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Symposium « Forking Paths».

"Complexity in the Arts and Sciences" Colloquium

June 10 - 12, IRCAM will hold an international symposium (organized in collaboration with the Département du développement culturel du Centre Pompidou) that brings together ambitious aesthetic experiences and scientific eventualities on the idea of idea of complexity that can be found in a wide range of topics in humanities and science today.

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Can we question the conditions surrounding the conception, the writing, the realization, the reception through the lens of complexity in cinema, literature, painting, or architecture? Scientific models seem to teach us that the systems that capture our attention are "on the edge of chaos". In effect, it is at the borderline between order and chaos that systems evolve toward higher levels of organization as there is a large enough number of attractors to incite a front of innovation while avoiding - for the observer - a cognitive exhaustion inherent to complete order or to disorder, and therefore favoring the possibilities of progressive appropriation that then diminish the intensity of the surprise. If we admit that these properties are sought out by artists, even at a purely intuitive level, we can ask ourselves if there is a bond that brings together the temporal strategies of the composer, the film director, the digital artist - strategies that orient the viewer's subjective time - and the strategies related to the structural complexity of a work or art.

In this encounter between artists and scientists, the relationship with time goes beyond conventional operating strategies. For Prigogine, the bifurcations crystallize the story of the system. At the heart of all forms and processes in material and living systems, points of bifurcation make up a chronology of their former interactions with the environment. For the artist this also raises the question of choice and delegation of choice in the hostory of the creative process.

To orient this broad network of questions that could be raised among participants from the sciences or the arts during these days, we have chosen to organize the encounters in three categories:

  • Languages will be dedicated to the notions of writing, mathematics, formal languages, logic, computer science, and algorithmic complexity.
  • Conceptions is designed around the systematic thinking of creation, generation, of structural complexity, of intentionality, and of (auto)-poetic systems.
  • Time, Space, and Perception will address physical and perceptive complexity, models for memory, anticipation, and surprise, narration, history, performance, large-scale networks and societies.

Within each of these general categories the important concepts found in the science of complexity, in particular auto-organization, autonomy, and emergence in systems far from equilibrium, as well as the major paradigms-domains (physics, biology, computer technology, etc.) will be clarified for the general public and tested through a comparison with artistic practices, and tested as tools for analysis as well as creation.

Scientific Symposium Argument


Epistemology, philosophy: Henri Atlan (recorded interview), Jean-Pierre Dupuy
Computer Science/Information Theory: Grégoire Carpentier, Arshia Cont, Shlomo Dubnov
Mathematics: Marc Chemillier, Paul Bourgine, John Casti, Andrée Ehresmann
Musicology-Performance: Philippe Albèra, Mario Caroli
Physics-Chemistry: Jean-Pierre Boon, Carl Djerassi, Wiebke Drenchkan, Lisa Randall, Richard Taylor, Denis Weaire
Architecture: Philippe Rahm
Composition-Theory: Geoffroy Drouin, Brian Ferneyhough, Jean-Luc Hervé, Fabien Lévy, Hèctor Parra, Dmitri Tymoczco
Film: Lars von Trier (via videoconference), Raoul Ruiz
Literature: Christophe Claro, Mark Danielewski, Renaud Camus

Symposium organized in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou, ISC-PIF (Institut des systèmes complexes de Paris Ile-de-France), le CREA (Centre de recherche en épistémologie appliquée - École polytechnique), l'Université libre de Bruxelles,  and IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis). With the support of the MRT (Mission de la recherche et de la technologie du ministère de la Culture et de la Communication), the CNRS, Andrea von Braun Stiftung and CO-ME-DI-A project (EACEA - Projet Culture 2007-2013 de l'Union européenne).

9:30am-6pm / Centre Pompidou, petite salle

A meeting with Henri Atlan

Chapter 1 : Measuring complexity or meaning

Chapter 2 : The genetic 'programme' the limits of the metaphore of programming and biology

Auto-organisation and exteriorisation

Sub-determination of theory by facts : the other complexity


Monday, June 8

Lars von Trier Retrospective

Meeting with the Director via Videoconference

Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier owes his international reputation to the awards won at the Cannes Film Festival in 1996 with Breaking The Waves and in 2000 with Dancer in The Dark, and to the huge public sucess that followed.

