FORMULAE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY Hans Ulrich Obrist [10.12.07]




I recently paid a visit to the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens, London to see Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, a long-time friend with whom I have a mutual connection: we both worked closely with the late James Lee Byars, the conceptual artist who, in 1971, implemented "The World Question Center" as a work of conceptual art.

The walls of Obrist's office were covered with single pages of size A4 paper on which artists, writers, scientists had responded to his question: "What Is Your Formula?" Among the pieces were formulas by quantum physicist David Deutsch, artist and musician Brian Eno, architect Rem Koolhaas, and fractal mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot.

Within minutes we had hatched an Edge-Serpentine collaboration for a "World Question Center" project, to debut on Edge during the annual Serpentine Gallery Experiment Marathon, the weekend of October 13-14. The plan was to further the reach of Obrist's question by asking for responses from the science-mindedEdge community, thus complementing the rich array of formulas already assembled by the Serpentine from distinguished artists such as Marina Abramovic, Matthew Barney, Louise Bourgeois, Gilbert & George, and Rosemarie Trockel.

Edge Live in London

The Serpentine Gallery Experiment Marathon
10:00 am to 1:30 pm, Sunday 14 October

In addition to the online publication of "Formulae for the 21st Century," Edgewas invited to program four hours of the twenty-four hour Serpentine Gallery Experiment Marathon. The event, which took place October 14th, was held in The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2007, commissioned by Serpentine Director Julia Peyton-Jones and designed by Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorson.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2007
© 2007 Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen

The session session featured live presentations of "table-top" experiments from zoologist Seirian Sumner (A Cooperative Foraging Experiment — Lessons From Ants), archeologist Timothy Taylor (The Tradescant's Art Experiment), physiologist Simon Baron-Cohen (Do Women Have Better Empathy Than Men), biologist Amrand Leroi (The Songs of Songs), geneticist Steve Jones (Some Like It Hot), physicist Neil Turok (What Banged? and The Morning Line), biologist Lewis Wolpert (How Our Limbs Are Patterned Like The French Flag), and playwright Marcy Kahan in conversation with psychologist Steven Pinker.