Science Art

Spirited discussions pt. 4 (by Ben Twist, Director of Creative Carbon Scotland)

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Dave Young, Carbon Catcher, and Sam Clark, artist and contributor to Spirited discussion 4, in the Meadows. Photo CO2 Edenburgh.

Dave Young, Carbon Catcher, and Sam Clark, artist and contributor to Spirited discussion 4, in the Meadows. Photo CO2 Edenburgh.

The last of our Spirited Discussions asking, ‘Can Art Change the Climate? was entitled:

Going Beyond the Material: Environment and Invisible Forces in the Literary, Performing and Visual Arts.

This, in some ways, reminded me of Wallace Heim’s reference in Spirited Discussion part 2 to Alan Badiou’s idea that the four critical kinds of event which change people are love, science, art and politics.

In the performing arts particularly there is arguably no ‘thing’ that is the work of art: there is the event that is found in the ether between the player and the audience; there is the growth of digital publishing which has emphasised that the same is true of the written work.  With the written word the format is sometimes less important than the content and the work of art is an event taking place in the reader’s head, brought about by the words in whatever form they are reproduced (consider audiobooks). This aesthetic view could of course be equally true of visual artworks; the event takes place when we view the work, but in an empty gallery or an unoccupied installation all that exists is some colour on a surface or a collection of items.

Lucy Miu, Business Manager of the Bedlam Theatre and driving force behind this year and next’s Dramatic Impacts, is also an Environmental Sciences student, effectively straddling the line between the arts and the sciences. She argued that for people to be informed by information they need to be engaged with it. This is backed up by plenty of behaviour change research which shows that plain information has almost no effect on the recipient’s behaviour.  Kate Foster concurred: her experience with biology students saw them overwhelmed by the sheer level of information they were being asked to take in. Her artistic practice allowed them to make sense of it, focus their new knowledge and understand it, rather than just know it. Lucy felt that the arts, which engage us emotionally, can help, and that perhaps they also help where the original experience is not available to all, (murdering the King of Scotland, experiencing the bombing of Guernica), and the artist can bring that experience to a wider audience.

For me, what is particularly important here is that an artist may, perhaps must if they are to be described as an artist rather than a mere reporter, have special insight into the experience that they transmit to the audience along with the basic information: information + insight is what gets the event lodged in the audience’s understanding. Information + insight creates the sort of event we are interested in.

Lucy also made the point that all performing arts events are group activities.  At the very least there is an audience as well as a performer, whilst engaging with visual arts is, or can be, a more solitary business. In her view this made the performing arts more engaging but Tim Collins argued that different forms do different things. (The similarities and differences between the visual and performing arts were questions that arose regularly and usefully during CO2 Edenburgh: Spirit in the Air.) The question of whether feeling is enough arose again, just as it had been raised by Chris Speed in Discussion 1, and it clearly isn’t enough: pornography, a well-made horror film or Love Story make us feel, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to change people or their behaviour as Badiou seems to be getting at.

Here Sam Clark made her first intervention noting that, to the writer Rebecca Solnit, the difference for the writer between discarding an article and having it published is minimal, but history starts when events happen. The event may happen almost accidentally, or is at least subject to chance, and is not solely in the artist’s gift. How does this square with Wallace Heim’s view that the artists’ practices create the conditions where [Badiou’s] change can happen (remember love, science, art and politics)? The answer is surely that art is a fairly slippery thing with fuzzy boundaries. Questions of intention, insight, engagement and emotion swirl around this subject, which is perhaps what makes the question of whether art can change the climate so difficult to disentangle, let alone answer.

Sam Clark chose to address the title Going Beyond the Material more directly in her short and very beautiful talk, speaking about scientists working on matter. Only 4.7% of reality is material, according to a physicist she knows; 75% is dark matter whose existence is only deduced from its interaction with matter and gravity. Even less concrete is dark energy, only imagined because the universe is expanding and accelerating, not shrinking or slowing down. These scientists are working on a relationship between the visible and the invisible, or in artistic terms the knowable and the ineffable (strikingly similar in my mind to Andrew Patrizio’s conjunction of the mercantile and the religious in fifteenth century Florence – see Discussion 3). The scientists at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern use non-detection as a means of detection; 95% of the universe is only knowable through the instrument of the mind. Here we surely get into the realm of philosophy and for me insight comes to the fore again. What we want from artists – why societies from the year dot have supported, encouraged and valued them – is access to the knowledge of the things that are unknowable just through experience, knowledge that requires use of the instrument of the mind. Sam made the same point – insight and experience of things we don’t understand or things we hate, creating a space of wonder, are the things we want from artists. And as Harry Giles made clear in the first of the Spirited Discussions, actually artists and scientists do many of the same things. But maybe Sam’s last suggestion is what artists do but scientists try to avoid: making the familiar strange.

