Bridging Art and Science in the 21st Century: The Beauty of Engineering. Engineering Beauty.

Wednesday 23rd of October 
At 6.30 pm
Free entry
An Engineer and an Art Historian cross perspectives on the concept of Beauty.

Join our speakers:

  • Prof. Cesare Stefanini, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Khalifa University
  • Dr. Robert Kilroy, English lecturer and lecturer on the Masters in History of Art and Museum Studies at Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi


In what meaningful sense can art be described as a science? Is it possible to legitimately define science as an art? This collaborative initiative attempts to address such questions by bringing together scholars from across the Humanities and the Sciences through a series of unique cross-disciplinary encounters. The aim is to build new bridges by identifying points of convergence and intersection, common concerns that give rise to new ways of approaching the challenges faced in the 21st century.
The first seminar is organized through collaboration between the Department of Archeology and History of Art (SUAD), the Department of Science and Engineering (SUAD), and the Healthcare Engineering Innovation Center (HEIC) at Khalifa University. The aim is to stage a conversation between the engineer and the art historian around the concept of beauty. Cesare Stefanini, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Khalifa University, Director of HEIC and active in the field of Human Centered Design, will approach this issue by focusing on the question of function. An object’s aesthetic appeal, he argues, is rooted in the act of production: it assumes a particular shape because it is built with a precise purpose in mind. Dr. Robert Kilroy, lecturer on the Masters in History of Art and Museum Studies at SUAD, will then focus on the question of intention. An object’s aesthetic appeal, he argues, is rooted in the effect it produces: it provokes a feeling of sensible pleasure because it is entirely without purpose.

The ultimate aim is for these seemingly separate viewpoints to combine as a single inter-locking perspective. Looking at art from the perspective of science, we arrive at a renewed appreciation of the beauty of engineering. Approaching science form the position of art, we come to new understanding of how beauty is engineered. Such an overlap marks the ground for a new mode of exchange where the space between disciplines (“inter”) is replaced by a focus on the space within (“infra”). Through this shift, the notion of ‘bridge building’ is radically transformed: rather than strive to simply connect two distant locations, we recognize that a single terrain is already divided from within.

About Dr. Robert Kilroy

Dr. Robert Kilroy is a lecturer of Applied Foreign Languages and Art History at Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, where he specializes in Psychoanalytic theory, Modern and Contemporary Art, Aesthetics and Visual Culture. He received his Ph.D from Trinity College Dublin in 2016 for a thesis entitled Marcel Duchamp: Resolving the Word/Image Problem, afterthought in which he interrogated Duchamp’s visual/verbal output on the basis of a revised reading of Lacanian psychoanalysis. Through the lens of the word/image dichotomy, Kilroy attempts to develop Duchamp’s oeuvre into a tool for the analysis of visual culture with the broader institutional aim of redefining the terms of the disciplinary exchange between Art History and Psychoanalysis. A central component of his research is a critical engagement with the writings of the cultural theorist Slavoj Žižek, whose approach to ideology critique Kilroy attempts to adapt along iconological lines. He has published in several international peer-reviewed journals on areas as diverse as Clinical Psychoanalysis, Art History, Critical Theory and Visual Culture. In 2017 he released his first book entitled Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, One Hundred Years Later, which marks the centenary of Duchamp’s most famous readymade by radically calling into question the received understanding of the work. Most recently, he has attempted a critical reading of Jean-Luc Nancy and Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe’s reading of Jacques Lacan’s 1957 seminar L’instance de la lettre dans l’inconscient ou la raison depuis Freud (1957) (L’Esprit Createur, Winter 2017). In his current book project, Dr. Kilroy is developing a new, theoretically justified approach to the study of images that, by way of interrogating the question of globalism in art, opens up the discipline of Art History to a new aesthetic system of representation.

About Prof. Cesare Stefanini

Cesare Stefanini received the M.Sc. degree in mechanical engineering and the Ph.D. degree in Microengineering, both with honors, from Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (SSSA), Pisa, Italy, in 1997 and 2002, respectively. In 2003 he joined the Faculty of the BioRobotics Institute of SSSA in Pontedera, Italy. In 2015 he joined Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi, where he is today Professor of Biomedical Engineering and the Director of the Healthcare Engineering Innovation Center. His research activity is applied to different fields, including small scale robotics, bioinspired systems, biomechatronics and micromechatronics for medical and industrial applications. He received international recognitions for the development of novel actuators for microrobots and he has been visiting researcher at the University of Stanford, Center for Design Research. Dr. Stefanini is currently the PI of four research projects at Khalifa University. Dr. Stefanini is the scientific advisor of a leading company in the field of robotic microsurgery (Medical Micro-instruments SpA, Italy) and the recipient of the “Intuitive Surgical Research Award”. Dr. Stefanini is the author or co-author of more than 130 articles on refereed international journals and on international conferences proceedings. He is the inventor of 14 international patents, 8 of which industrially exploited by world-leading companies. His Scopus h-index is 25. He is an affiliate member of the Academy of Scientists of the UAE and of the IEEE Societies RAS (Robotics and Automation), EMBS (Engineering in Medicine and Biology) and PES (Power and Energy).

Bookings are closed for this event.