The Next Conversation: “Asking Questions for the 21st Century”


Event Date: Wednesday, June 13, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle

The Summary

This time we’re having a conversation with ten Chilean artists and scientists who are in Seattle for an inter-hemispheric and cross-disciplinary exchange. Read on below for details. (And note the different day and time from the norm for this series.)

The Guests (see guest bios below)

Marcelo Velasco, biologist, media artist and ecological economist

Marianela Camaño, architect, singer, and costume and set designer

José Manuel de la Parra, filmmaker and graphic artist

Javiera Constanzo, wildlife medical veterinary, illustrator

Thomas Kramer, agronomist, wildlife conservationist and photographer

Beatriz Buttazzoni, artist, visual communicator

Fernando Mejías, science journalist

Miguel Bolt, multidisciplinary visual artist

Nicole García, graphic designer, visual communicator

Pablo Savaria, biologist, science communicator

Faculty Team

Fernanda Oyarzún, biologist, science communicator, scientific illustrator and sculptor

Nelida Pohl,  biologist, ecologist, science communication educator

Belen Gallardo, biologist, artist, ecologist 

Fredy Diaz, biologist, educator and media artist

The Story

Usually we put the conversations to bed for the summer. But this opportunity was too good to pass up. 

Genevieve Tremblay came to me a couple of weeks ago and suggested that we do a conversation with the ten Chilean artists and scientists who are in Seattle for the pilot program of “ASKXXI: Arts + Science Knowledge-Building and Sharing in the XXI Century.” She’s the US Executive and Academic Program Director of ASKXXI, working with three Chilean organizing partners.

The project “is a pioneering exchange program fostering US-Chile cooperation and collaboration in arts, emerging digital/virtual technologies, and the ecological sciences. Our 2018 pilot program is offered as a Certificate Diploma by the UCSC, Concepción, Chile and is sponsored, in part, by the US Embassy, Chile.”

The fourteen participants from Chile are in the Pacific Northwest for three weeks. They’re spending a week at the University Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories, then they’ll have training in digital, virtual, and mixed reality technologies and data visualization in Seattle. They’ll be taking tours of science and data laboratories, tech and VR companies, and artists’ studios and cultural sites around Seattle, with ecology field trips and more.

And through these weeks, they’ll be asking a lot of questions: How do scientists and artists approach observation? How can we compare scientists’ and artists’ processes? What are the challenges of coastal environments in the Pacific Northwest…and how do they relate to these same environments of Chile? How do scientist and artists explore a changing world in the XXI century? How can we live creativity courageously in arts and science? And a lot more.

We’ll be talking with them about those questions. And we’ll be looking at other fundamental questions around art, creativity, rigorous inquiry, and the work needed to build the future.

Come. This will be fascinating.

The Guests in Detail

Marcelo Velasco: I am a biologist from the University of Chile with a master’s degree in Media Arts from the same University. I also obtained a master’s degree in Ecological Economics from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. As an experimental biologist, I worked in neurosciences, studying the visual system and magnetic perception in birds. In ecological economics I worked for 7 years in sustainability and mining. In recent years, and starting from my time in the Media Arts, I am interested in exploring critically the potential synergies between art and science. In 2015 I made a presentation with Ignacio Nieto in Montreal, Canada about the influence of second-order cybernetics in neuroscience, politics and art in Chile in the 70s. In 2016, together with Nieto, I published the book “Ciencia Abierta : “Open Science: Singularity and Irruption in the Frontiers of Artistic Practice” (Adrede editorial), a research that addresses the work done by artists who use scientific methodologies for their work. 

Marianela Camaño: I am an architect, faculty at Universidad de Concepción, Chile and singer, I have ventured into the illustration and creation of ceramic pieces, which some say, are the characters I draw but in three dimensions. The scenic is always present in my life; creation and characterization of characters, costumes, hats and masks, together with the scenic space and lighting, since I work as a set designer and costume designer for operas and musical theater, where architecture, music and design are connected. The integration of the arts and sciences is present in my work as art director of the biennial 0 – Art & Science to be held in Concepción at the end of 2018 and in other projects that I have developed by making available the architect’s ability to be an interpreter of a reality, make it visible and materialize it. Dreaming realities and building them is one of my greatest strengths, also building them in the Latin American reality, where scenarios are not always the most auspicious in terms of available economic resources. In this space, creativity emerges as a tributary and my appreciation for processes more than instantaneous ideas … I am interested in learning from science about organizations and processes that are more complex and sustained over time. 

José Manuel de la Parra: I am an audiovisual producer and graphic artist, I have worked in fiction and documentary projects and for some years I have approached the world of science, in individual projects and interdisciplinary collaborations. At a time when the image is an axis where culture orients, I study and work in different formats, between photography, illustration and video, looking for images that allow us to approach nature from different perspectives, where our heritage, our culture, find a space in common with the new ways of understanding the world that scientific research offers us. A long road that I am just beginning, one image at a time. 

