Interview InScience jury member Barbara Visser
Barbara Visser is a visual artist and filmmaker. In her work, she focuses on the delicate balance between registration and staging, fact and fiction, and investigates this in various media. In addition to her artistic work, she became the first chair of the Academy of Arts of the KNAW in 2014 and was the artistic director (a.i.) of IDFA in 2017. An interview about art, science and her role as a member of the professional jury of InScience: “I hope to be moved by the beauty of knowledge, the desire to understand the world, but also the ability to fail immensely in that”.
You have had a connection with InScience since its first edition. What appeals to you at the festival?
“One of the things that have occupied me for years is how you can share knowledge in a way that goes beyond text or language. What I see clearly in the InScience program is that the emphasis is on imagination and stories, rather than on the facts. That is a direction that I really like. I think the festival can go even further – the visual culture is changing so much that a different kind of story can and will be understood.”
Art and science come together at InScience. Has science influenced your own art?
“Curiosity is the basis, in which we find each other. I am interested in psychology and perception, pre-eminently things that you cannot see. You can share your wonder about it through images. But it can also be wider: I recently researched the history and essence of the material glass. I found out that science still has a few big questions: is glass liquid or solid? That was a huge eye-opener: that something so pervasive still holds a mystery.”
You are a member of the professional InScience jury. Is there anything you hope to see in the selected films?
“I hope to be moved by the beauty of knowledge, wanting to understand the world, but also being able to fail immensely in that. There is a tendency on many fronts, including in science, to show results only. But the way there and the bumps are just as fascinating to watch, perfect drama for film and ultimately educational for others.”
Which film with a strong scientific element has made a great impression on you?
“In the 1990s I saw Out of the Present (Andrei Ujica, 1997), a documentary about two Russian cosmonauts who are trapped in a space station because in Moscow it was political chaos and the Soviet Union fell apart. The images of the cosmonauts, which now not only literally, but also figuratively, floating in the vacuum and unable to go home, are interspersed with images of the chaos in Moscow, where Boris Yeltsin climbs onto a tank and shouts to the masses. The perspective that the two astronauts had on the totally useless rumbling on Earth was incredibly moving.”
If you had become a scientist yourself, which domain would you have chosen?
“I could never have become a scientist because I attach too much importance to uncertainties and speculation, much more than to facts. I could never have the discipline to exclude things. The seemingly unimportant, the weaving error, the glitch, they sometimes tell more than a conclusive formula about who we are as humans. That said, I do have a great deal of admiration for people who can. And together I think we can go very far. ”
Barbara Visser is a member of the InScience Jury, which will present the new InScience Jury Award on Saturday 9 November. The winning film can be viewed on Sunday 10 November. Buy your tickets here.