Science meets... AGE ART

AGE ART is a Arts and Science series at Max Planck Institute of Biology of Ageing. It is a unique collaboration featuring innovative artists and scientists in one setting comprising of musical performances, art exhibitions, theater and films in combination with scientific talks.

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The next AGE ART event will take place on June 26th 2020.

Age Art - Summary

Science meets Music - September 27th 2019

If only we can turn structure of proteins in to music…

In an unanticipated matrimony of science and art, this AGE ART event brought the house down as 200 plus audience members filled the auditorium. The evening began with a thoughtfully delivered lecture by Dr. Peter Walter who introduced the audience to the structures of proteins, the basic building blocks of all living things. In recapitulating his work for the past 30 years, Dr. Walter spoke of a serendipitous path of discovery. How his discovery of unfolded protein response, has made direct impact in understanding and treating Alzheimer's, cancer and other diseases.
One particular memorable snippet from his talk was a moving image of a theatrical play mimicking the process of protein folding and how misguided proteins are corrected.
Certainly Dr. Walter’s journey from a scientist to that of an artist is evident, doing something no one has done before.

The musical segment began with a lyrical transcription of the Bach Italian Concerto for the saxophone quartet, performed by the Signum Saxophone Quartet. There was not a sound of pin drop as the audience set mesmerized by the sonorous reverberation. Out of nowhere the explosive chirping and glissandos took over the stage with Astor Piazzola’s Four Tango. The piece originally written by Piazzola for the Kronos String Quartet, echoed the fiery and impassioned dance as the quartet swayed and thumped to the music.
The third piece in the program, the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story by Bernstein seemed like an effortless transition- from tango to rumba, both coexisting in the idiomatic Latin timbres. Tapping was obliged. For the final spread, the quartet brought out the classic, Chick Corea’s Spain. Certainly, the performance had no boundaries, taking probabilities to another level or in Dr. Walter’s words, “unpredictable paths to discovery”.

The Protein Symphony may be just around the corner.Then, reversing the process, they can introduce some variations into the music and convert it back into new proteins never before seen in nature.

Helen Antebi

We would like to thank Sofia LeWitt from the Estate of Sol LeWitt and Thomas Rieger from the Konrad Fischer Gallery without whom this event would not have been possible.

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Ageing is in Our DNA: The Finite Thread of Life

Sol LeWitt, a pioneer in the world of minimalist conceptual art, has created works that embody mathematical models and theoretical systems. On Friday evening, Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing unveiled one of his conceptual wall drawings for the audience here in Cologne. The main theme of the event was “Replication” exploring the fundamental elements of transcription and multiplication both in biology and art, specifically for this event, the Wall Drawing #797 by LeWitt.

The evening began with an introduction by Dr. Maren Berghoff from Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing. As a starting point, she laid out the ground for exploration. How do ideas of replication in biology and in art coincide? How does the tension between the faithful replication and fluctuations play out in these disparate disciplines?

The second speaker of the program, Dr. Rita Kersting from the Museum Ludwig, presented a fascinating historical insight into the conceptual and minimalist art movement and Sol LeWitt’s pivotal role in it. LeWitt believed in the artist as a generator of ideas and this was instrumental in his work. Conceptual art, defined by LeWitt as an intellectual, logical act, influenced artists for generations to come.

The Wall Drawing #797 was in the spirit of these ideas. For this work, a set of instructions is given, which states exactly how the piece should be made. These instructions form the bases of self-replicating art. For the wall in the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, it took four artists, 20 hours to complete the work.
 
Dr. Björn Schumacher from the Cluster of Excellence for Aging Research, then presented his version of the basic underlying system in Biology. This, of course, is the DNA, the material inside of us that determines all the characteristics of a living thing. Here Dr. Schumacher explores the mechanisms to replicated DNA and DNA damage and errors.
 
What is the template for its own DNA duplication? What happens when there is an error in DNA replication? Is fidelity of DNA copying mechanisms relevant to longevity?  The same questions can be posed for LeWitt’s drawing #797. What is the template for its duplication of lines? What happens when there is an error in the replication? Is fidelity of lines copying relevant to the overall outcome?
 
Finally, the audience got a chance to see the extraordinary wall drawing, some taking photos, some standing and staring for an extended amount of time. One thing for sure, those present had a chance to experience something truly magical, the magic of replication! (Helen Antebi)

Science meets Classic Music

AGE ART: September 14th 2018

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Artists have long been inspired by the Sciences and vice versa. In marking the 10-year anniversary of the MPI AGE, the AGE ART event past Friday evening illustrated just that. When the two cultures of the Arts and Sciences converge, a wonderful result can emerge.

