- A Self-Organising Symposium on Self-Organisation
- About self-organisation, goal-directed systems and emergence
- Curatorial team
- Application form
- Programme & timetable
- Communication - Share & invite!
The Center Leo Apostel for Transdisciplinary Studies (CLEA) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) organises its first international artscience conference: ‘Systems At Play: A Self-Organising Symposium on Self-Organisation’ taking place in Brussels from February 15th until 18th, 2023.
The ‘Systems at Play’ symposium starts from the understanding that art and science are mutually beneficial means of perception and insight creation. It thus provides a transdisciplinary contact zone for artists and scientists to meet, exchange, think, share, take time, and, ultimately, play together.
Then, what shall we talk and play about? Well, it’s up to you where it ends up, but our starting points are the ideas of ‘emergence’, ‘self-organisation’, and ‘goal-directedness’.
As far as goals go, the symposium invites you to tackle creative challenges collectively. During the symposium, participating artists and scientists will together create ‘embodied models of emergence’ in the form of live games, scores, presentations, conversations or small algorithmic performances. We will offer inputs to this process in the form of presentations, talks and workshops during the day; as well as an evening programme of immersive and interactive performances and film screenings.
A Self-Organising Symposium on Self-Organisation
To be true to the self-organisation and emergence of goal-directedness as thematised in the symposium, we need to recognise that we cannot fully predict all the processes or the end goal of the conference itself. Nor do we want to. Rather than organise a symposium simply about self-organisation, we are attempting to organise a self-organising symposium, one that determines its own final goals through all our interactions together. To facilitate this, we will provide an open space with some supportive structure, knowing very well that we can’t force it, and that we must let go of any preconceptions of what is success or failure. We want to allow uncertainty to enter, and let the goal of the conference find itself. Otherwise, we shall repeat that which we already know, only to end up where we have already been. The self-organising symposium will thus become a shared research object, a unique immersive environment and experiment, as well as a strange loop in which topic and method merge and multiply.
To feed the symposium, we will tap into the enormous resources of experience which we collectively have, drawing upon scientific expertise, mathematical modelling, algorithmic theatre, musical composition, choreography, collective thinking, the global brain and noosphere research, collective mindfulness practices, play, ritual and mythological research, and much more besides.
Play - physically, intellectually, creatively - will be the guiding principle: we are free to play and propose ideas while nobody is obliged to collaborate or participate. There will be plenty of space to wander off, take a coffee break, and perhaps come up with alternative suggestions for activities you feel appropriate to the moment. Together we create a self-organising ecosystem of actions adaptive to our interests, abilities and expectations throughout our time together. We are excited and curious to find out how people and ideas will come together during the symposium.
About self-organisation, goal-directed systems and emergence
The concepts surrounding emergence, complexity, cybernetics, self-organisation, and goal-directedness offer us tools that can help us to understand the systems at play in the world. This fascinating branch of science addresses the question of how an assemblage of things, be they people, animals, cells, or almost any other aspect of the universe, comes to have the quality of being more than the sum of its parts. When making and/or understanding art, science, and the world, the relationships and processes that connect things deserve as much, if not more, attention than the things themselves. These connections help us to explain how a system consisting of interacting parts, such as a swarm of birds, a forest, a market, a game, or a theatre performance based on simple rules, comes to have 'a life of its own', an emergent intelligence, a collective mind or spirit, in a way.
Such a dynamical system typically has one or more ‘attractors’, which function as emergent goals that direct the system’s behaviour. While science investigates emergence and self-organisation by means of mathematical models and computer simulations, complementary artistic methods offer embodied, imaginative and experiential insights.
Thus, art may draw our attention to the sensual and emotional quality of relationships: how they feel, their asymmetries, the provocative, absurd and tangential connections, concurrent spontaneity, and the joy of playing with others. Such sensuous relationships can in turn bring us to what it feels like to be a part of a collective mind, to experience self-organisation from within the system itself, and to be part of a pattern emerging out of chaos. Jumping together into shared systems of play that allow emergence dissolves the artificial divide between objectivity and subjectivity, by reminding us that we take part in the world and its network of interactions, and thus in an ongoing process of self-organisation.
In this context, goal-directedness, as discussed by cybernetics, can be interpreted in different ways. It can be viewed conservatively, in terms of self-maintenance, control, and the homeostasis of a system steering itself back to the status quo after a perturbation. But who is to claim that the salmon returning upstream to its spawning place is not wagging its tail in ecstasy at performing its journey?
To paraphrase the composer La Monte Young, if you have a constant, then you can go as far out as you want in relation to that constant. Goal-directedness can in this context be interpreted as the motif around which the musician freely improvises. The goal can be read as the place the hero in the hero’s journey steers herself back to, creating therefore both the drama and its resolution. Or as a faraway point on the horizon that directs a continuing advance.
Goal-directedness can then be viewed as framing the question of how we might steer ourselves towards those states of flow, curiosity, novelty, and towards the kinds of future in which we want to live, and ultimately, how the cosmos steers itself towards purpose and meaning.
