Conference Dates: Friday 8 and Saturday 9 May 2015, 10am – 6.15pm both days

Conference Venue: ArtScience Museum, 6 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018974


Conference Summary

In May 2015, ArtScience Museum will host a conference exploring the legacy of history's most celebrated artist and scientist, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). Most studies of da Vinci focus on a specific area of his activity - art, anatomy, technology, studies on water, on flight, and so on. This conference will offer a different point of view, encouraging an exploration of da Vinci's way of thinking and of the cultural landscape, which nurtured him. It will analyse how his interdisciplinary approach, which we now refer to as “systems thinking” and "complexity", remains strikingly resonant for us today, and applied within the fields of art, science, technology, education and foresight.

The conference begins with a special edition of ArtScience Museum's monthly performance programme, ArtScience Late (Thursday 7 May), and continues for two full days of discussions on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 May, featuring presentations from within Singapore and around the world, from a range of leading speakers in the fields of history, art, science & technology, education, and futures thinking. It includes keynotes from major names in art history such as Professor Paolo Galluzzi (Italy), as well as dynamic contemporary artists, innovative scientists and technologists, and influential cultural commentators.

This conference has been co-convened by Honor Harger and Anna Salaman (ArtScience Museum), and Andrea Nanetti (Nanyang Technological University, School of Art, Design and Media).

  • Speakers and Chairs

Thursday 7 May 2015, 7pm – 10pm

ArtScience Late will feature a special performance from, our international ArtScience resident, Maurizio Martinucci (TeZ). The show is free, and there will be performances at 8pm and 9pm.

For more, see event details.


Friday 8 May 2015, 10am – 6.15pm

The first full day of the conference presents Leonardo da Vinci and the approach that he took to all of his lines of enquiries. It analyses how da Vinci not only understood the essence of ‘systems thinking’, but how he also applied this to his inventions, ideas and work generally. We ask, was this approach extraordinary for its time? Was da Vinci different from his renowned contemporaries in this way?  To address these questions, the key note speaker, Professor Paulo Galluzzi will present an overview of da Vinci’s life, influences, influencers and projects in this context, and Don Alberto Rocca will provide the cultural context of da Vinci’s time and place.  We will explore if there was something within the context of da Vinci’s time which encouraged his thinking and ‘systems’ awareness, or was this a one-off – a spike in the linear progression of epistemology? We ask if there are there other examples of interdisciplinary thinking and approaches throughout history. The day will continue with a reflection on the more recent times and the advent of new media – a marriage of two seemingly quite separate, established disciplines: art and technology, moving the dialogue into the 20th century, and beyond.

Timetable and Speakers

Welcome remarks by Conference Chairs Honor Harger and Andrea Nanetti
10:30am:  Session 1: Keynote on Leonardo da Vinci’s approach to systems thinking
Chair:  Don Alberto Rocca, Director of Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Italy 
Speaker: Professor Paolo Galluzzi, Director, Institute and Museum of History of Science, Florence, Italy, Chair of the Advisory Boards of the National Edition of Leonardo da Vinci’s Manuscripts and Drawings
11:30am:  Conversation and Q&A between Don Rocca and Professor Galluzzi on the educational and cultural context in the time of Leonardo


Lunch break
1pm: Session 2: Historical applications of systems thinking
Chair: David Harvey, Senior Vice-President of Exhibitions, American Museum of Natural History, USA




Gunalan Nadarajan, Dean of Stamps School of Art and Design, University of Michigan

Gregory Clancey, Associate Professor, Department of History, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Margaret Tan, Lecturer, National University of Singapore, Singapore


Tea break
3pm: Session 3: Systems thinking in art
Chair: Vibeke Sorensen, Chair, NTU School of Art, Design and Media, Singapore




Luciano Chessa, Composer, performer, musicologist, USA

Ruben de la Nuez, Lecturer at School of Art, Design and Media, NTU, Singapore

Isabelle Desjeux, Artist and scientist, Singapore 


Closing remarks by Honor Harger and Andrea Nanetti
5:15pm: Optional Tour of Da Vinci: Shaping the Future
6:15pm: End of proceedings


Saturday 9 May 2015, 10am – 6.15pm

The whistle-stop tour through key ‘systems thinkers’ in history from the previous day continues with a day exploring contemporary ‘systems approaches’, specifically addressing the areas. It will cover how science and technology environments might nurture the "Leonardos" of tomorrow and stimulate interdisciplinary working, and look at innovative education and pedagogical methodologies today which will encourage the same.

Fittingly, the last session looks to the future. Curated by Forum for the Future, it addresses how complex problems of this time may be solved using multidisciplinary and the ‘systems’, or ‘complexity theory’ approaches. A sub-theme will explore addressing challenges at scale. 

Timetable and Speakers

10:30am: Session 4: Systems thinking in science and technology

Honor Harger, Executive Director, ArtScience Museum

This session explores systems thinking within a science and technology context.  It will cover how science and technology environments might nurture the "Leonardos" of tomorrow.  The speakers will discuss how different science and technology environments, from more traditional environments, such as science labs, educational science centres, to informal technology environments such as makerspaces, and co-working spaces, might stimulate interdisciplinary working.





Peng Kian Tan, Centre for Quantum Technologies, NUS, Singapore

Ei-Leen Tan, Science Centre Singapore, and Maker Faire Singapore

Veerappan Swaminathan, One Maker Group and the Sustainable Living Lab, Singapore

Grace Sai, CEO and Co-Founder, The Hub, Singapore


Lunch break and optional tour of Da Vinci: Shaping the Future
1:30pm Session 5: Systems thinking in Education
Chair: Kenneth Kwok, Director (Arts & Youth and Strategic Planning), National Arts Council, Singapore

Venka Purushothaman, Academic, arts and cultural manager, and writer and Vice President and Provost of LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore

Tong Yee, founder of The Thought Collective and the School of Thought, Singapore

Noorlinah Mohamed, Independent consultant, Singapore


Tea break
4pm: Session 6: Systems thinking in Foresight and Futures
Chair:  Cheryl Chung, Lead Strategist, Futures Division at Ministry of Transport, Singapore





Dr. Alistair Douglas, SmartAqua Pte Ltd, Singapore

Yin Shanyang, Swarm design studio, Singapore

Zhen Goh, Senior Consultant, Cognitive Edge, Singapore

Justin Pickard, Anthropologist of technology and innovation, UK


Closing remarks by Honor Harger and Andrea Nanetti
6:15pm: End of proceedings