The evening began seamlessly with Handel’s harp concerto performed by the harpist from the Gürzenich Orchestra, Antonia Schreiber. Handel was a German native who later became a British citizen and composed during the Baroque period, about the same time as JS Bach though their music developed differently. The piece Ms. Schreiber performed is one of his most important concertos in the repertoire. The audience was mesmerized by the magical sound of the harp that packed the hall normally reserved for lectures.

As the title suggests, “Fasting: awakening the rejuvenation from within”, we knew we were just getting in to another intriguing segment of the event. Dr. Valter Longo is an award-winning researcher who has devoted his life to studying and understanding the fundamental mechanisms of aging, disease and longevity. He certainly did not disappoint. You could hear a pin drop as the audience members listened seemingly captivated by Dr. Longo's eloquent delivery of his work.

Dr. Longo began with the question "How many more years would you live if for instance, cancer were to be eliminated?" Surprisingly only 4-5 years more. He then touched up on the core theme of his talk, intermittent fasting and healthy aging.  The lecture addressed to the general public, was at times entertaining as he spoke of the life styles of famous centenarians and at times intriguing packed with interesting science.

The Q&A provided a flawless entry to the next act, a piece by the French composer Claude Debussy for flute solo Syrinx. Performed by this time, the flutist from the Gürzenich Orchestra Alja Velkaverh, the hall filled again with music. The hunting and rapturing resonance of the instrument felt raw as the melismatic vibration echoed brilliantly until the very last note vanished in to thin air.

What better way to follow up the mystic piece Syrinx then with a piece by the Indian composer Ravi Shankar. Often referred to as godfather of world music, Shankar has composed number of pieces for western instrumentation one of which is L'Aube Enchantee. Velkaverh has noted that Shankar lived to be 92 years of age and his secret, a vegetarian diet and “fooling” around, lots of it. The hypnotic rhythm juxtaposed with serene melody certainly felt as if it were intended to reduce blood levels of stress hormones.  

The two pieces followed, a trio by Debussy and Ibert’s Entr’acte to cap the evening, both exquisitely delivered by the trio. Certainly there was no fasting here. The encore piece Carmen’s euphonious melody not only filled our hearts and minds but certainly to have added a few years to our lives. The packed hall of about 200 enthusiastic audience members applauded until the curtain drew.

An extraordinary event all-round and a transformational end to the AGE ART 2018 program into the next AGE ART event in April 2019.  Please stay tuned!

Age Art: June 7th 2018

Das Rezept für ein langes, gesundes Leben: Neugierde, Tatendrang und Kreativität

Man nehme bahnbrechende Wissenschaft und großartige Kunst, vereine es zu einem Event und schon entsteht ein gelungener und ungewöhnlicher Abend, der informiert, berührt, anregt und neue Perspektiven öffnet.

Unter dem Motto „Malerei als Lebenselixier“ fand am 7. Juni 2018 die dritte AGE ART Veranstaltung des Max-Planck-Instituts für Biologie des Alterns in Kooperation mit dem Museum Ludwig in Köln statt. Die Veranstaltung begann mit einleitenden Worten des Max-Planck Direktors Adam Antebi und einer aufschlußreichen Eröffnungsrede von Dr. Stephan Diederich, Kurator für Moderne Kunst aus dem Museum Ludwig, in der er das Publikum in das kreativen Wirken von Bernard Schultze und seiner Zeitgenossen einführte. Höhepunkt des Abends war der Vortrag von Prof. Dr. h.c. Christian Haass vom Deutschen Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen, in dem er Erkenntnisse der Alzheimer-Forschung mit seiner Sammelleidenschaft von Kunst in folgerichtiger Weise verknüpfte.

Herr Haass, der sich seit 30 Jahren der Alzheimerforschung widmet, stellte die Fortschritte aus der Wissenschaft allgemeinverständlich dar und illustrierte seine Erläuterungen dieser schwerwiegenden Krankheit durch Malereien erkrankter Künstler, um einen visuellen und unmittelbaren Einblick in die Wahrnehmung alzheimererkrankter Menschen zu erlauben.
In Ergänzung dazu nahm er aber auch Bezug auf die von Dr. Diederich speziell für diesen Abend sorgsam zusammengestellte Ausstellung mit Kunstwerken von Hans Hartung, Karl Otto Götz und Bernard Schultze, die zu den führenden Vertretern ausdrucksbetonter Abstraktion in Europa gehören, und denen es gelungen ist ihre berufliche Leidenschaft bis ins hohe Alter fortzuführen, und daraus Energie, Glück und Lebensfreude für den Lebensabend zu gewinnen.

