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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Sunday, September 24, 2017

Unique Exhibition Fuses Past and Future Through Science and Art to Shed light on Scholarly Contributions of Israeli Fulbright Alumni

From July 1-11, the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute hosted ‘Beautiful Knowledge,’ an exhibition that marked the Fulbright program’s sixtieth anniversary in Israel. By examining the relationship between knowledge and beauty, the exhibition both celebrated the last six decades of scientific research and creativity of Israeli Fulbright scholars and predicted major trends in human knowledge over the next forty years.

‘Beautiful Knowledge’ featured numerous expertly curated exhibits that fused the past and the future through science and art. For example, one installation displayed a brief history of the cultivation of wheat in Israel and the classification of different wheat species that dovetailed into striking graphic representations of the classifications of information. It also included a futuristic prediction in the form of several vials of DNA molecules encoding the lyrics of the poem ‘Wheat’ by Israeli author and poet Ronny Someck.

“Molecular biology allows us to read and synthesize DNA strands at accuracy and cost levels that make the process affordable to everyone,” said Avi Muller, the curator of ‘Beautiful Knowledge.’ “In a future world, the DNA version of Ronny Someck’s poem will be read just as easily as we look up text-based data on our smartphones today.”

The centerpiece of the exhibition was a larger-than-life digital art installation entitled ‘Bright’ that used heavenly spheres to represent connections between the scientific data produced by Israel’s Fulbright scholars, with each article serving as a star around which its citations gravitate. The tens of thousands of article and citation data from Scopus were provided by Elsevier, a world-leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services.

“There’s nothing more magical than seeing people get caught up in a moment of awe. One of the best examples is the wonderment we experience when looking up at the stars on a clear night,” said Muller. “And if you think about it, it is no less appropriate to be awed by scientific data than the heavenly bodies.”

Drawing on Muller’s concept for the display, a group of multidisciplinary Israeli artists and designers from the Holon Institute of Technology, including Ronen Wolfson, David Kantor, Maxim Bassin, and Gil Zablodovsky, put the idea behind the sprawling connections into motion.

The eye-popping display visualized the disciplinary evolution of research work and the contributions made by Fulbright alumni to the creation and dissemination of knowledge. With each discipline represented by a different color, viewers were able to gain a better understanding of which disciplines utilized each article as well as its level of influence. The metaphor of ‘spreading light’ was chosen to describe the global, academic process in which researchers cite articles published in journals. The movement of light from the center to the perimeter represents the genealogy of the citations: from a Fulbright researcher’s article, to articles that cite that article, and so on.

“The ‘Beautiful Knowledge’ exhibition is an ingenious way to use data creatively to tell the story of the importance of scientific research with incredible impact,” said Michiel Kolman, Elsevier’s Senior Vice President, Global Academic Relations. “Elsevier is pleased to be part of this cleverly curated display that inspired and excited all who experienced it.”

The truly unique installation was made possible by the support of Dr. Michiel Kolman, Elsevier’s Senior Vice President, Global Academic Relations; Alberto Zigoni, Elsevier’s Senior Consultant; Dr. Anat Lapidot-Firilla, Executive Director of the United States-Israel Educational Foundation; and Dr. Dror K. Levi of the Holon Institute of Technology.

Since its inception in 1956, Fulbright Israel has been administered by the United States-Israel Educational Foundation. This organization endeavors to promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and Israel. By means of student and faculty exchanges, the Foundation has cultivated innovative, forward thinking leaders in both the academia and other areas of public life.

During the ‘Beautiful Knowledge’ exhibition, predictions from a diverse group of affiliated scholars and intellectuals about major trends in human knowledge over the coming forty years were placed into a specially made time capsule. The time capsule will be opened at an event to celebrate Fulbright’s 100th year of activity in 2056.