The session came to a close with a short discussion about empathy, a subject that Reiko Goto Collins had touched upon in her introduction. Sympathy is when you simply feel for another; empathy is when you place yourself in their shoes, which takes more than just emotion. Lucy suggested that maybe if art can change the climate, it is because it can help connect the brain and the heart. If we have done that, just a bit, with CO2 Edenburgh: Spirit in the Air, it will have been well worth it.

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.
It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
Go to EcoArtScotland

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Out Now – CSPA Q9: Science/Art

followOur issue on Science/Art features a preview of the CSPA Fusebox Festival study, writing from Sarah Moon and Alyce Santoro, a report from Moe Beitiks on the first annual Moscow Science Art Conference, and an excerpt from Lina Weintraub’s new book. Through this issue, we explore the connection and complex relationship that exists between science and art.

Includes: Alyce Santoro, Amanda Gartman, Fusebox Festival, Linda Weintraub, Meghan Moe Beitiks,Moscow Science Art Conference, Sarah Moon

Innovation, The Kaleidoscope Video

This post comes to you from Engage by Design

What is the Kaleidoscope Project?

Interviews and conversations with experts on sustainability, design and innovation, reflecting theory and generating actions between a diverse range of disciplines including design [product, fashion, graphic, web, architects and interiors], science, art, activists, business, psychology and academia.

The 5 Kaleidoscope Videos, split into four different values; Balance, Meaning, Innovation and Culture. During each interview we asked how each value is seen and practised today and how they should be practiced in order to move towards a better future. The last video focuses on the tools and skills that we need to get to that better future, acting as a call to arms for designers and professionals about the need for rethink the way we practice our disciplines.

This short film is about Innovation.

 

Engage by Design is a social enterprise developed through the final Master research of Rodrigo Bautista and Zoe Olivia John in sustainability and design. As a consultancy they specialize in strategic interventions that aim to support the transformation of your product or service into a more sustainable one.

Engage by Design’s research arm intends to act as a platform which enables dialogues and actions between a diverse range of disciplines around sustainability and design.

Rodrigo Bautista – Rodrigo is an Industrial Designer and has worked in many different industries including media, products, services and telecommunications. Today his work focuses on strategic interventions and tools to apply sustainability and design instruments within a company.

Zoë Olivia John – Zoë’s background in Fashion & Textiles has lead her into the research and development of better ways to integrate learning about sustainability for Higher Education students and tutors, particularly within the F&T programme. She is interested in finding new ways to readdress our value structure from one of linear economic quantity to one of circular quality.

Go to Engage by Design

Meaning, The Kaleidoscope Project.

This post comes to you from Engage by Design

What is the Kaleidoscope Project?

Interviews and conversations with experts on sustainability, design and innovation, reflecting theory and generating actions between a diverse range of disciplines including design [product, fashion, graphic, web, architects and interiors], science, art, activists, business, psychology and academia.

The 5 Kaleidoscope Videos, split into four different values; Balance, Meaning, Innovation and Culture. During each interview we asked how each value is seen and practised today and how they should be practiced in order to move towards a better future. The last video focuses on the tools and skills that we need to get to that better future, acting as a call to arms for designers and professionals about the need for rethink the way we practice our disciplines.

This short film is about Meaning.

 

Engage by Design is a social enterprise developed through the final Master research of Rodrigo Bautista and Zoe Olivia John in sustainability and design. As a consultancy they specialize in strategic interventions that aim to support the transformation of your product or service into a more sustainable one.

Engage by Design’s research arm intends to act as a platform which enables dialogues and actions between a diverse range of disciplines around sustainability and design.

Rodrigo Bautista – Rodrigo is an Industrial Designer and has worked in many different industries including media, products, services and telecommunications. Today his work focuses on strategic interventions and tools to apply sustainability and design instruments within a company.

Zoë Olivia John – Zoë’s background in Fashion & Textiles has lead her into the research and development of better ways to integrate learning about sustainability for Higher Education students and tutors, particularly within the F&T programme. She is interested in finding new ways to readdress our value structure from one of linear economic quantity to one of circular quality.

Go to Engage by Design

Culture The Kaleidoscope Video

This post comes to you from Engage by Design

What is the Kaleidoscope Project?

Interviews and conversations with experts on sustainability, design and innovation, reflecting theory and generating actions between a diverse range of disciplines including design [product, fashion, graphic, web, architects and interiors], science, art, activists, business, psychology and academia.