I’m a filmmaker and graphic artist, I’ve worked in fiction and documentary projects and since a few years ago I’ve got closer to the world of scientific research, in my personal work and in interdisciplinary collaborations. In a time where the image is an axis in which the culture spins in, I study and work in various formats, between photography, illustration and video, searching for images that allow us to get closer to nature from different perspectives, where our heritage, our culture, could get the chance to find common ground with the new ways of understanding the world that science provides. A long way ahead, indeed. 

Javiera Constanzo: I am a professional medical veterinary dedicated to work with wildlife as an independent consultant. I am vice president of the NGO “Vida Nativa” and member of the emergency committee of AMEVEFAS. I am also an illustrator by trade, and I have dedicated the last years to the scientific illustration of fauna for various publishing projects. My objectives in this area are to support the generation of scientific work with descriptive images of fauna and, through platforms such as social networks, books, exhibitions and teaching materials disseminate scientific knowledge. I want to use illustrations as a tool to improve the communication of science towards to the general public. I have written scientific articles for magazines, collaborated in research mainly related to native herpetofauna and supported the rescue of animals as a wildlife coordinator during the massive fires that took place in Chile in 2017. Finally, I have also worked as an illustrator for video games, comics, drawings for NGOs, popular science books and for social networks. 

Thomas Kramer: I am an agronomist, from the Catholic University of Chile and a master’s degree in biodiversity, conservation and management from the University of Oxford. My PhD thesis was dedicated to determine the role of nature photographers in the protection of biodiversity, through interviews with some of the best Chilean exponents of the “Conservation Photography”, scientific – artistic discipline formally established only 13 years ago. As a disseminator of science, I have authored the photo book “Fauna Chilena” (2015) and co-author of the children’s work “Superanimals of Chile” (2015). I am currently writing 2 other books, which will focus on bringing wildlife closer to new generations, based on attractive artistic – technological proposals and rigorous scientific precision. During 2018, I will be implementing an innovative model of biological monitoring through trap cameras, supported and financed by actors linked to tourism of special interests, specifically those that offer programs of sighting of wild fauna. The project will be developed in the regions of Los Lagos and Magallanes, and so far has the support of 3 private owners willing to cooperate in its realization. 

Beatriz Buttazzoni: I am an artist and candidate for a Master’s in Communication (UDP / UPF). My ideal is to learn every day what did not come in the manual. I am director of the company “El Viento”, a company dedicated to animation and communication consultancy, with special interest in science. I have participated in research dissemination projects, aimed at the general public in the fields of astronomy, ecology and biochemistry. I have also created, directed and produced animation projects for open television and web. I am also a university professor in animation and film careers. I am interested in continuing to train in scientific communication and work in multidisciplinary groups, developing projects that contribute to the taste for science, preservation and environmental awareness and in time, hopefully, add and positively effect on public policies in these matters. 

Fernando Mejías: I am a journalist from the Universidad Austral de Chile, I have a Diploma in Political Studies and a postgraduate in Scientific Culture from the OEI and I am currently in charge of Communications at the University of Concepcion Biotechnology Center CBUdeC. I have more than 11 years of experience in Science Communication in universities, research centers and technology transfer and innovation projects. I am a member and was part of the national board of the Association of Journalists and Professionals for Science Communication ACHIPEC, who has organized scientific outreach activities in streets and squares of Concepción and surroundings, together with local organizations and young researchers from the Biobío and the country. In the educational field, the CBUdeC has generated workshops, talks and collaboration agreements with public and private educational establishments in the Biobío, which have culminated in practical activities and classroom interventions with a focus on science education and interdisciplinary intersections between art and science. Since 2009, I have coordinated the cycles of Scientific Cafes in Concepción and the Biobío Region, in conjunction with PAR Explora Biobío and the Extension Directorate of the University of Concepción. I also constantly participate in regional media, as a panelist in the “Science” section of the TVU TV Community Content program ( and also in the “Dialogue with Science” radio program of the University of Concepción; in addition to managing presence in local and national media for various research projects associated with the CBUdeC. 

Miguel Bolt: I am a multidisciplinary visual artist with training in Graphic Arts and Ceramics, environmental thematic work and observation of nature. I am a co-founder of Magma Lab, an art and design laboratory. I participate in the 7M2 collective, a multidisciplinary group of art, music and architecture, as a collective we have a contemporary art gallery that also serves as a platform for various forms of art and culture. My interests are very diverse: I have always sought to establish links with disciplines and spaces different from those of the art world, I have been part of various indigenous and peasant encounters, I participated in several versions of the indigenous art biennial in Ecuador, I have worked on projects of music, design, architecture, bio-construction, appropriate technologies and agriculture. As an artist, I am interested in communicating a holistic vision of the planet and of knowledge, raising awareness about conservation issues, biodiversity, territory and culture through an attractive and binding visual language. 

