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What is real, and how are you sure it is so? How often can your experiences be real if so many are digital and virtual or influenced by the chemistry and architecture of your brain? Scientific research uncovers ways that our minds and senses conspire to produce gaps between the actual and the perceived. How do we navigate these blind spots, which can be exploited by trickery like fake news, but then embraced willingly to escape reality, for pleasure in fantasy? And is our concept of the real transformed by biomedical science, which brings us new understanding of mental conditions like synesthesia, dementia, or phenomena like the placebo effect?

Science Gallery Rotterdam invites artists, designers, and researchers to explore how our concept of “the real” is destabilised by science and technology by proposing projects to be part of its first exhibition on site at Erasmus MC. The theme (UN)REAL addresses the questions above and also seeks to link them to the ongoing activity and cutting-edge research in biomedical science at the university medical centre. Some of the topics and questions relevant to the theme include:

  • At what point does regenerative growth or human enhancement make an organ, limb, or body “fake”?
  • What does research into mind-altering diseases and experiences suggest about our everyday perceptions?
  • Are phantom limbs or optical illusions unique forms of neurological creativity, or are they coping mechanisms, or something else entirely?
  • Can phenomena such as lucid dreaming or the use of virtual reality result in meaningful experiences?

Your proposal could be to present a new or existing artwork, performance, workshop, research project, or other activity. Note that a central goal of Science Gallery Rotterdam is to produce content and programming to engage with 15–25 year-olds in the local community. There is both tension and creative possibility occupying the space between the real and unreal, so you are welcome to surprise us with proposals on topics outside of those listed as well. You might look to the history of art, including Surrealism, whose practitioners were fascinated by medical conditions, misperceptions, and dreaming.

Please consider the context of the exhibition: the public space of Erasmus MC, which features wide open areas, natural light and high ceilings (15 to 20 meters). More than 30,000 people per week on average move through the space for the exhibition, including patients, visitors, employees, and medical students.

Dates for Exhibition and Programming: 4 October – 20 December 2019

Key words:
genetics, illusion, surrealism, human enhancement, regenerative medicine, mental conditions, misperception

Funding between €1,000 and €4,000 may be available, including all artist fees, materials, equipment, and shipping. Please note projects of larger scale may be considered if additional partners and funding can be secured. Five grants will be made available for proposals from the Rotterdam community.

Curatorial team and advisors:

  • William Myers, Curator, author of Bioart and Biodesign
  • Ove Lucas, Director CBK, Rotterdam
  • Dr Paul van de Laar, General Director, Museum Rotterdam
  • Dr Fred Balvert, Head of Congress Agency, Erasmus MC
  • Dr Joyce Lebbink, Associate Professor, Erasmus MC
  • Sanne Kloosterboer, PhD Candidate, Clinical Pharmacology, Erasmus MC


If your proposal is selected, we will urge you to participate at least in one of the workshops on site with artists, designers, scientists, and young people from Rotterdam. Schedule TBD.


Please use the Science Gallery online submission system. You can email questions to: info@rotterdam.sciencegallery.com

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