12 August 2007

The Science of Spying

I was reminded via email this week that the interactive spying exhibition I produced ends its initial run at the Science Museum and Indianapolis Children's Museum next month. So far, almost 300,000 people have been 'a spy for a day'. I haven't written about the exhibition here, on my much-neglected blog, since the public call for ideas. Fortunately, the rest of the web has been less reticent.

I showed Régine, of we make money not art, around the exhibition in May and she wrote about it in three parts (mostly about the surveillance and counter-surveillance objects - real and imagined):
The Science of Spying - Part 1
The Science of Spying - Part 2
The Science of Spying - Part 3

And I enjoyed a 'sometaithurts' moment when Dame Stella Rimington, former director-general of the MI5, reviewed the exhibition for The Times: Unlock the secrets of the spying game. I was surprised by how much Dame Stella engaged with the more playful interactives during her visit and was particularly pleased that she noted the balance we were trying to strike between a fun role-play experience and a thought-provoking examination of surveillance:

The Science of Spying exhibition is very well conceived and researched. While offering a fun and exciting experience, it quite rightly avoids the James Bond approach. More than that, though, it will give the reflective 12-year-old some important issues to think about. When is surveillance justified? Who should be using all the gadgetry that science has provided, and against whom? And with what checks and balances?

It hit number 1 critic's choice in Time Out ("It's hard to imagine a 10 year old that won't love it", John O'Connell) and was generally well-received. But probably my favourite review is this 'end of the day' account posted to Google Video:

So, if you've been meaning to see it, you've got less than a month to get to the Science Museum. But if you do miss it, you're likely to have another chance. The exhibition will tour for up to 5 years, around the UK, Europe and the US.

Update: the exhibition's run at the Science Museum has been extended to Sunday 28 October 2007.

Posted at 04:16 PM in Exhibitions, Museums, Performance, Play, Spying, Storytelling | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

19 March 2005

I met the description

Nature has a wonderful feature by AS Byatt, where she describes how her encounters with science shape her fiction:

Eliot believed that feeling and thought, body and mind, were a unified sensibility until the seventeenth century. After that you could no longer "feel your thought as immediately as the odour of a rose"...

I read a book about poetic metaphors in which the lovely story is told of the boy who always won at chess until he described how he instantly saw the best move — which was to visualize the chess board, and all the possible moves of all the pieces, in different coloured flashing lights, and choose the strongest pattern. After he had revealed his secret he collapsed in a faint. Somewhere at the same time I met the description of Francis Galton, who could visualize an imaginary slide rule and read off answers. I met a mathematical prodigy who — she said — solved problems by "imagining a garden and placing the mathematical forms in it and releasing the problem to run among the forms". Later still — many years later — I read Galton's description of the experiment in which he asked boys at public schools and undergraduates — if they understood what he was asking — to draw their own imaginary mathematical landscapes. He reproduced many of these in colour in Inquiries into Human Faculty.

One reason all this fascinated me was that it was better than any literary description of what it felt like to seize the gestalt of a work of art — remembered, or half-constructed, or unwritten but present in the mind... I became interested in the networks of connections that make the foundations for thinking — numbers, geometry and grammar.

(via 3quarksdaily)

After meeting Byatt's reference to Inquiries into Human Faculty, I found that a searchable version of the full text is available online. Here's a taste from the colour associations section:


A,  pure white, and like china in texture.

E,  red, not transparent; vermilion, with china-white would represent it.

I,   light bright yellow; gamboge.

O, black, but transparent; the colour of deep water seen through thick clear ice.

U, purple.

Y  a dingier colour than I.

Must read full text.

Posted at 01:44 PM in Storytelling | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack