1ffffffff Useful Fictions : International art & science Symposium, École polytechnique, 9-15.09.19

Useful fictions

Useful fictions : an intensive week of collaboration between artists, scientists and designers in order to create new narratives about ecological thinking, by re-evaluating the notion of measurement, considered here as a “useful fiction” but not a definitive or absolute one.

A first partnership between the Universities of California (UC Davis, UC Irvine and UCLA) and École Polytechnique (Institut polytechnique de Paris)




The “Useful Fictions” symposium is composed of two parts

Useful Fictions is the first international arts and sciences workshop held at École polytechnique, as an extension of the “Behavioral Matter” event (March 2019) at the Centre Pompidou, organised by the École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (EnsAD-PSL), with the support of the Chaire arts & sciences.

The event promotes a joint work between scientists from all disciplines (human and social sciences, natural sciences), artists and designers, aiming to produce academic reflexion and experimental artefacts.

Participants were divided in 5 working groups :

1ff LAB 1 : CLIMATE MEASUREMENTS, at the Site Instrumental de Recherche par Télédétection Atmosphérique (SIRTA) Observatory, Institut Pierre Simon Laplace (IPSL) 

1ff LAB 2 : A MICROCLIMATE OF ONE, at Laboratoire d'hydrodynamique (LadHyX)

 1ff LAB 3 : 4D ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING: FROM PRINT TO ANIMATION at Laboratoire des Solides Irradiés (LSI)

1ff LAB 4 : DATA MATERIA at Fab X-Novation, Drahi Center

1ff LAB 5 : MAKING, ENGAGEMENT & REFLEXIVITY (collective social sciences)
      • 18 international students participated in this first edition, from 11 different countries (Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Spain, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Portugal, USA). Young artists and scientists from various disciplines, genres and geographical origins, supervised by a dozen renowned international personalities, teachers or invited speakers.


      • © Photo : Jenny Dalziel


        The outcomes of the symposium have been published and presented in different contexts in France and the United States:

      • Septembre 13, 2019
        X-Novation Drahi Center, École polytechnique
        Public presentation and exhibition of the creations and installations created during the week
      • Septembre 14, 2019
        Galerie HUS, Montmartre, Paris, France
        Exhibition and artistic performances
      • Novembre 7-10, 2019
        SLSA (Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts), University of California Irvine
        Useful Fictions exhibition as part of the SLSA 2019 annual meeting about “Experimental Engagements


As part of these public meetings, several personalities from the art & science world presented creations and performances:

      • Performance by the mathematician and artist Laurent Derobert
        Chambre d’embarquement, rue Véron, 75018, Paris
      • Exhibition of the works created during the Useful Fictions symposium, presentation of video works by Tim Hyde on the theme “Speed of Light / Speed of Shadow” (Curator: David Familian)
        Galerie HUS, 75018, Paris
      • Speed of Light / Speed of Shadow Expedition: an evening of artistic and poetic performances held during a public stroll in Montmartre.



This project was initiated thanks to a grant from Global Affairs International Activities with matching funds from the College of Letters and Science and the Office of Research at the University of California, Davis, and the Chaire arts & sciences at the École Polytechnique, École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs – PSL and the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation.

Head: Jiayi Young (UC Davis), co-heads: Jean-Marc Chomaz (École Polytechnique), Timothy Hyde (UC Davis) and James Crutchfield (UC Davis), collaborators: Victoria Vesna (UCLA), David Familian (UC Irvine), Asa Calow (Madlab, Manchester, UK). Since its inception, additional funding has been provided by the Chaire arts & sciences.

The development of the project also benefited from the generous support of Samuel Bianchini and Manuelle Freire of the Chaire arts & sciences and the Reflective Interaction group of EnsadLab (EnsAD’s research laboratory, PSL), and David Bihanic (Université Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne / EnsADLab – Reflective Interaction). Design of the Speed of Light / Speed of Shadow Expedition : Tim Hyde, Jiayi Young and Jean-Marc Chomaz. The project is also supported and co-organized by the Chaire Développement Durable of the École polytechnique.

Guest Editors and Advisors: James Housefield (UC Davis) and Jens Hauser (Michigan State University)

Head of Communication: Julie Sauret
Student interns: Ragnhild Ståhl-Nielsen, Alice Magdelénat

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