Saturday, March 10, 2007

Thacker: response to Jill Scott

From: Eugene Thacker
Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2007 11:17:45 -0500 (EST)

Hi all - I'd like to pick up on some of the helpful comments that Jill hasmade. In response to Andrew Carnie's post, she notes:"I also wonder if art should only be a catalyst for science to reach the public or should it maintain a purely interpretative role? In the AIL project we hoped that matched pairs of art and science researchers who collaborate on very particular problems could help to promote the production of artworks that are based on scientifically robust knowledge.[...]As Donna Haraway suggests, ifscience is really neutral then artistic interpretations might also reflect about how cultural factors through feed back from the public might have an influence on science research itself."

I definitely agree here that context matters a great deal. I'd be interested to hear from others who've dealt w/ similar experiences (Jill, perhaps you can also talk about your work with Z-Node?). Being at a tech university, I've found the art-sci thing to be very erratic. It can be really easy to have lunch with a colleague from the Biomedical Engineering school, but quite a different matter to collaborative apply for a grant or work on a project - or, for that matter, to co-teach a course. Often it boils down to institutional framing, disciplinary flexibility, and budgets. A colleague of mine in the Biomedical Engineering actually did collaborate with SymbioticA a few years back (his rat neurons controlled a robotic arm over the Internet that made drawings). I went to visit him once and, in passing by his lab I saw that he put up a huge poster/publication of his work with SymbioticA. I really respected that, it was a little gesture, yes, but it was saying "*this* is my research" (almost every other lab was working on NIH-funded stem cell research). Of course I think he has tenure and plenty of prior, um, "legitimate" research...I find the institutional context for this kind of collaboration to be at once intriguing and frustrating. There's a lot of double-talk. On the one hand you can create new degree programs and hire innovative faculty to teach in those programs. But on the other hand you're given strict guidelines from above on what is or is not "tenurable." So you can create your crazy art installation as long as you publish that scholarly monograph. But many artists simply don't self-identify as theorists or writers. I've seen many media and visual artists leave their jobs because this double-talk has imploded. ...Sorry to raise such an unexciting issue!...


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