Nicole García: I’m a graphic designer, but I feel more comfortable as a “visual communicator.” Throughout my career I have developed a special interest in the visualization of data and in how to show those things that are not so quantifiable, that we would apparently say are subjective or sensitive. In this way, mapping information is rather an experience of gathering information, which makes sense with the nature of the data. I usually take analogous paths to develop visuals, and this has made my path move away from design and be closer to the arts. At the same time I have worked on museography and exhibition design and publishing, serving in some institutions and museographic agencies. 

Pablo Savaria: I’m a biologist, but often I like to see myself more as a scientific “public-information officer.” Currently I work as Head of Communications at the Millennium Nucleus of Invasive Salmonids (INVASAL). On the right hand, my job involves meeting and coordinating research and science communication activities with governmental and non-governmental agencies, municipal local authorities, community leaders, national press and other research institutions. On the other hand, I’ve worked designing, producing and executing science exhibitions and conference-like events both in rural areas and big cities of Southern Chile. I haven’t quit research and still enjoy coming along to scientific expeditions, especially those involving fishing and sampling in great lakes and rivers. In science my main experience is on freshwater fish ecology, with particular fascination on anatomy. My motivation is to facilitate the public understanding of science to empower people towards decision making in the social sphere. To do that, I’m exploring traditional and emergent technologies to allow people connect with each other and the natural world. 

ASKXXI Faculty Team (Chile)

Fernanda Oyarzún is a PhD in Biology, University of Washington (USA), Fulbright Scholar,  Fellow of the Program for Interdisciplinary Biology (UW Bothell), has a Certificate in Editorial Design from Universidad de Chile and is trained in Scientific Illustration (UW). She is a biologist, science communicator, scientific illustrator and sculptor, who works in both worlds —science and art— exploring the life, forms and evolution of marine biodiversity. Her scientific research, from which she also draws artistic inspiration, focuses on the evolution of life history strategies, larval ecology, reproduction and plasticity of marine invertebrates. She is interests on the design, development and implementation of interdisciplinary educational programs, pedagogical tools and learning environments that will increase the interaction among scientists, artists, legislators, educators and the general public. 

Nélida Pohl, Communications Advisor at 6 Senses, is a Biologist with a MSc in Ecology from Universidad de Chile, a PhD in Biology from University of California, Irvine, and a MSc in Science Communication from Imperial College, London. She is a full time science communication educator and practitioner since 2011. As an educator, she leads a Certificate Diploma in Science Communication at Universidad de Chile, teaches undergraduate courses and workshops, and seminars in Chile and abroad. She’s interested in raising awareness regarding environmental issues, the training of new science communicators, widening the appeal of science to reach new audiences, and the many interactions between science and art.

Belén Gallardo is a collaborator of the IEB, biologist with an MSc in biological sciences and PhD candidate studying at the Department of Ecology of Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, graduating in 2019. Her areas of expertise include mediterranean and temperate forest ecosystems, especially plant-soil interactions, and graduate and extension curriculum development. She has extensive experience coordinating courses on ecology, the environment and its global changes, such as Principles of Ecology, Community and Ecosystems Ecology, and Biological Invasions. She organized the Forest Ecology course at the IEB’s Estacion Biologica Senda Darwin (Chiloe Island) for three consecutive years, and the Botanical Illustration course at the same venue since 2015. She’s also part of the team that is putting together the first Marine Illustration course that will take place in October 2017.

Fredy Díaz is a biologist with an MSc in Biochemistry, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Universidad Catolica de la Santísima Concepción, in Concepción, Chile. He is the director of the Interactive Biology (BiLab) Lab at the same institution. BiLab is a creative space where students make original cartoons, digital animations and interactive objects as tools for the teaching and learning of biological subjects.

4 responses to “The Next Conversation: “Asking Questions for the 21st Century”

  1. Dr. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman June 6, 2018 at 12:15 am

    John, I wonder if we could connect further with whoever is sponsoring these folks. We’ll plan to go on the 13th. We live on Whidbey Island half the year and in Southern Chile the other half and would love to connect a bit more with some of them time permitting. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman

  2. Cynthia June 16, 2018 at 5:37 am

    Is there a way to follow your announcements?

    • John Boylan June 16, 2018 at 5:56 am

      Hi Cynthia, if you have an RSS reader, you can follow the feed that way. Otherwise, you can get on my emailing list. I generally send out two messages each month, September through April or May.

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