1st Kavli IPMU Artist in Residence Program Exhibition attracts new crowds

April 19, 2018

On a busy street in the south of Tokyo city, the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU) created a space for admirers of science and art to meet, contemplate, and create something new.

Entrance to exhibition (Credit: Kavli IPMU)

Exhibition ground(Credit: Kavli IPMU)

Since 2015, the Kavli IPMU has hosted an artist to reside in its institute in the same building as where mathematicians, physicists and astronomers work together to unravel the mysteries of the Universe. For one month, the artist interacts with Kavli IPMU researchers, and works on a new project. The finished piece is then exhibited to the public and displayed inside the institute.

Building on this idea, the institute hosted a 16-day Artist in Residence Program Exhibition in a warehouse-turned-gallery in Ota ward, a residential and business area situated between Tokyo and Yokohama, during March 2018. The main aim of the exhibition was to not only provide a place to see how science and art could collaborate, but to expose science admirers to an artistic perspective, expose art admirers to a scientific perspective, create new meetings between a diverse range of experts, reflect on past experience with artists and scientists, and ultimately try to encourage both experts and the general public to encounter a completely new culture.

The exhibition featured the latest work by 2017 resident artist and sculptor Kentaro Haruyama, 2016 resident artist and media artist Norimichi Hirakawa, and 2015 resident artist and painter Yasuo Nomura. As well as this, one corner of the exhibition introduced the research carried out at Kavli IPMU, and other events including exhibition tours, seminars, science cafés, a symposium and workshop were also organized during the exhibition period.

Noctis Labyrinthus No.30 -type.C positive-, Noctis Labyrinthus No.31 -type.P negative-, 2018, Yasuo Nomura (Credit: Kavli IPMU)

Untitled 2018, 2018, Kentaro Haruyama (Credit: Kavli IPMU)
Exhibition floor(2F), a study for spacecolortime, 2018, Norimichi Hirakawa (Credit: Norimichi Hirakawa)

Up to 400 people visited the exhibition, of which half were people in their 20s or 30s. A dozen or so art academics and curators also visited the exhibition. More than 200 visitors responded to the exhibition’s survey, which showed the majority of visitors enjoyed the exhibition and were strongly in favor of the Kavli IPMU hosting another exhibition. A number of visitors noted the content was difficult to understand, and it would have benefitted from more information, but overall visitors seemed to agree the event was an interesting idea with real potential.

Kavli IPMU corner (Credit: Kavli IPMU)

Kavli IPMU corner (Credit: Kavli IPMU)

In regards to the eight parallel events organized during the exhibition period, which invited a range of guest experts in mathematics, astronomy, social studies, art history, theoretical physics, and neuroscience, visitors had made the following comments.

  • “The material was deep, and was very fascinating. It made me think a lot.”
  • “It was a treat to be able to hear from both an artist who took part in the residency program, and hear from an academic who had watched this program. It made me appreciate his work more, and made me think about the potential of this program and what it can achieve.”
  • “I wouldn’t have come here if this was a science event, but it was good to be able to learn about science. I think this event is a great way to introduce science to people who are not interested in subject.”
  • “In regards to the question of how does one measure the value of research that doesn’t have any immediate benefits to society, I strongly believe mathematics, physics, and astronomy exist because they offer a new, interesting way to look at nature. It shouldn’t be about whether it can produce a Nobel Prize, or if it can secure big researching funding. Like the way art is about freedom to explore new avenues, I hope the Kavli IPMU will value this quality more than thinking about getting the right answer.


  • March 17, Kavli IPMU Associate Professor Tomoyuki Abe gave a talk titled, “Introducing Kavli IPMU Science 3 a dialogue with a mathematician”
  • March 18, Kavli IPMU Professor Yukari Ito gave a talk titled, “Introducing Kavli IPMU Science 1: Mackay corresponding”
  • 21, Kavli IPMU Project Researcher Will Donovan gave a talk titled, “Introducing Kavli IPMU Science 2 Soap bubbles and spacetime”

Science café “Soap bubbles and spacetime” (Credit: Kavli IPMU)


On March 10, about 40 people came to hear from the following experts in the symposium titled,“Kavli IPMU AIR Program Brainstorm 1: from a viewpoint of science and society, and theory of art practice”:
Exhibition artists Kentaro Haruyama (2017 resident artist, sculpting), Norimichi Hirakawa (2016 resident artist, media art), and Yasuo Nomura (2015 resident artist, painting), researchers Akishi Ikeda (Kavli IPMU Project Researcher, mathematics) and Akemi Sunayama (Kavli IPMU Project Researcher, astronomy), science and culture expert Daisuke Okumura (Department of History and Philosophy of Science, The University of Tokyo), and finally art critic Ryo Sawayama.
The symposium began with the resident artists looking back on their time at the Kavli IPMU and how they worked on their art piece for the program. Then, researchers introduced their own research, and what they got from having an artist in their institute. Okumura introduced and compared past cases to talk about the potential of the artist in residence program as a way to promote science, the anthropology of science as artist in residence program, the mathematical sciences and art, and scientific accuracy in art, while Sawayama referred to past art pieces by Isamu Iguchi and Buckminster Fuller in the view point of their co-work with scientists.

During the symposium (Credit: Kavli IPMU)


Up to 40 people took part in a Kavli IPMU-hosted workshop to look deeper into the artist in residence program, titled,“Kavli IPMU AIR Program Brainstorm 2: Uncovering the basis of science and art through Truth, Good, and Beauty”, on March 11 at the Tamarokuto Science Center in west Tokyo. The morning program involved talks from the three past resident artists, Kentaro Haruyama (2017 resident artist, sculpting), Norimichi Hirakawa (2016 resident artist, media art), Yasuo Nomura (2015 resident artist, painting), and a comparison of the way to overcome characteristic limits that each medium has when creating artwork. The afternoon segment of the workshop also involved several experts including Shunsuke Kuwahara (Department of Philosophy, Sophia University, Aesthetics), Yoshihiro Maruyama (Kyoto Universityʼs Hakubi Project/Graduate School of Letters, mathematical philosophy), and Masato Yamazaki (Kavli IPMU, theoretical physics), and started with an introduction to how the concept of beauty and good has changed over the years, naturalism from the point-of-view of the relationship between what is good and right in logic research, and the meaning of truth and beauty in theoretical physics research. Afterwards, both participants and speakers discussed these concepts amongst themselves and with one another.

During the workshop (Credit: Tamarokuto Science Center)

Two seminars were carried out to think about the future of the Kavli IPMU artist in residence program. The first, invited neuroscientists and ARAYA Inc. CEO Ryota Kanai to give his opinion on the program from an artificial intelligence perspective. More than a dozen visitors joined in the event to hear Kanai explain how it is important to create a way to express and evaluate the structure which mathematics and physics use for feeling or perception, much in the way when he treats subjective things usually art treats, but now for science.
In the second seminar, Art Center Ongoing Representative Nozomu Ogawa was invited to give his opinion on the program as an alternative gallery owner. Ogawa introduced several works in his gallery by artists who have been out from the art industry, and the common characteristics between scientists and artists as individuals who seek an answer to the unknown. He suggested that if we do not choose to evaluate things in a universal way, perhaps it would be best to create and manage a community where people can collectively share their thoughts.

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