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The UOC participates in Barcelona City Council's City and Science Biennial

  UOC faculty members Pau Alsina and Irma Vilà are the art and science curators of this event

The mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau, with the curators of the 2021 City and Science Biennial.

Anna Torres Garrote
UOC faculty members Pau Alsina and Irma Vilà are the art and science curators of this event, the aim of which is to bring the public into closer contact with science

From 8 to 13 June, Barcelona will play host to the second edition of the Biennal Ciutat i Ciència or City and Science Biennial, a major dissemination event organized by Barcelona City Council and curated by various institutions, including the UOC, which aims to not only bring scientific knowledge closer to the public, but also directly involve the public in it. This year, in addition to the 100 activities planned by the curators and participating organizations, the event will include 120 Science Fair activities and 30 +Biennial activities. All told, in this edition 40 spaces throughout the city will play host to more 250 activities with the participation of 300 speakers, representing a variety of branches of knowledge, with a view to discovering how we will face this century and its challenges, how we will contemplate them and how we will push their limits.

Two of this Biennial edition's nine curators belong to the UOC: Pau Alsina, who holds a doctorate in Philosophy and is a member of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, a researcher and the coordinator of Hac Te (Art, Science and Technology Hub); and Irma Vilà, who is a member of the Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications, a multimedia engineer, a researcher and an art, science and technology curator. This is not the first time they have been involved, as they both served as curators in the first edition, two years ago.

Alsina and Vilà explained that their role as curators and researchers at the confluence of art, science and technology is to "propose activities that invite specialists and/or the general public to think about humanity's big questions and challenges, to which the various science and technology disciplines have been responding both independently and in connection with the arts and humanities."

For the UOC researchers, curating this major event means "making it even clearer that today it is impossible to discuss culture without at the same time referring to science and technology as the defining cornerstones of our times. The questions we will have to answer do not discriminate subject matters and require knowledge that lies beyond the limiting compartmentalization of disciplines."

Many of the Biennial's activities revolve around the limits of the planet, of society and science itself, and consider the consequences that crossing them may have on people, humankind and the environment. Disciplines such as bioengineering and regenerative medicine and questions at the very frontiers of modern science directly affect these limits and will be key aspects of the Biennial. It will also consider the question of the current food system, in light of the fact that Barcelona is 2021's World Sustainable Food Capital. But the Biennial, which has a global budget of €660,000, goes beyond purely scientific debate, given that the limits also involve scopes like ethics, philosophy, the social sciences, politics and the arts, which are all key areas with a major presence in the activities of this year's edition.


Curators and speakers

In addition to the UOC's representatives, Pau Alsina and Irma Vilà, the central programme of the Biennial has been curated by Joan Font Fàbregas, who holds a doctorate in Political Science and is a researcher at the Córdoba Institute for Advanced Social Studies (IESA); Toni Massanés, a gourmet and the director of the Alícia Foundation; Núria Montserrat, an ICREA research professor at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC); Ángel Ramírez Troyano, a sociologist and researcher at the Córdoba Institute for Advanced Social Studies; Marta G. Rivera Ferre, an Ingenio research professor (CSIC-UPV) and UVic-UCC Chair of Agroecology researcher; Begoña Román Maestre, a philosopher who specializes in bioethics and ethics in professional and organizational environments; and Ricard Solé, an ICREA research professor and the director of the IMIM-UPF's Complex Systems Laboratory. The Biennial also includes activities proposed by other organizations and bodies.

Some of the people who can be heard over the six days of the event are the Nobel Peace Prize winner Ernest Kahan, the philosopher Julian Savulescu, the physicist and science communicator Sonia Fernández-Vidal, the historian and art theorist Oliver Grau, the curator Mónica Bello, the writer and communicator Pere Estupinyà, the biologists Donna Haraway, Michael Levin and Ron Weiss, the chef Carme Ruscalleda, the immunologist Josef Martin Penninger, the astronaut Ellen S. Baker, the evolutionary biologist Carles Lalueza-Fox, the molecular biologist María Blasco, the economist Sam Bowles, the politician and writer Rosalía Artega, the ethics and artificial intelligence researcher Pilar Dellunde, the mathematician, Mirko Degli, the philosopher Sira Abenoza, the geographer Oriol Nel·lo, the digital art curator Christiane Paul, and the anthropologist Alberto Corsín, among many others.


Spaces and formats

The activities proposed for this City and Science Biennial adopt a wide variety of formats and take place at nearly 40 spaces distributed throughout the city's various districts.


