Sunday, March 11, 2007

Scott: Epistemic Objects

From: Jill Scott
Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2007 11:32:47 +0100

1. What is a laboratory?

For us the main reasons to place artists in a wide range of science labs did not change. These are: To give artists the experience of immersion inside the culture of scientific research in order to inspire their content and develop their interpretations. To allow the artists to have actual “hands on ” access in the lab itself, as well as attend relevant lectures and conferences. To help scientists gain some insight into the world of contemporary art, aesthetic development and communication channels between science and the general public. To encourage further collaboration between both parties including an extension of discourse and an exchange of research practices and methodologies. As "art researchers" who are running the program, we are learning, comparing and shifting according to the results. What is central, indeed crucial, is that researchers in both art and science fields still retain a commitment towards the public and their subjects of study.

2) What about seminal significance in developing new ways to conceive of art practice?

We have had failures and successes in collaboration, but what is very obvious is that many artists may never have the opportunity to meet nor work alongside any scientists unless there is a growth in lab residency programs. We would also claim that we have fostered the development of new approaches to art and science research collaboration rather than art practice. If science educators are looking for more sensitive and poetic metaphors and communication skills, then art can help. For contemporary artists 'real' information is not taboo and they particularly like more socially conscious scientists. As the general public is mostly uninformed about scientific debates in many fields, we claim that trans-disciplinary approaches may provide "art researchers" with solid raw materials, pertinent debates and unique potentials in order to encourage critical analysis in the public realm and perhaps even affect social change. This requires that "art researchers" learn more about science so that they can produce more highly skilled, interpretive and reflective artworks, ones that might not only gain more respect from science but also be more relevant for future debates in the public realm. Scientific research has such a large impact on the future of humanity that it would seem irresponsible to not consider these potentials.

3.3) Laboratory practices bring into focus a host of other questions and obligations concerning: to what extent is hyperbole employed by both artists and scientists?

The concept of "shock value" needs more discussion in relation to art and science. We think that an artwork has to be accurate about scientific content, otherwise the science community will not be engaged with the resultant work. One interpretational approach, which is very much rejected by science researchers, is the use of "shock value" (i.e. Stelarc). In these cases, scientists see certain artists as uninformed and problematic, not only because they misrepresent their research, but also, because they are reminiscent of tabloid style journalism. This damages the image of scientific research. Instead, they preferred artists with more considered goals who were excited about the specific research being undertaken in the lab itself. Science also has it radicals or mavericks like Marvin Minsky and Hans Morawec or Eric Drexler, who have reputations of creating problematic fiction to shock the public and illustrate their points. These scientists are not often taken seriously by our artists-in-labs research partners, as our scientists see themselves as standing in the middle of any informed debate.
We claim that the artist has to first be exposed to the every day activities of a particular scientific inquiry before they can interpret the results for the public. Historically, more informed interpretations have already had a valuable role to play if they were backed up by solid claims from the science community. (E.g. Hans Haacke’s work “Rhinewater Purification Plant” which conducted grey water reclamation in 1969; or Harrison’s “Sustainable Food Source” 1972). It seems that informed interpretations can not only help to explore art as a catalyst but also improve public relations for scientists. Furthermore art researchers' interpretations of ethical and social issues within scientific research may also help to generate a new level of discussion within the scientific community itself.

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