DARE Art Prize shortlist announced


The University's Cultural Institute and Opera North have announced the shortlist for their inaugural DARE Art Prize.

The five ambitious proposals include a whale choir, an exploration of cosmic bubbles, and chamber music scored beneath the limits of human hearing. 

Aimed at challenging artists and scientists to work together on new approaches to the creative process, the launch of the annual £15,000 prize is part of a programme in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds – now a world leader in building collaborations between the arts and higher education. A key aim of the University's new Cultural Institute is to increase pioneering research collaborations across all disciplines.

Applications were received from across the globe, and the shortlisted artists have each demonstrated a desire to engage with researchers at the University in the creation of new work, in media ranging from music to sculpture, from holograms to interactive installations.

The thinking and experiences of artists and scientists are often thought to be mutually exclusive, however the collaborative proposals reveal the beauty and excitement of a symbiotic creative relationship between the two fields.

Professor John Ladbury, Executive Dean, Faculty of Biological Sciences

Writer and artist Gary Zhexi Zhang is already engaged in a project involving cultivating slime mould and observing its “swarm intelligence” and “social” behaviours. He proposes an interactive film installation - and possibly a performance with Opera North ­­- which uses the slime’s behaviour as a model for the creative process.

Marina Rees is based in Iceland, where she has been researching and mapping the skeletons of whales using sound. Her proposal would focus on the modes of communication between marine mammals with darkened installations receiving live transmissions from marine environments, and the Chorus of Opera North transformed into a whale choir.

Currently studying towards a PhD at the Royal College of Art, Melanie King is interested in the visual language used by astronomers. The work of Professor Tom Hartquist of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds has been central to her investigations, and she has related his research on ‘cosmic bubbles’ to soap bubbles in 17th century painting. She proposes an installation of experimental optical and perceptual illusions based on the University’s own galactic surveys.

Samuel Hertz is a composer and performer working out of Berlin and San Francisco. He aims to collaborate with researchers from the School of Earth and Environment and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Research in Music on a performance involving low frequency infrasound, which is below the limits of human hearing, but which can be felt, and may have an effect on mood and emotions.

Robin Dowell and Joanna Lampard have backgrounds in sculpture and illustration respectively, and have developed a collaborative project on the poetic idea of culturing and classifying emotions with a scientific rigour. They are keen to work with psychologists, bacteriologists and physicists on new work on this theme, in the form of sculptures, images or books.

Dominic Gray, Projects Director, Opera North, said: "We’ve been thrilled by the response to the DARE Prize from across the visual arts, music and literature. The proposals have ranged from the beautifully simple to the devilishly complex, each showing the appetite that contemporary artists have to work with cutting edge science and research.

"All five of the shortlisted finalists presented compelling and eye-opening visions, and we look forward to naming the first DARE Prize winner in February."

Professor John Ladbury, Executive Dean of the University's Faculty of Biological Sciences, added: "The thinking and experiences of artists and scientists are often thought to be mutually exclusive, however the collaborative proposals submitted for the DARE prize not only show that this is not the case, but reveal the beauty and excitement of a symbiotic creative relationship between the two fields.

"I was surprised and delighted by the ingenuity and imagination that was shown by all of the applicants. Shortlisting was an educational and thoroughly enjoyable experience."

Dominic Gray and Professor Ladbury will be joined on the selection panel by Nicola Stephenson, Exhibitions and Projects Producer at Harewood House. One artist will be chosen from the five shortlisted, and matched with a researcher who shares their vision and can support them in the creation of a new work. The winner will be announced at the launch of the DARE tenth anniversary celebrations in the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds on Monday 13 February 2017. The fruits of the year-long collaboration between artist and scientist will be revealed in March 2018. 

Further information

DARE Prize and the partnership, visit dareyou.org.uk

Image: TRANSMISSION, a contemporary dance piece and interactive installation about infectious diseases and infectious ideas, conceived by the late Becs Andrews during her time as DARE Cultural Fellow in Opera-Related Arts (Scenography), working with Opera North and the University of Leeds. Credit: Chris Nash