Roots of curiosity: the cycle



Patrícia likes to enter an imaginary world, where she can observe the brain being modulated by a conductor, activating some areas, while inhibiting others. Rita wonders what behavior can tell us about how the brain works and how actions can be a window to what makes us happy. Sam is still not sure if he wants to be a scientist or an artist when he grows up. These three curious minds got together and wondered if it would be possible to create something simultaneously artistic and scientific…

Neuroscientists represent the world using cause-effect relationships, principles, mechanisms. Artists create representations of the world using colors, sounds, movements. Can these representations mutually challenge, feed and complete themselves in a single humanistic experience? What is this drive for re-creating, representing and manipulating reality? Could it be that artists and scientists are driven by a shared “root” of curiosity?

An artist generates an artistic movement; a scientist introduces a scientific theory.

Could it be that scientists and artists simply reveal different models of the world? And if so, does this mean that science has more in common with art, and vice versa, than is often portrayed in popular culture? Where are the points of divergence and convergence between the disciplines? What methodologies seem to overlap?

In 2012, the Centro Cultural de Belém opened a call inviting project proposals. We applied with the project Roots of Curiosity: Time in Science and Art, which challenged five pairs of artists and neuroscientists to create a symbiotic object, both artistic and scientific. We parted from the presumption that despite the differences, art and science seek to explore – each with their own unique set of concepts and tools – the unknown. Since we did not want to define or constrain a priori any possible creations, the proposed objects could take on any form (Figure 1) – an experiment, a song, a game, a video…

Figure 1

Figure 1. An example of a creation during a public performance. Picture taken by Manuel Moreira, Centro Cultural de Belém.


Before the artists and scientists even met, we brainstormed a lot! Initially just the three of us, then the three of us and the curator of the project Madalena Wallenstein, then finally the four of us and the artistic director, Maria Gil. Eventually after a lot of late night sessions and heated discussions, the five of us were ready for the first residency. So, in 2014, five artists and five neuroscientists met, for the first time, and spent a week playing games, explaining experiments, motivations and desires. By the end of the first residency, we created pairs with our neuroscientists and artists.

The project had truly begun!

The five pairs then began to work at regular intervals, with the aim of creating a third space between art and science that would eventually culminate with a number of symbiotic outputs: a performance, a cycle of workshops, a conference, a book and a documentary. The project was a joint collaboration between the Champalimaud Foundation and the Centro Cultural de Belém.

Roots of Curiosity was an original experimental project in the art-science field in Portugal. The conference, after the residencies, workshops and performances, invited other art-science mediators and specialists to meet and discuss around a triangle scheme (Figure 2): fostering art-science symbiosis, nurturing art-science symbiosis and finally the impact – what is the impact of art-science projects?


Figure 2. The triangle scheme used to guide the encounters and discussions in the roots of curiosity project.


We still have so many unanswered questions, and we will continue investigating the bridge between science and art! ‘Stay tuned’!

More information on the project can be found here:


Patrícia, Rita and Sam organized the Ar event “Creativity: the playground of the brain” in 2012. After that, they created and produced the science-art project “Roots of Curiosity”, in collaboration with the Museum “Centro Cultural de Belém”. The project included a performance, diverse workshops, a conference and culminated with the publication of a book and a documentary. The three creators keep on being curious to discover more about science-art collaborations.



Edited by: Ivo Marcelo (section editor), Clara Ferreira (editor-in-chief)


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