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Lars von TrierSince then, he has presented an oeuvre and a personality that are both passionate and complex, willingly provocative, that will be the focus of the retrospective of his work and the videoconferences held during the Agora Festival at the Centre Pompidou.

On June 8, the filmmaker will look back on his works with Pascal Mérigeau (Nouvel Observateur film critic) and speak with the audience via videoconference, direct from Copenhagen. A discussion followed by the screening of never before seen short films by Lars von Trier when he was a teenager and from his time at film school.

An IRCAM-Centre Pompidou and the Département du développement culturel (Les Cinémas) du Centre Pompidou. With the support of CO-ME-DIA project (EACEA-Projet Culture 2007-2013 de l'Union européenne).

Photo: Lars von Trier © Zentropa

Monday, June 8, 6:30pm / Centre Pompidou, Cinéma 1

Wednesday, June 10

The Labyrinth-Like Spaces of Mark Danielewski, Brian Ferneyhough and Lars von Trier

The Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier, the American author Mark Danielewski, and the English composer Brian Ferneyhough wander through the real and virtual spaces of their works.

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Mark Danielewski's space began on Internet before invading the pages of his first cult novel, House of Leaves, designed as an immense fictional set of connections.

The space of Lars von Trier is always the location of the invention of a technique. In his film, The Boss of it All, he uses computer-assisted framing that automatically chooses the shots: the bifurcations of the story are subject to the extra-machine interruptions of the narrator/director. This evening's encounter on the idea of "organizational randomness" led by Henri Altan, could take its title from the painting by Bruegel or the homonymous work by Brian Ferneyhough, The Fall of Icarus. An event has taken place, its traces remain secret, swallowed up in the masses and the indifference of parallel actions.

With: Mark Danielewski, Brian Ferneyhough, Lars von Trier (via videoconference), and a filmed interview with Henri Atlan.
Henri Atlan will be taking part in this colloquium through a filmed interview with Frank Madlener, Andrew Gerzso, and Gérard Assayag produced at IRCAM on May 20, 2009.

Mediation: Omar Berrada, Frank Madlener

Screening of never before seen short film by Lars von Trier, Images d'une libération (1982, 57').

In collaboration with the Département du développement culturel (les Revues parlées) du Centre Pompidou. With the support of CO-ME-DI-A project.

Wednesday, June 10, 7:30pm / Centre Pompidou, Cinéma 1

Friday, June 12

Passage of Time

"That which we call reality is a certain rapport between those feelings and those memories that simultaneously surround us - a rapport that suppresses a simple cinematic vision, one that distances itself even further from the truth that it pretends to content itself with - a unique rapport that the author must find to bind together the two different terms for eternity in his sentence."

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Bestowing the author with a unique mission Marcel Proust suggests more than the simple possibility of a complex notation of time, memory and creative amnesia together, that which haunts film and is the foundation of musical temporality.

Following this Proust-esque command, the filmmaker Raúl Ruiz, author of "Time Regained", has come up against this notion on a regular basis in his films. His interlocutor, Jean-Pierre Dupuy, questions the interlocking of time, sliding from film to literature, calling upon Henry James or the Hitchcock who made Vertigo. The evening's third guest, author Renaud Camus, has made "passages" through time a style and a chronology, a journal and a noble form, a eulogy capable of opening up and spreading out. The final word of the symposium on complexity will be given to the music of Berio and to the laughs of his Sequenza III, theater of the voice affected by the multitudes.

With: Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Raoul Ruiz, Renaud Camus, Philippe Albèra.

Mediation: Marianne Alphant, Andrew Gerzso

Luciano Berio, Sequenza III for voice, by Johanne Saunier.
Brian Ferneyhough, Cassandra Dream Songs for flute, by Mario Caroli

In collaboration with the Département du développement culturel (les Revues parlées) du Centre Pompidou.

Photo: © Élise Maillard

Friday, June 12, 7:30pm / IRCAM, Espace de projection

  • Prices full price 6€ reduced price 4€ | Agora pass or Laissez-passer Centre Pompidou Cardholder admission free
  • Around the event: « Forking Paths » Symposium