For more background on our conceptual framework, check our research story on CLEA's 'Origins of Goal Directedness' project.
The Symposium is funded by the John Templeton Foundation as part of CLEA’s Origins of Goal Directedness project, and by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).
The Symposium is curated by artist Orion Maxted together with Francis Heylighen, Tomas Veloz, Evo Busseniers, Karin Verelst, Jasmine De Bruycker, and the CLEA artscience research group.
To apply to the symposium please fill in this application form
PILAR House for Art & Science
Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Building Y)
Triomflaan, (VUB Entrance 6)
1050 Brussels, Belgium
Google Maps link here
For further travel information look here.
Programme and timetable
Wednesday 15th February 2023
18h00 Opening Reception & Registration
18h30 Introduction to the Self-Organising Symposium by Cybernetic Theatre Maker, CLEA researcher and curator Orion Maxted
18h45 Introduction to Self-Organisation by CLEA director Francis Heylighen
19h00-21h30 Input Session 1: Games, rituals and performances by Dionysian Portal; Signals by Arthur Van Balen; Lovers Dilemma by Charley Miller
Thursday 16th February 2023
09h30 Coffee (all day)
10h00-12h30 Input Session 2: Workshop on children's games and complex adaptive systems facilitated by Orion Maxted, Stijn Smeets, Evo Busseniers, Ralf Wetzel, Thomas Johannsen, Francis Heylighen and Tomas Veloz, plus others.
12h30 Start of Self-Organisation Session 1 (all participants)
14h00 Self-Organisation Session 1 (all participants)
18h40 to 21h30 Input Session 3: Talks, games, experiments and performances by Santiago Bonanni, Angus Jenkinson, AND LAB, Olivier Auber, Charlotte De Metsenaere, Magali Minet, Klaas Van Den Broeck and Ralf Wetzel.
Friday 17th February 2023
09h30 Coffee (all day)
10h30-12h30 Input Session 4: Workshop on Modus Operandi Live Game facilitated by AND LAB
14h00 Self-Organisation Session 2 (all participants)
19h00 Input Session 5: On The Origins of Goal-Directedness by Tomas Veloz; Play, Stories, Worlds by Karin Verelst
19h45 to 21h30 Self-Organisation Collective Session 3 (all participants)
Saturday 18th February 2023
09h30 Coffee (all day)
10h30 Self-Organisation Session 4 (all participants)
14h00 Self-Organisation Collective Session 5 (all participants)
19h00 - 22h30 Self-Organisation Collective Session 6 (all participants)
Systems At Play 2023 Participants (at the time of writing)
Alain Wouters, Angus Jenkinson, Ariadna Rubio Lleo, Arild Midtbø Kalseth, Asher Lev, Bambi van Balen, Carina Erdmann, Charley Miller, Charlotte De Metsenaere, Chris Hables Gray, Christian Doeller, Christian Jendreiko, Christophe Meierhans, Damien Rudd, Dan Ciambrone, Dario Chillemi, Dorota Radzimirska, Emanuele Barreca, Evo Busseniers, Fabian Kok, Fernanda Eugenio, Floor Schukking, Prof. Francis Heylighen, Geert Van Damme, Gihan Abouzeid, Hussel Zhu, Irina Lavrinovic, Jasmine De Bruycker, Jill Locke, Joost Rekveld, Jorge Guevara, Julia Kul, Katarina Petrovic, Klaas Van Den Broeck, Laura Stalenhoef, Lili M. Rampre, Lodewijk Heylen, Loretta Mesiti, Lula Maris, Magali Minet, Maria Debinska, Marion, Tränkle, Marjorie Wolton-Maxted, May Garcés, Marta Lenartowicz, Marta Noordhoek, Matthew McCarthy, Mieke van Schaijk, Milka Panayotova, Miriam den Boer Salmón, Mirko Lazovic, Mke Hentz, Myriam Hernandez, Olga Karpus, Olha Sobetska, Olivier Auber, Orion Maxted, Photis Schurmans, Pierre Cock, Pim Tournaye, Ralf Wetzel, Raoul Sommeillier, Renske Vroomans, Robert Steijn, Sandro Collizzi, Santiago Bonanni, Sara Del Bene, Sébastien Hendrickx, Sem Oueslati, Stef Meul, Stefan Leijnen, Stefan Werni, Stijn Smeets, Tajana Reznić Brenko, Thomas Johannsen, Thomas Poeser, Tisa N. Herlec, Tomas Veloz, Vanessa Del Campo Gatell, Vijaya, Wolfgang PAPE, Yasmine Lindskog, Yulia Ratman.
Communication - Share and invite colleagues to Systems At Play!
Thanks for helping to share the 'Systems At Play' open call with your network of friends and colleagues who could also be interested to attend. We have several options to help you help us, including our LinkedIn Event Page, our Facebook Event Page and our Instagram. This PDF invitation: pdf fileSYSTEMS AT PLAY.pdf (413 KB) can be both sent electronically and printed as a poster.
& looking forward to seeing you on February 15, 2023 in Brussels