What role for art in the narration of science? The case of the conference-shows
03 Feb 2019



Francesca Scianitti – INFN Communication Office



Parallel Session 4: Unconventional Outreach - ​STEM and Art
Tuesday 9 April 14:45 - 16:3​0​​​​

When we talk about high-energy physics or cosmology, images are rare or unreal. At all scales, the concepts we use to describe the universe are hardly comparable with the common ideas we are used to. That's why building a good story of science is always a new challenge: images can rise as a contamination among different communication languages, giving space to various professionals, from scientists to science communicators, but also video artists, digital designers, musicians, cartoonists, actors and performers.

In the last decade, research experimentation of different ways of communicating science have led the INFN Communications Office to realize conference-show projects, in which performing arts intertwine with the narration of science. Examples are offered by conference-shows like The Universe show, What I do not Know or, more recently, Cosmic Tale; in this last event, offered to more than 4000 people from 2016 to 2018, the storyboard was supported by readings, music and cartoons drawn by the illustrator Luca Ralli and written by science communicators. In 2018, INFN and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), experimented a new conference-show format, Lights&Waves Rhap​sody, a monologue in three acts about the discovery of gravitational waves from neutron stars coalescence: leading actors are three physicists who tell the same story from three different points of view (space satellites, terrestrial telescopes and gravitational wave detectors). In Lights&Waves Raphsody jazz plays a dominant role, gives rhythm to the speech and underlines suspensions and climax moments, taking the scene at certain times to create a proper environment for public perception of ideas, as if music staged its own monologue.

If appropriately designed, such science narratives can open an unprecedented synthesis window between science and art, giving rise to unexpected insights on abstract concepts of physics. Their experimentation and evaluation constitute nowadays a favorable laboratory of unconventional scientific communication.

Francesca Scianitti, Antonella Varaschin, Vincenzo Napolano, The role of images in the storytelling of the invisible, EPS-HEP 2017, European Physical Cociety Conference on High Energy Physics, 5-12 July 2017, DOI: 10.22323/1.314.0568

Contact: Fletcher, Sara (STFC,RAL,ISIS)