Aufgrund seiner Sammelfreude für Kunst und seiner beruflichen Leidenschaft zur Erforschung neurodegenerativer Krankheiten gelang es Prof. Haass auf authentische, persönliche und mitreißende Art und Weise das Publikum sowohl für die ausgestellte Kunst des Abends als auch die Alternsforschung zu begeistern. Darüber hinaus gelang es ihm die Botschaft zu übermitteln, dass trotz bahnbrechender Fortschritte in der Forschung, Neugierde, Tatendrang und Kreativität essenzielle Bestandteile für ein langes, gesundes und glückliches Leben sind.

Science meets jazz

AGE ART | November 24, 2017 | 19:00 - 21:00

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What a night! On Friday, the members of the WDR Big Band brought the house down with their outstanding performances of classic and contemporary jazz at the annual AGE ART series.

The concert entitled “Jazz@100” explored the ideas of time passing, wonder and challenges of a long artistic life and aging through music. The jazz legends, Gillespie, Fitzgerald and Monk, all born in 1917, did not make it to their 100th birthday through their presence was definitely felt in the auditorium.

The program started with a piece entitled “Tin Tin Deo” by Gil Fuller and Chano Pozo as played by Dizzy Gillespie, followed by Irving Berlin‘s “Blue Skies” together with “In Walked Bud” by Thelonious Sphere Monk.

To provide full appreciation for these jazz legends, John Goldsby then gave us a short slide presentation of the artists in their productive years, youth on through maturity. Though their lives were often cut short by unfortunate circumstances, we learnt that they were quite productive, even until the very end.

After the presentation, more classics followed. With snippets of jazz masterpieces, each soloist perfectly captured the music’s emotion. The ensemble warmed up the audience with a piece by Dizzy Gillespie “I Waited For You” and “Evidence” by Monk.

In the next segment, Dr. Dario Valenzano from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing delivered a fascinating lecture on evolutionary models of ageing, including the study of model organism established as a model system for ageing by Dr. Valenzano, the African turquoise kilifish.  ”Wild ageing: novel insights from a short-lived African fish” covered a range of topics including a look at our fascination with youth throughout the ages, use of model organisms in aging research, demographics of aging population around the world and novel discoveries involving the turquoise killifish. The talk certainly captured the imagination of what is possible in the future of aging research and the extension of healthy lifespan.

For the final part of the program Barnett and Goldsby composed a piece entitled “The Killifish Suite” especially for this event. 

To fully appreciate this composition, one needed not only a well-tuned jazz “ear”, but also a vivid imagination. Mr. Goldsby provided an illustration of the actual composition with explanations of the musical structure reflecting the 4 stages of lifespan, hinting at what to listen for. The illustration created by Julia Goldsby added a layer of humor and connotations to the presentation.

The piece started with a delicate African beat delivered by the drummer Dekker and then followed the trombone solo with its soft and mystical muted waft indicating the beginning of life.
Throughout the entire piece, the listener almost feels as if they are traveling through time, through life’s stages, from birth to the end of life, an entire landscape of transitory state.

A highlight of the piece was the mini-duet between the bass and the trombone. Goldsby/Barnett also made creative use of the trombones and the double bass with each instrument playing over the other but still somehow playing as one. It was very exciting to see musical creation at play.

The audience of close to 200 tapped their feet to the rhythm until the very end when the pianist Forian Ross chimed the last beat of a ticking clock.

Our next event held May 4th, 2018, is an art exhibition and a talk by Dr. Christian Haass on neurodegeneration. It is definitely worth checking out.

(Helen Antebi)

Age Art: April 7th 2017

We are proud to announce the successful outcome of our very first AGE ART series event. The public lecture and concert took place Friday April 7th at 7pm and drew more than 180 people to our institute’s auditorium. The audience members were made up of students and faculty from the local scientific community, artists, musicians, politicians and interested public.  I would like to thank Linda Partridge for her introductory remarks as well as all those who took part in making this event a huge success.

The event began with a piece by Louis Spohr, Variations sur l'air "Je suis encore dans mon printemps“, performed by a talented young harpist Jie Zhou. The harp is known to calm the nervous system and stimulate the immune system. This as the bridging element to the next segment, our guest speaker Maria Leptin delivered an engaging and humorous presentation on aging and aging research. The transition from science to music played out well.

The second part of the event included three German songs sung by a young baritone, Joel Urch and accompanied by harpist, Zhou. The acoustics couldn’t have been more accommodating to the warm sound of the baritone and harp vibrating through the tranquil space.

The highlight of the event was the pre-premiere of a lyrical theater piece written by Camille van Lunen, "Über das Hören" an Allegory for Baritone, Harp, and Actor based on Hans Schneiderhans' text "On Listening".

Snippets of Mozart, Goethe and aleatoric vocal lines were beautifully intertwined into a perfect evening of science and music.

If you wish to receive notifications about this and other future public events of our institute, please contact us via mberghoff(at)age.mpg.de and we will add your email adress to our event newsletter.

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