Science, Society, Sustainability
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ISIS Report 19/04/11

Avant Garde Art/Science Event to Recover Beauty & Truth

Text by Mae-Wan Ho, Layout by Mae-Wan Ho & Julian Haffegee, Photos by Julian Haffegee, Mae-Wan Ho, Li Poon & Tracy Hudson

Leading scientists and artists turned a wholefood factory into an art gallery and music/lecture hall overnight to reclaim science and art for the public good; the theme of the event, which took place 26-27 March 2011, was ‘quantum jazz’, the sublime aesthetic of quantum coherence as the basis for a new understanding of the living system and the living universe

The fully illustrated version of this report has been made into a slideshow on the ISIS art website. Artwork from, and inspired by, the event is on sale, in aid of Japanese earthquake charities - Art sale in aid of Japan

Celebrating ISIS - Quantum Jazz BiologyCelebrating ISIS, Quantum Jazz Biology*Medicine*Art, A beautiful 100-page commemorative book of essays, artworks, and biographies available from ISIS online bookstore
Also available, Quantum Jazz Art, DVD of artworks with a special selection of orginal music

The fact that it has never been done before was all the more reason to go ahead

Michael Meacher MP “One of the most remarkable symposia that any of us have had the reward of participating in”

Chee Yokeling, Director, Third World Network “One of the most coveted experiences of a lifetime”

Rt Hon Michael Meacher MP Says

This must surely be one of the most remarkable symposia that any of us have had the reward of participating in 

I had always regarded science as an extraordinarily powerful instrument for uncovering in astonishing detail and complexity the nature of our world and our universe, which is so utterly amazing in terms of time and space that it blows the mind.   The explanations, as we currently believe them to be, of the origin of the universe and maybe other innumerable universes prior to our own singularity; the formation over billions of years of the stars and galaxies, the generation of our Earth within the solar system of one star among perhaps 200 billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of perhaps 100 billion galaxies; the origin of life on Earth (still unexplained); the exceedingly improbable evolution of life forms on Earth that zigzagged after at least five mass extinctions to the human species;  an incredible story almost defying imagination that science has painstakingly unravelled.

But I had not seen the process of discovery as the revelation of art.  Admittedly my appreciation of art was lambasted by my son when I failed to recognise how exquisite and perfectionist and meaningful was the detail in the fifteenth century painting by Jan van Eyck portraying the Betrothal of Arnolfini, so I am clearly no judge of art.   But the pictures in this collection are so entrancing; all of them illustrating a schema around a design in nature discovered by science, that even I am captivated.

This celebration of beauty and truth in science and art opens up another dimension too: that science for all its brilliant penetration of the secrets of the natural world, its cleverness in exposing the unexpected, has at the same time in its highest realms an element of simplicity and elegance in its fundamental laws that is breathtaking.   The reductionist obsession in scientific inquiry in the past has now been transformed by much more profound models of reality that reveal it as subjective, holistic and purposeful, not as analytic and arbitrary as was previously thought.   And those models have found a beauty and harmony in nature that exceeds anything that we could have expected.

It is very fitting I think that this is the theme to celebrate the 12th year of ISIS.   Mae-Wan and Peter have made ISIS’ quarterly magazine, Science in Society, into something unique;  not only an exposition of so many intriguing dimensions of science that a layman can (just) understand and which shed light over matters of social concern, but also an approach to science that is open, honest, impartial and accountable.   It has taught me so much and has opened my eyes to so many things I only dimly understood.   And now I, and I’m sure so many others, are being invited to survey the relationship between science and art in ways I had never encountered.   And what a feast it’s going to be!

I’m not sure I understand the concept of ‘quantum jazz’ which Mae-Wan uses to illustrate the quantum coherence of living organisms.   But what I do know is that it will be extraordinarily exciting and uplifting to have my horizons expanded by exploring the symbiosis between science and shape, texture, music, form, feeling, and every form of art.   Even more, this is not just about bringing together two interacting and overlapping paradigms,  it’s seeing how science and art in their own different ways are uncovering the same vision of reality and giving meaning to the ultimate values of human existence.  

Chee Yokeling Says

The quest for beauty and truth as the theme of celebrating ISIS, and the visually and intellectually exciting commemorative book captures the essence of the unique organism that is ISIS and its founder, Mae-Wan Ho.  

Over the years many of us have gained knowledge and insights from Mae-Wan, and witnessed the blossoming of ISIS. We have been touched personally and enriched institutionally in the joint quest to serve society in ways that also honour nature in all its complexities, wonder, strengths and vulnerabilities.

Over the years, since I first met Mae-Wan in 1994 as her informal student and now as her colleague (and ever her student), she has also shown me how the quest for that beauty is a daily test of deep courage and unwavering commitment. When the dark forces of corporate greed and narrow self-interests are threatened by the rare glimmers of light, they strike back. But light bursts out in all directions and from all sides if the light holders do not surrender. In her choice to stand with the light holders, especially those that are weak, who also seek justice and harmony in the world, Mae-Wan inspires with her strength and indomitable spirit. 

When ISIS was born in 1999, with Peter Saunders as co-founder and partner moving to the tunes of ‘Quantum Jazz’ (Mae-Wan’s metaphor for the quantum coherence of living organisms), a steady light was lit.

