Oct 25, 2022

Akademie Schloss Solitude together with the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior have established the new transdisciplinary residency program »Field Trip«

»From Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior«. Photo: Helene Sommer

Akademie Schloss Solitude together with the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior`s (MPI-AB) Department for the Ecology of Animal Societies (EAS) have established a new residency program, »Field Trip«, to foster interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and perspectives between the arts and sciences. The transdisciplinary program offers an adventure of going to a new place, an experience of being in a different environment and an opportunity to experiment with ideas.

The unique program offers artists the opportunity to engage with the researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, whose work focuses on a wide range of species from insects to birds, fish and mammals, both in the lab and in the natural settings using cutting-edge technologies for tracking, data analysis and visualization. The department of EAS especially looks at the question of »How do animal societies emerge and function?«.

In the framework of the bilateral program, the visual artist Helene Sommer has visited the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Konstanz, Germany for a six-week period, from beginning of July to mid-August 2022. Her interest lies in the multiple levels of translation, interpretation and rhetorical devices that are involved in all storytelling. Through video, collage, text and installation she wishes to question the way we understand and relate to our surroundings and its history. During her six-week residency at the MPI-AB, she explored the way scientists study animal behavior, how facts and evidence-based ideas are created, what role they play in science and society, and the history and reasoning of the dividing »them« and »us«.

The filmmaker about her experience at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior:
»I spent my residency at the MPI talking to numerous scientists about their research and approach, as well as who they are as individuals. I was also able to participate in some fieldwork and see the laboratories where experiments take place. I wanted to observe the scientist observing the animals. It was a unique opportunity of trying to grasp the complex mechanisms at stake when knowledge is produced. It was interesting to see the central role narrativity played both through language and images. I was surprised to find as many similarities as differences between our practices, practices where asking questions perhaps are as significant as finding answers. The material will be part of a new film.«

In turn, Akademie Schloss Solitude is very happy to welcome the researcher Hemal Naik from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior who will have his six-week »Field Trip« at Akademie Solitude from mid of October to end of November 2022. Hemal Naik is a postdoctoral researcher working with the EAS dept at MPI-AB, who has been developing techniques to study large groups of animals using aerial images, computer vision, and machine learning. Currently, he is part of the project MELA with a focus on studying leking behavior, a rare mating behavior of Blackbucks (antelopes) in India. During his »Field Trip« to Akademie Schloss Solitude, he intends to combine storytelling with audio or visual media to come up with a series of short stories based on the daily life of the animals at the blackbuck national park, building a narrative for a broader audience together with other artists at the Akademie.

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