Debates, round tables and talks

These formats will encourage all dimensions of scientific thought and will be predominantly in open-air spaces, such as the gardens of the Casa de la Misericòrdia, the Agustí Centelles city block garden, Plaça Ramon Torres Casanova, Plaça Joan Coromines and Plaça del Fort Pienc, and in enclosures and facilities, such as the Canòdrom Digital and Democratic Innovation Centre, the Guinardó and Vil·la Urània civic centres, the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM), Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB), La Pedrera and the CCCB.

Within this framework, the UOC has organized STEAM practices: breaking limits or creating new barriers? with the participants Aina Tarabini (UAB) and Digna Couso (UAB), Laura Malinverni (Esbrina/UB) and Lucía Egaña (cooptecniques) and the moderator Susanna Tesconi, who is a researcher in the UOC Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications. In this round table, the participants will discuss matters such as whether interrelations between the various branches of knowledge blur their boundaries or generate them and what role the arts play in this intertwining with science and technology. These and other questions in the educational scope will be posed by the speakers in relation to the learning processes that connect science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics, that is, the STEAM fields. To what extent are these practices new opportunities for learning or a perpetuation of old disciplinary roles assigned in new ways?

The UOC has also organized a second round table with the title Defying a time of disasters: approaches from the fields of art and social sciences, which will reveal how art and the social sciences can help us survive, withstand and defy a period marked by disasters, pandemics and catastrophes that are becoming increasingly common and diverse. Reflections will be shared on the importance of contemplating and affecting the notion of disaster or pandemic, lending visibility to historical, social and cultural dimensions that are often overlooked. The role of art and the social sciences in evincing, making visible and representing other damage, violence and scales that are often forgotten will also be discussed. The experts who will participate are the UOC IN3 researcher Israel Rodríguez-Giralt, Agustí Nieto-Galan, Paula Bruna and Bob Trafford (a member of the Forensic Architecture group), and the moderator will be Laura Benítez, who is a course instructor in the UOC's Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

A third round table will also be organized by the curators Alsina and Vilà: Art and science projects and processes in the Mar Menor, a conversation about a case that brings art, science and technology together in this lagoon in the Region of Murcia, which is now a landscape in crisis, in relation to which a group of artists and scientists have joined forces to create a series of actions, artistic practices, reflections, workshops and lectures. The speakers will be Clara Boj and Diego Díaz, who are both from Lalalab, Angel Pérez-Ruzafa and Susana Cámara Leret and the moderator will be Vanessa Balagué.

The UOC has also organized a symposium with the title The limits of what is possible: research into art and science, which is an online activity that will connect the Biennial, which focuses on the subject of limits, with the 2022 International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA), whose theme is "Possibles." The closure of limits and the opening of what is possible will guide the work path of artistic practices related to science and technology from a variety of perspectives and from some of the world's remotest spots.

In relation to the online symposium, two round tables on sharing experiences and reflecting on disciplinary limits and the contributions of the intersections of art, science, technology and society should be highlighted as a critical point of the Biennial. The first one, "Hybridizing art, science and technology: beyond disciplinary limits?," will be moderated by Pau Alsina and will specifically cover the value and contributions of interdisciplinary research in our society with recognized experts such as Gerfried Stocker, Michela Magas, Mónica Bello and Remedios Zafra. Then the second round table, "New dissemination contexts and formats in art, science, technology and society," will focus on sharing experiences and jointly reflecting on new ways of communicating and disseminating artistic practices associated with science and technology with curators, researchers and cultural producers such as Christiane Paul, Oliver Grau, José Luis de Vicente and Salomé Cuesta and will be moderated by Eva Soria.



Ciutadella Park will host six open-air debate and cinema sessions, showing a different science fiction film on every evening of the Biennial. The moderator of this cycle will be Jordi Sánchez-Navarro, the dean of the UOC Faculty of Information and Communication Sciences. It will also include the participation of other UOC experts: the neuroscientist Diego Redolar, who is a member of the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, for Brainstorm; Jordi Delgado, who lectures in artificial intelligence, for The Thirteenth Floor; and Elisabet Roselló, a cultural researcher who has worked on projects at the UOC's IN3, for Elysium. Additionally, the Ateneu Fort Pienc Civic Centre will host two cinema forums and show two documentaries on sustainable food.



The Ateneu Fort Pienc Civic Centre, the CosmoCaixa and the grounds of the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM) will hold exhibitions from 8 to 11 June on food, interactions between art and the environment and interactions between art and particle physics.

