Monday, March 12, 2007

Dombois: Session 1, 2, 3

From: Florian Dombois
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2007 15:43:33 +0100
(Florian Dombois; Berne/Cologne)

Dear Suzanne, hi all,
it's quiet a productive symposium with so many contributions (yesterday it was 121), that it is difficult to catch up with all the different discussions. So I decided to stay close with your original questions:


1) What role do picturing practices play in your discipline of “knowledge production?”
I am an artist with a background in Geophysics investigating still mainly on tectonic phenomena and earthquakes but in artistic forms. I try to depict and formulate research results in different media, that usually cannot be named in scientific terms. I don't want to beauty scientific results and I don't want to borrow dignity or value from scientific research. That kind of illustration I am not interested in. I try to go further and to change the view on my topics.

In my work sound plays a main role. Using audification of seismic (and other movements) registrations I listen to the earth and its activity and develop from here most of my results. And on a second layer of understanding I intentionally change my media and forms of depiction to watch, how my research topic is changed/affected by the "Eigensinn" of the medium (cf. Ernst Cassirer "symbolic forms" or Nelson Goodman "languages of art" or Georg Picht "modes of depiction"). So far I worked with sound- and different other forms of installations, CD, DVD, concert, virtual reality, interactive art, published a patent, a picture book, wrote different text genres, gave talks etc. I am convinced that changing the form is affecting the content. (,

2) How have your perceptions and attitudes of mind been challenged by current dialogues within the “Art-Sci” arenas?
Well, I am pushing the Art-Sci dialogue since about 1990. I am very happy that the dialogue is now much more accepted than fifteen years ago. But nevertheless we need to rise the quality of that exchange. It is not enough to bring artist into labs and scientists into ateliers. We need to take the claim serious, that art is also a knowledge production, and draw conclusions from that. Here is not enough space to explain the whole topic and my English is too poor for that. But I am concerned about a program, what I call "art as research", and try to influence here in Switzerland the conditions of research funding to allow artists to apply and work appropriately. The artistic research has a lot of open questions that need to be discussed. Therefore it is important, I think, to run it as a major movement with many players.

3) What role have new imaging technologies played in your conceptualizations of visual modeling or artistic application?
I have worked for a while at GMD / Fraunhofer Institute, a research institute in Germany (which had the first CAVE in Europe and also invented different display technologies). Here I developed (1999-2004) a few virtual reality installations using real time rendering of sound and images, 3D images and 3D sound, interactive technologies etc. I think, that visualization and sonification are a good starting point to convince scientists, how much other media of publication than a scientific paper in a journal can affect their research developments (cf. HJ Rheinberger's ideas of "Experimentalsystem").

SESSION TWO: ARTISTS IN THE LABS - space, studio, lab

1) What is a laboratory?
Maybe a place where "labor" (=work) is carried out. In that sense we would have scientific labs as we have artistic ones.

2) What case histories of artists working in the lab can be cited as having seminal significance in developing new ways to conceive of art practice?
I just started a research project "Neuland" at the University of Arts in Berne (Switzerland). Part of that project is to let historians collect examples of artists of different disciplines (visual, music, theatre, design, architecture) who had done or are doing research. I will probably be able to answer that question later this year.

3) In another sense, laboratory practices bring into focus a host of other questions and obligations concerning:
3.1) animal models for and in research
3.2 experiments with transgenesis in animals and plants
3.4) reproductive technologies
3.5) bio-hazards and public health
I am convinced that most of these questions are related to the scientific way of investigating and depicting their topic. Therefore I think it is worthwhile as an artist not to follow the scientific tracks of depiction but to think and develop new explanation models competing the scientific ones.

4) In a text edited by Jon Turney entitled Science, not Art: Ten Scientists’Diaries, scientists record their daily activities and thought processes. What is noticeably clear is that scientist’s efforts (similar to artists) in maintaining their practices is wrought with risk. Scientists in their journal entries, appear as human as anyone else. Therefore, to the scientists out there, can you talk about the problematics of being a scientist?


Bioscience seems to be a good topic to show the relevance of different researches on life as "epistemic thing" (Rheinberger). Even though the scientific investigations has produced fascinating results, it does not seem to be able to catch up and explain adequately what life is. And many products of the life sciences are so irritating, that alternative ideas are obviously needed. Artistic resarch is, in my opinion, that alternative.

I hope these contributions are understandable. I have to excuse my poor English. My main point - including sound to the discussion - I think is worthwhile to try. I wrote a few papers on that but all in German, so I can only name it.

Kind regards!

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