The 5 Kaleidoscope Videos, split into four different values; Balance, Meaning, Innovation and Culture. During each interview we asked how each value is seen and practised today and how they should be practiced in order to move towards a better future. The last video focuses on the tools and skills that we need to get to that better future, acting as a call to arms for designers and professionals about the need for rethink the way we practice our disciplines.

This short film is about Culture.

 

Engage by Design is a social enterprise developed through the final Master research of Rodrigo Bautista and Zoe Olivia John in sustainability and design. As a consultancy they specialize in strategic interventions that aim to support the transformation of your product or service into a more sustainable one.

Engage by Design’s research arm intends to act as a platform which enables dialogues and actions between a diverse range of disciplines around sustainability and design.

Rodrigo Bautista – Rodrigo is an Industrial Designer and has worked in many different industries including media, products, services and telecommunications. Today his work focuses on strategic interventions and tools to apply sustainability and design instruments within a company.

Zoë Olivia John – Zoë’s background in Fashion & Textiles has lead her into the research and development of better ways to integrate learning about sustainability for Higher Education students and tutors, particularly within the F&T programme. She is interested in finding new ways to readdress our value structure from one of linear economic quantity to one of circular quality.

Go to Engage by Design

Balance The Kaleidoscope Video

This post comes to you from Engage by Design

What is the Kaleidoscope Project?

Interviews and conversations with experts on sustainability, design and innovation, reflecting theory and generating actions between a diverse range of disciplines including design [product, fashion, graphic, web, architects and interiors], science, art, activists, business, psychology and academia. This project tackles these conversations with two supporting outcomes.

The first is the 5 Kaleidoscope Videos, split into four different values; Balance, Meaning, Innovation and Culture. During each interview we asked how each value is seen and practised today and how they should be practiced in order to move towards a better future. The last video focuses on the tools and skills that we need to get to that better future, acting as a call to arms for designers and professionals about the need for rethink the way we practice our disciplines.

This short film is about Balance.

Engage by Design is a social enterprise developed through the final Master research of Rodrigo Bautista and Zoe Olivia John in sustainability and design. As a consultancy they specialize in strategic interventions that aim to support the transformation of your product or service into a more sustainable one.

Engage by Design’s research arm intends to act as a platform which enables dialogues and actions between a diverse range of disciplines around sustainability and design.

Rodrigo Bautista – Rodrigo is an Industrial Designer and has worked in many different industries including media, products, services and telecommunications. Today his work focuses on strategic interventions and tools to apply sustainability and design instruments within a company.

Zoë Olivia John – Zoë’s background in Fashion & Textiles has lead her into the research and development of better ways to integrate learning about sustainability for Higher Education students and tutors, particularly within the F&T programme. She is interested in finding new ways to readdress our value structure from one of linear economic quantity to one of circular quality.

Go to Engage by Design

ashdenizen: representing the unrepresentable

In this guest post, Kellie Payne, reports on Bruno Latour's recent talk at the Tate.

The French sociologist Bruno Latour gave the keynote address at this month's Tate Britain’s symposium Beyond the Academy: Research as Exhibition. His address considered the environmental crisis as a particular challenge which would require natural history, art museums and academia to join forces. The challenge, he said, was that “climate change is currently unrepresentable”.

In an effort to address this, Latour has embarked on a number of projects. One is the School of Political Arts at the Sciences Po in Paris. The school, which will be formally launched this year, will bring together young professionals in the social sciences and arts to attempt to represent the political problem of climate change. Latour says the school will “not join science, art and politics together, but rather disassemble them first and, unfamiliar and renewed, take them up again afterwards, but differently.”

Latour is also working on establishing a new type of Biennale in Venice, which will incorporate social scientists into artistic production. By bringing together social scientists and artists, Latour wants to address these issues in new ways. He expressed interest in Avatar, calling it the first ‘Gaia’ film, beginning this task of rethinking the ecological crisis and exploring ways of making it representable.

His engagement with climate change includes his participation in the Nordic Exhibition of the year Rethink: Contemporary Art and Climate Change which was staged in Copenhagen during COP15. He contributed to the Rethink exhibition catalogue with the essay “It's Development, Stupid” Or: How To Modernize Modernization. It is a response to Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, Break Through – From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. In this essay, Latour argues that the separation of the subjective from the real into dichotomies such as 'nature' and 'culture' must end. In order to begin to tackle the challenges we are facing, we must acknowledge just how closely human and nature are entwined. He has given a lecture on ‘Politics and Nature’ at the Rethink The Implicit venue at the Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art.

