class I have been so far.
More importantly, the play did not aim to educate the audiences scientific theory. Instead, it connected the theory with our daily lives. When he compared the uncertainty in the momentum of an electron to the uncertainty of a human’s life, I was amazingly impressed. The play began with such a serious topic but smoothly ended up with a very simply touching feeling talking about love and loss. It also showed us that the similarity of science and the humanities was that we were not trying to understand everything but to understand that it was impossible to understand everything. In our lives, there has always been a certain kind of uncertainty, uncertainty is certain.
Having further chances to participate a public talk given by Dr Brunello discussing his project and to join the screening of his previous performance called Pale Blue Dot, as an audience, I think that what Dr Brunello is doing is precious. He employs his insightful scientific knowledge combining it with his skilful theatrical techniques to talk to audiences questioning about the world where we are all living in. His plays provoke me to think as a human who needs to be responsible for the world where I am living in and going to pass it forward to later generations.
Dr Brunello emphasises that his works are not educational plays that aim to teach audiences scientific theories and I strongly agree. Although his works significantly convey scientistic knowledge, it is not as important as how he relates it with our lives. His plays talk science, environment, politics, economics, cultures, future, past, loss and also love. Dr Brunello’s works shows a fine balance between science and theatre which is truly beneficial when different disciplines meet; when there is no boundary between theatre and numbers, when there is no line between feeling and thinking, when we perceive the world in wider lens and when science and humanities are genuinely bounded.
It may be questioned that whether Dr Brunello’s theatrical works will be able to improve education systems, mobilise societies or change the world. Speaking for myself, his plays may not suddenly persuade audiences to stage protest and change the world but I do believe that his works definitely grow something. As a theatrical work, it is impossible to evaluate its value and outcome by conducting questionnaires or surveys. On the other hand, it is like growing a very small flower on earth. One may see the flower’s beauty while others may think it is ugly. One may completely ignore it while others may truly adore it. It is impossible to control audiences’ thoughts. However, there is a scientific fact that the small flower provides more oxygen to the world. As well as Dr Brunello’s works, I believe that his plays have produced more oxygen to this world and I wish they could further persuade people to grow more flowers as he does.
Theatre and Performance Studies
University of Warwick
November 19, 2015
MITN Postgraduates and Early Career Researchers
Event #2: Workshop with Dr Felix Nobis on Interdisciplinary and Collaborative Projects
Monash-Warwick International Portal, 28 October 2015
Our latest MITN event for postgraduates and early career researchers was introduced by Gavin Schwartz-Leeper, MITN project coordinator. He outlined the objectives for the group, including the long-term aim of producing collaborative projects funded by the Monash-Warwick Alliance. He then passed us over to Dr Felix Nobis (Monash Lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies) who took us through an engaging and energetic workshop that established a strong standard to aim for in our future events.
Felix outlined some principles for interdisciplinary collaboration, emphasising that when two constituent bodies of knowledge come together they should aspire to meet on neutral terms, thereby establishing a ‘third space’ in which the collaboration takes place. The priority of each researcher in these collaborations should be to identify what their discipline may uniquely contribute to the collaboration. He gave us the example of his own collaborative project with Dr Chris Thompson from the Monash Faculty of Science, called ‘Open Space Learning: Chemistry Project’, which uniquely uses theatre techniques as a means of teaching elements of scientific knowledge, as well as seeking to equip science students to use performance techniques in the dissemination of their work.
Felix took us through a number of illustrative exercises from his project to teach some basic skills in understanding chemistry, utilising the Monash-Warwick International Portal’s renowned capacity for ‘embodied’ knowledge. Many thanks to Christian Griffiths on the Monash side for controlling the portal cameras so that we could engage more actively across the virtual classroom. The exercises certainly served to keep us alert and engaged, and it was clear that interdisciplinary engagement can lead to some startling and exciting results. Our hope is that Felix’s example will offer the postgraduates and early career researchers of MITN a standard to which they can aspire when forming research clusters and initiating collaborative projects.
Unfortunately, at the end of the workshop, the Warwick contingent had to vacate their portal room, and they consequently missed out on the discussion with Felix that followed. However, those that remained on the Monash end were able to draw some valuable lessons from the event.
- Regan Maiquez asked a pertinent question about the interdisciplinary structure of Felix and Chris’s project. He noted that while it interpreted chemistry through theatre techniques, it did not seem to offer the opposite approach of examining theatre through chemistry methodologies. He suggested that certain theatre works from the early-modern, medieval and ancient periods could be potentially subject to analysis from scientific points of view. Felix acknowledged that this would be an interesting area to pursue in future collaborations.
- Jessica Trevitt observed that Felix and Chris’s project combined two very disparate disciplines and therefore posed a challenge in terms of how they may be brought together. The collaborations that MITN is hoping to foster, however, take place between more closely-related disciplines, for example History and Literature, and so the specific benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary engagement may not be as apparent to participants. She suggested that by actively articulating and sharing our research methodologies, we might find ourselves in a better position to understand and embrace our potential as a network.
- Daniela Scarcella told us about her PhD project, which represents an interdisciplinary engagement between translation studies and radio studies. She observed that Felix’s claim that interdisciplinarity produces a ‘third space’, was pertinent as she often felt that her work does not fit neatly into either of her constituent disciplines. However, rather than seeing this as a drawback, she positively embraces the idea that one’s own form of knowledge is unique and not structured by institutional categories. The group discussed the possibility of designing exercises that engage the two areas of her study, similar to those Felix has used in his project.
- Angela Tarantini echoed Daniela’s thought and mentioned some educational initiatives in primary and secondary education where the idea of the ‘discipline’ has been eliminated from the syllabus, and is replaced by an interlinked domain of ‘knowledge’. Angela suggested that this radical departure from disciplinary thinking could represent a way forward in higher education also.
We are looking forward to our next MITN postgraduate and early career researcher event (date TBC), which will take the form of participant presentations and group discussion. Its aim will be to build on our newly-formed research clusters, introducing their designated facilitators, and it will offer the opportunity to discuss possible directions for future projects. We encourage all who are interested to attend, and if you would like to propose ideas for research clusters or projects, please contact Jessica (Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org) or Gioia (G.Panzarella@warwick.ac.uk).