The UOC faculty members Pau Alsina and Irma Vilà have curated, in conjunction with the Head of Arts at CERN, Mónica Bello, the exhibition The arts at CERN: when the arts and particle physics collide, which will be held at CosmoCaixa from 8 to 13 June. This exhibition contains some of the works of art developed within the framework of the Arts at CERN programme in recent years, exploring how fundamental science is trying to answer the universe's big questions and how the arts and humanities are echoing these efforts through their practices. Particle physics and the arts are inextricably united in the exciting quest for human knowledge. Arts at CERN is the official art programme of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, a unique laboratory where 14,000 particle physicists and engineers test the fundamental structure of the universe by stretching the most advanced technology to its limits.


The Night of Science

On Friday 11 June at 8 p.m., El Born Cultural and Memorial Centre will host a science spectacular featuring music, visual arts, poetry, live coding and magic. It will include "Pecha Kucha express: breaking down the limits of art, science and technology" and the second part of Pecha Kucha plus a live coding session, which is organized by the UOC, Hangar and the BIST with the collaboration of the Hac Te (Art, Science and Technology Hub) and will feature the participation of scientists and artists such as Joana Moll, Elisabet Romero, Mario Santamaria, Pedro Gómez, Mónica Rikić (UOC course instructor), Jordi Arbiol, Martí Ruiz Carulla (UOC course instructor), Maciej Lewenstein and Reiko Yamada, Eloi Maduell (UOC course instructor), Antoine Reserbat-Plantey, Anna Carreras, Samuel Sánchez and Carolina Jiménez. It will start at 9:15 p.m. in Plaça Comercial in El Born.

Hac Te is Barcelona's art, science and technology hub. It was created in December 2020 with the aim of exploring and developing the intersections between these areas of knowledge. The institutions behind this cross-disciplinary initiative are the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), Fira de Barcelona, the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), Barcelona Tech City, Hangar, the New Art Foundation, and the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), with support from Barcelona City Council, the Government of Catalonia and the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce.


The Science Festival

On Sunday 13 December, the climax of the Biennial will be the 14th edition of the Festa de la Ciència or Science Festival, which this year will be held on the seafront, specifically at various locations in Barceloneta Park, La Fàbrica del Sol, the PRBB and the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM). At these sites the Science Festival will hold workshops, demonstrations, tours, microtalks, guided visits and shows for children, young people and adults, with the aim of bringing science even closer to the public. The Science Festival is the result of the collaborative work and proposals of universities, research centres, other scientific institutions and dissemination companies and professionals.

Within the framework of this celebration, UOC researchers will give two microtalks and hold a workshop starting at 5 p.m. in the courtyard of the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB) (Carrer del Dr. Aiguader, 88). 

Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol, who is the leader of the Communication Networks & Social Change (CSNC) research group of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), will reflect on the use of surveys and statistics with Do statistics have limits? And, Manuel Armayones, an eHealth Center researcher and member of the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, will give the microtalk Does persuasive technology limit our freedom? to explain some of the tricks used by smartphone games and apps to ensure that users spend hours hooked on them and what can be done to avoid them.

The researchers Elisenda Ardèvol, of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and Gemma San Cornelio and Sandra Martorell, of the Faculty of Information and Communication Sciences, who all belong to research group in digital media and culture (MEDIACCIONS), will hold a workshop under the title of Do you want to be an eco-influencer? providing an in-depth study of the format of memes on Instagram to become an ecological knowledge influencer.



The Biennial programme will be augmented with the activities and events of +Biennial, which will be held in parallel to it and be organized by some of the city's organizations and facilities, such as Network of Libraries and Civic Centres, Barcelona Knowledge Hub – Academia Europaea, the Institute of Catalan Studies, the Goethe Institute, L'Auditori, the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, the Museum of Natural Sciences of Barcelona, the CCCB, Barcelona Metropolitan Strategic Plan and La Capella. There will a number of other activities that will broaden the scope and formats of this Biennial.

UOC experts

Photograph of Pau David Alsina González

Pau David Alsina González

Expert in: Digital culture and technologies; innovation in cultural management and production; interrelation of art, science, technology and society; new media; post-structuralist philosophy.

Knowledge area: Arts and philosophy.

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Photograph of Irma Vilà Òdena

Irma Vilà Òdena

Expert in: Digital culture, art and new media, curation, documentation in the creation, production, dissemination and preservation of multimedia content and digital art, and visual design and communication

Knowledge area: Digital creativity and aesthetics, audiovisual documentation, graphic design, and curating of art and new media.

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