Latour spent most of his Tate talk discussing two of his previous exhibition projects which combined the talents of artists and social scientists. Both exhibits were produced with Peter Weibel at ZKM Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. The first, Iconoclash (2002), which brought together a team of curators, including Hans Ulrich Obrist from the Serpentine Gallery, examined how iconoclasts are represented in art, religion and science. The second, Making Things Public, partnered artists with social scientists to create individual exhibits. The exhibition was centred on a number of themes: Assembling or Disassembling; Which Cosmos for which Cosmopolitics; The Problem of Composition; From Objects to Things; From Laboratory to Public Proofs; The Great Pan is Dead!; Reshuffling Religious Assemblies; The Parliaments of Nature. The exhibition sought to materialise the concept of a ‘Parliament of Things’.

Latour conceptualised his exhibitions as thought experiments, but found the exhibitions themselves to be failures, saying that most of the individual projects within the exhibition failed as works of art. The books that accompanied the exhibitions, in particular, Making Things Public, a large book created after the exhibition, were more successful.

This was one of the themes that emerged from the day at Tate: whether certain exhibitions work better as books. Latour said that working on exhibitions has been one of the most interesting parts of his academic life. Exhibitions, he said, have a different rhythm and intensity of work and creating the ‘thing in the space’ adds to intellectual life. But creating an exhibition must be different to writing. When exhibitions merely illustrate a point, no gain is made.

Latour’s interests have now moved towards ecology and the role of the arts in representing our environmental challenges and the need for artists and social scientists to collaborate on these issues. He said he himself is writing a play on climate change.

Kellie Payne is a PhD student in the Geography department at the Open University researching culture and climate change.

via ashdenizen: representing the unrepresentable.

Illuminating the Science: Art and Climate Change

The vision of climate change provided by the arts complements the analytical information given by the science. The landscape of numbers can be populated by dreams in the form of images, dance or music, leading to a more complete understanding of how our planet works. Join The Earth Institute, Columbia University; the Segal Center; and artists, scientists, and communication experts working across multiple disciplines in an inspirational, informative program to explore present and future connections between the arts and climate change science. In honor of Earth Day. Co-curated by Lisa Phillips.

3 p.m. & 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 22, 2010
Martin E. Segal Theatre. Free!

Afternoon session at 3:00 p.m. will feature:

  • Gavin Schmidt, climatologist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  • Stephen Pekar, geologist, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Queens College, City University of New York
  • Britta Riley, artist, entrepreneur
  • Jeremy Pickard, theatre artist
  • Moderated by Sabine Marx, Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Columbia University.

Evening session at 6:30 p.m. will feature:

  • Klaus Lackner, geophysicist, Earth and Environmental Engineering, Columbia University
  • Katie Holten, visual artist
  • Ajit Subramaniam, biological oceanographer, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University
  • Cynthia Hopkins, performing artist
  • Jon Braman, rapper-songwriter
  • Moderated by Lisa Phillips, Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy, The Earth Institute, Columbia University

Illuminating the Science: Art and Climate Change

Lisa Phillips

is the Assistant Director for the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at the Earth Institute, Columbia University, where she manages programs and funding initiatives for cutting-edge scientific research in alternative energy. She enjoys bringing together artists and scientists to maximize the impact of, and appreciation for, their work. She comes from the nonprofit performing arts sector, where she held roles as a producer, booking agent, general manager, and consultant. She served as the Director of Booking for MAPP International Productions, representing inter/national contemporary dance, theater, and multi-disciplinary artists. www.energy.columbia.edu

Earth is at a critical crossroads. While revolutionary advances in science and technology have lifted humanity to new heights of prosperity and longevity in many parts of the world, hundreds of millions of people are vulnerable to the impacts of hazards and natural disasters, extreme poverty, infectious disease and a host of other challenges. At the same time, human activity, especially in the last 100 years, is threatening the health of the environment and potentially posing risks of unprecedented magnitude to our shared future.

The Earth Institute, Columbia University is the world’s leading academic center addressing the challenges of sustainable development. Our mission is to mobilize the sciences, education and public policy to achieve a sustainable Earth. The Earth Institute’s overarching goal is to help achieve sustainable development primarily by expanding the world’s understanding of Earth as one integrated system. We work toward this goal through scientific research, education and the practical application of research for solving real-world challenges. With 850 scientists, postdoctoral fellows, staff and students working in and across more than 30 Columbia University research centers, the Earth Institute is helping to advance nine interconnected global issues: climate and society, water, energy, poverty, ecosystems, public health, food and nutrition, hazards and urbanization. With Columbia University as its foundation, the Earth Institute draws upon the scientific rigor, technological innovation and academic leadership for which the University is known.

3 p.m. & 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 22, 2010
Martin E. Segal Theatre. Free!