Experts and Guests Ootb
Vikram Chandra, writer and director
Vikram Chandra, an Indian-American author, one of the most important voices of post-colonial English literature, was born in New Delhi and moved to the United States for his undergraduate studies. During his time studying films at Columbia University, he discovered the autobiography of Colonel James “Sikander” Skinner, a legendary half-Indian and half-British soldier from the nineteenth century whose book inspired Chandra’s first novel Red Earth and Pouring Rain. Published in 1995 to universal critical acclaim, it went on to win awards such as the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book and the David Higham Prize for Fiction. Chandra continued his success with the release of a collection of short stories titled Love and Longing in Bombay in 1997, and in 2006 published his second novel, Sacred Games, an international best-seller which was later adapted into a successful Netflix series. Aside from his writing career, Chandra has also worked as a computer programmer and software consultant for various clients. His adventures in writing code led him to write Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty, a non-fiction debut greeted with superlative reviews.
Stefano Mancuso, botanist and professor at University of Florence, Italy
Stefano Mancuso is a prominent scientist and public intellectual known for his groundbreaking contributions to the understanding of plants as intelligent and sensitive organisms capable of learning and memory. Mancuso holds a professorship at the University of Florence and the Georgofili Academy. He also directs the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology, which has offices in Florence, Kitakyushu, Bonn, and Paris. Mancuso’s TED talk received over 1.4 million views on the TED website alone. In 2014, he founded PNAT, a start-up at the University of Florence focused on developing plant-inspired technology. His scientific paper won the Austrian Ministry of Science and Technology’s prestigious “Wissenschaftbuck des Jahres” award in 2016. In 2022, Mancuso was appointed as the scientific director of the newly formed Foundation for the Future of Cities. Aside from his scientific work, Mancuso is an accomplished writer and after a long list of non-fiction titles translated in 27 languages, in 2022 he published La tribù degli alberi [The Tribe of Trees] his first work of fiction.
Frances Morris, Museum Director, Tate Modern, London
Frances Morris is one of the world’s most respected museum curators and art experts; she is also a writer and broadcaster. Frances is currently Director Emerita, Tate Modern, after leading the institution as Director for 7 years. Her many exhibitions include retrospectives of Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama and Agnes Martin and, most recently ‘Hilma Af Klint and Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life’. As Tate’s Director of Collections, International Art from 2006 to 2016 Frances led the transformation of Tate’s International Collection, strategically broadening and diversifying its international reach and representation, as well as bringing photography, moving image and live art into the institution for the first time through acquisitions, displays and exhibitions. Since 2019 Frances has championed Tate’s responses to climate and ecological emergency, exploring how cultural institutions can best respond to the complex social impact of the crisis. Among external roles Frances is currently a member of the Advisory Committee, Serralves Museum, Porto; the Scientific Board, MNAC, Bucharest; the International Advisory Committee, Mori Art Museum Tokyo and the Scientific Committee, MUDAM, Luxembourg, as well as Guest Professor at SAFA, Shanghai.
Lucia Ronchetti, composer and director of the Music Department of La Biennale di Venezia
Lucia Ronchetti, born in Rome, is one of the world’s most acclaimed international composers and music theorists. She studied Composition and Computer Music at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia and Philosophy at the University of Rome. Ronchetti furthered her education in Paris, attending composition seminars with Gérard Grisey and pursuing a PhD in musicology at the École Pratique des Hautes Études en Sorbonne. Throughout her career, Ronchetti has collaborated with notable figures such as Tristan Murail, Sylvano Bussotti, Salvatore Sciarrino, and Hans Werner Henze. She has held composer-in-residence positions at various prestigious institutions and received commissions for her works from the most important music organizations around the world. Ronchetti’s music theatre projects have been produced by prominent opera houses and festivals, including Hannover Staatsoper, Staatstheater Braunschweig, Nouvelle Philharmonie in Paris, Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin, and many others. Her compositions have been recorded and published by esteemed labels such as Kairos and Stradivarius. In 2021 Lucia Ronchetti has been appointed artistic director of the Biennale Musica in Venezia.
Hannah Critchlow, neuroscientist (University of Cambridge)
Hannah Critchlow is an internationally acclaimed neuroscientist, broadcaster, author and Fellow at Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. Her expertise lies in consciousness, learning and memory, decision making, intelligence, collaboration between minds and our evolving relationship with AI. In 2019 she was named by Nature as a ‘Rising Stars in Life Sciences’ and was recognised as a ‘Top 100 UK scientist’ by the UK Science Council. Her book Consciousness: A Ladybird Expert Guide, was published with Penguin in 2018, The Science of Fate published in May, 2019 made The Sunday Times Bestseller list. Hannah’s latest book, Joined up Thinking was published in 2022 to critical acclaim.