Since then, ISIS has nurtured many to realize that science is art, music and feelings – a celebration of knowledge and a pursuit of truth.  ISIS has contributed to the growing recognition of holistic science and the melting down of reductionism despite barriers and obstacles. From universities to civil society circles to government decision-making (locally, nationally and globally) conventional thinking is being challenged by climate change, food and fuel crises, persistent poverty in large parts of the world, social injustices, financial systems gone amok, irrational trading norms and practices as well as cultural alienation. So there is much more for ISIS to do!

Being twelve in human terms is to stand at the cusp of adulthood with anticipation, excitement and some trepidation. ISIS at that age is also full of promise and hope. I am confident that I can speak for many who know the wonderful and beautiful people that make up ISIS that we are all so immensely proud and privileged to be able to continue working to keep the light grow stronger.

In bringing together artists, musicians, scientists, friends dear and old, colleagues new and old, and children and grandchildren to celebrate the glory of beauty and knowledge with good food and laughter, Celebrating ISIS: Quantum Jazz Biology*Medicine*Art must surely be one of the most coveted experiences of a lifetime. 

Quantum Jazz Biology & Medicine

Mae-Wan Ho, ‘quantum jazz biologist’, regarded by some as “the most influential scientist alive today”: “For me, there is no boundary between science and art; both are dedicated to the pursuit of beauty and truth, which is most important for reclaiming science (and art) for the public good.” (See complete text in her article: Why beauty is truth & truth beauty.)

Jim Oschman, pioneer of the science of energy medicine: “There is a hidden energy world underlying the art and science of quantum jazz, a world of rhythm (frequencies) and powerful ordering influences (coherence, synchrony, syntropy, harmony); and Mother Earth keeps us grounded and healthy.”

Peter Fisher, Homeopath to Her Majesty the Queen, Clinical Director and Director of Research at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine: “Homeopathy is historically based on empirical evidence; recent investigations in humans, animals, tissues, and cells provide abundant evidence that it is effective, and many molecular mechanisms have been identified as the result of homeopathic therapy.”

All lectures available on DVD from ISIS online bookstore

Quantum Jazz Art

Michele Kappeli, experimental artist extraordinaire explains: “I wanted to capture the volatile, ..to find the mirror for its decelerated structure… The moving water as the symbol of the existential merges well with the image of flux. Moving water as a current, as a constantly transfiguring “body”….”

Heather Cowie, geologist turned multimedia, multi-dimensional artist: “I am deeply connected to the earth, the things that shape and move it, visible and invisible; patterns and rhythms are everywhere, on every scale, from vast geological formations to eddies in rock pools.”

Julian Voss-Andreae, sculptor inspired by proteins and quantum physics: “My sculptures display an organic aesthetic from geometric elements, offering a more holistic view of reality.”

Edward Cowie, sonic poet and artist: “My drawings are maps of my music.”

Kathy Haffegee, one of the world’s most inventive, multi-media artists: “I am inspired by my love of nature and plant forms to works that involve sewing, embroidering, painting on silk, manipulation and dyeing of fabric, paper and fabric collage, computer printing and recently the use of gesso, distress and alcohol inks and bleach…”

Jade Ho, one of the world’s youngest artists:I just love painting and not having to worry about making a mess.”

Mae-Wan Ho, possibly the world’s first quantum jazz painter:My paintings are literally water paintings, because life is water’s quantum jazz: free, flowing, spontaneous, sensual, and full of surprises; unique for every occasion, yet irresistibly drawn towards that ideal perfect freedom and spontaneity of being (at ease) with all nature.”

Li Poon, ISIS artist in residence: “The entire universe is one unceasing creative process, which I try to make manifest as an artist while striving towards greater unity and coherence, the main attributes of beauty in art and science.”

Matt Poon, the people’s favourite artist:I want to paint like I do Taichi, moving in tune with the “supreme ultimate”, which is what Taichi means in Chinese.”

All exhibitions and interviews available on DVD from ISIS online bookstore

Quantum Jazz Music

Edward Cowie, sonic poet composer and performer enthrals his audience on the music of birdsong.

“The variety of birdsong is staggering in terms of rhythms and ‘scales’ (modes, dynamics and colour (timbre))… You may think you heard a single note when it is actually 6 notes simultaneously, birds can hear around 400 events per second, ten times faster than humans...”

Lecture and performances available on DVD from ISIS online bookstore

Urban Forest Garden

Alara’s organic forest garden is a green haven in the industrial estate. It provides more than 50 different crops and contributes to the company’s zero waste and carbon neutral status, of which managing director Alex Smith is justly proud.

A Very Big Thank You!

Thanks to Alara’s chef for delicious and sumptuous organic dinner, so much so that those who stayed for the impromptu Sunday lunch were delighted to enjoy the leftovers, We had smoked salmon, prawn salad, chickpea salad, a wide variety  of green, skewered prawns and salmon, barbecued chicken and sausages, lovely cheeses and bread, far too many dishes to list…

Thanks to Natasha Lawless for designing the exhibitions, and the artists for putting up their works

Thanks to Jerome Monnot for filming the entire event and for conducting additional interviews

Participants & speakers alike exhausted all the superlatives in praise of the event: “stunning”, “amazing”, “excellent”, “fantastic”, “life-affirming, “it changed my life”, “take my booking for another event like this one”.

Thank you Alex Smith & Alara for hosting this historic event

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