EuroScience recently entered into collaboration with the X_Science Festival. X_Science is organised by the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Genova and by the Genova Film Festival. The festival has both science and art at its centre and aimed to enhance the value of scientific culture through cinema and science fiction.
When you think of science and society, what comes to mind? Social sciences, economics, science communication, museums, science galleries, a reporter on the 7 PM news explaining climate change, nuclear energy or space exploration? There are a vast array of subjects evoked when speaking about science and society.
EuroScience and society
From the very beginning, EuroScience was an association of individuals and not a federation of scientific bodies. These individuals are not just scientists, but indeed anyone with a vested interest in science, technology or the humanities. This united group seeks to influence science policy at the European level and endeavour to examine, question and improve the practices and working conditions of European scientists.
During the first General Assembly of EuroScience, a sceptical representative of the European Commission remarked that there were already too many lobby groups in Brussels, and that they did not need another. The founders replied that EuroScience would not be a lobby group, nor a trade union or think-tank. Instead, it would be an active group of as many scientists and citizens as possible and it would, in addition to the above stated activities, also seek to act as a bridge between science and society.
EuroScience has always been driven by the gap between science and society and we are continuously striving to bridge it in different ways. We have organised and been involved in projects about Science in the Media (EuroScience Media Awards), Science meets Poetry and EuroWISTDOM about Women in Science. Science fiction is however a new domain for us when it comes to conveying a message to society through its productivities.
Fiction in science
Science fiction is, according to Cambridge online dictionary, “books, films or cartoons about an imagined future, especially about space travel or other planets.” It can also be a “fiction based on futuristic science: a form of fiction, usually set in the future, that deals with imaginary scientific and technological developments and contact with other worlds.”
What the definitions fail to explain is that the producers or authors of science fiction films or books grew up in a societies which influenced them in different ways. The product of the author’s imagination is connected to the development of science and technology of their time. In addition, they are not only connected to the development of science and technology but to the general mood of the population. If the author lived in dictatorship, they will certainly produce another future than the ones living in a democratic country. If science and scientists are regarded as something ‘out of control’, the technology of a science fiction film will probably end up as The Fly, iRobot or GATTACA.
Science fiction is the playground of grown up kids playing with the perception of the future from the world of today. Science fiction is the alchemist’s alembic where adults introduces their wishes and fears, hopes and desires, most intimate and primordial passions to distillate the answers to unexpressed questions.
Science fiction artistic production is a similar process to that of researchers as they set up a new investigation: collecting data to determine the state of the art, establishing targets, using at the best the whole scientific tools and, most importantly, being creative.
X_Science was born from this awareness with the desire to create a bridge between the scientific community and the social community, to open doors and windows to criticisms, needs, perceptions, because the public often consider scientific research as something magical, having all answers or no answers at all.
Science and fiction, cinema and discussions are fun, they represent the direct exchange and the instinctive path to intimate growth and X_Science is aware of it. X_Science is an experience showing clearly how broad is the quest for knowledge and answers and questions, and Science Fiction movies are the expression of the “voices of society” that want to be shared, listened and considered.
Young artists, writers, directors are producing great works of art – not moved by business and not destined to become blockbusters but still keeping alive the most precious and pure spirit of the artistic expression. At X_Science they offer their products and they are ready to discuss their ideas, and the result is a great event where artists, audience, scientists are all actors of intense dialogues.
In 6th edition of the X_Science festival, held in Genoa (Italy) last march, the quality of the short science fiction films was amazing. The X_Faculty Award-EuroScience, was given to The Calculus of Love (UK) by Dan Clifton. “The Calculus of Love draws you into a scientific environment, exploring the passion of mathematics, sexual harassment and consequences of human actions. The ability of dealing with such diverse issues in such short time and with excellent acting makes it a winner of X_Faculty / EuroScience Award.”
The best movie award as well as the audience award went to Das Leuchten by Krystof Zlatni.
“A highly polished film with impressive visual and a gripping story. It addresses topics that are both timely and unnerving, exploring the use of technology by those in authority, trust in technology, propaganda and the psychology of fear. Strong performances, well-placed action and scope to kick-start many discussions about our society science make this the X_science 2011 winner.”
The Judging Panel also decided to assign four special awards to Roentgen (Germany) by Michael Venus, Mortys (France) by Gaëlle Lebègue, Aurélien Roncheray-Peslin, Mattieu L. Vidal, Nicolas Villeneuve, The Origin of Creatures (Netherlands) by Floris Kaayk and to The Calculus of Love (UK) by Dan Clifton.