Art, Science and the Invisible World We Live In

Moderated by Melentie Pandilovski and Andrés Burbano

** Session Video **

Time

Los Angeles, USA Fri, May 28, 2021 at 1:00 pm PDT     
Denver, USA Fri, May 28, 2021 at 2:00 pm MDT     
Chicago, USA Fri, May 28, 2021 at 3:00 pm CDT     
New York, USA Fri, May 28, 2021 at 4:00 pm EDT     
London, UK Fri, May 28, 2021 at 9:00 pm BST     
Vienna, Austria Fri, May 28, 2021 at 10:00 pm CEST 
Tokyo, Japan Sat, May 29, 2021 at 5:00 am JST  
Sydney, Australia Sat, May 29, 2021 at 6:00 am AEST

Art, Science, and the Invisible World We Live In is a 60-minute SPARKS online Zoom discussion that brings together artists & scientists, and others involved in the discourses around concrete projects and collaborations. The speakers will present their most recent thoughts and questions relating to a plethora of issues in the intersection of arts and science. 

  • It will feature 9 selected artists and thinkers presenting ideas and artworks at the unusual intersection of arts and science. 
  • Following the presentations of the five-minute lightning talks, the zoom audience is encouraged to engage in a moderated discussion.
Moderators

Dr Melentie Pandilovski is a Phenomenologist, Art Theorist/Historian, Curator. His research deals with examining the links between art, culture, science/technology. He is Director of Riddoch Arts and Cultural Centre in Mount Gambier, South Australia. He has curated more than 200 projects including SEAFair (Skopje Electronic Art Fair 1997 – 2011), Laika the True Story, Within the Frame of Refresh, Web Page Design Project, VRML/Web3D Art, etc. He is author of Arts & Science – the Intersection (re)engineered in: “A Companion to Curation, Wiley Blackwell (2019); The Phenomenology of (Non) Habitual Spaces for the Bioarts in: “Naturally Postnatural”, Catalyst Series (2017), “How biotechnology and society co-constitute each other”, Technoetic Arts Journal, Intellect Ltd. (2012); “On Modes of Consciousness(es) and Electronic Culture”, In Glimpse, San Diego, 2000. He has edited Marshall McLuhan & Vilém Flusser Communication & Aesthetics Theories Revisited” (2015); Energy, Biopolitics, Resistance Strategies and Cultural Subversion (2012), The Apparatus of Life and Death (2011), Art in the Biotech Era (2008). Consultant editor of Artlink’s “Bio Art: Life in the Anthropocene” (2014). He took part in numerous Net-Time, Syndicate, Spectre initiatives.

Andrés Burbano is Associate Professor in the Department of Design at Universidad de los Andes, in Bogota, Colombia. Burbano holds a PhD in Media Arts and Technology from the University of California Santa Barbara, and is visiting professor at the Danube University in Krems, in Austria, and the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, in Germany. “Burbano, originally from Colombia, explores the interactions of science, art and technology in various capacities: as a researcher, as an individual artist and in collaborations with other artists, designers, scientists, and engineers. Burbano’s work ranges from documentary video (in both science and art), sound and telecommunication art to the exploration of algorithmic cinematic narratives. The broad spectrum of his work illustrates the importance, indeed the prevalence, of interdisciplinary collaborative work in the field of digital art.” 

Abstract

Arts and science seem to be human endeavors removed far away from each other. Although, a common question of both the arts and sciences has been interpreting the unseen world. Further on, motifs, metaphors, and models are shared between the arts and sciences. Historically, as pointed out by Arthur I. Miller in Einstein and Picasso√, parallelisms between arts and sciences go a long way back and can be traced in our modern times in the well‐known cases of Picasso and Braque coming up with the concept of Cubism, and Einstein with the concept of Relativity, in the first decade of the twentieth century. Einstein was well aware that the most outstanding scientists are artists as well. The influence of Jules Henri Poincaré’s Science and Hypothesis (1902) on the artists of the age, and especially the chapters on the origins of geometry, seem to tell us that the origins of Cubism are not entirely rooted in the arts. Still lurking in the depths are some of the most challenging and unresolved questions arising from the breakdown of communications in society, such as the relationship between the arts and the sciences, which has plagued humanity throughout the more significant part of the twentieth century. 

This was described by C.P. Snow as the rift between the two cultures, in his celebrated 1959 lecture series of that title, with the exception that Snow saw in this breakdown a chance for humanity: The clashing space of two subjects, two disciplines, two cultures, – of two galaxies, so far as that goes – ought to produce creative chances. In the history of mental activity, that has been where some of the breakthroughs came. The possibilities are there now. But they are there, as it were, in a vacuum, because those in the two cultures can’t talk to each other. It is bizarre how very little of twentieth-century science has been assimilated into twentieth-century art. (C.P. Snow 1959). Since then, we have moved on a fair bit, and there truly have been remarkable Arts & Science collaborations. Phenomenology demands the reinterpretation of the world as we interact with it through an immediate experience. It insists on the same demand for awareness and the same will to seize the meaning of the world as that meaning comes into being. The intersection of science and art finds good use of the accounts mentioned earlier and one of the fundamental characteristics of phenomenology, making a distinction between appearance and essence. Merleau‐Ponty’s conception that phenomenology is the study of essences resounds very well with arts – sci artworks. 

We are interested to find out:

  • What are the challenges to creating Arts & Science artworks today?
  • Where are Arts & Science Collaborations headed?
  • Is C.P. Snow’s perspective outdated, as believed by US Bio-Artist Joe Davis, who thinks the two can no longer be absolutely separated? 
Presenters
  1. Arthur I. Miller
  2. Laura Elidedt Rodriguez Torres
  3. Joe Davis
  4. Pat Badani
  5. Janina Hoth
  6. Gary Cass
  7. Gina Czarencki
  8. Niki Sperou
  9. Paul Rosero
Presenter Projects
  1. Arthur I. Miller – Visualising the Invisible
    A goal of the interplay between art, science and technology is to visualise the invisible world beyond our sense perceptions. I will discuss how, independently of each other, Einstein and Picasso, with help from Poincaré, approached this problem. Then I will go on to Niels Bohr, quantum physics and Cubism, and conclude with present-day AI-created art in which AI and art fuse.
    http://www.arthurimiller.com/
  2. Laura Elidedt Rodriguez Torres – TransPlant: Becoming plant a project with decellularized leaves
    By decellurazing the vegetal tissue, the installation “Becoming plant” exposes the transparency and fragility surrounding notions of identity and its relationship to body image and form..  The work is built upon the biotechnological process of decellularizing biological materials. By removing living cells from their original cellular structure, the work uses this process as a metaphor to represent the deconstruction of form through technoscientific interventions. Upon the completion of the decellularization process, the constructs could be seeded with cultured cells taken from animals or humans. The artist views this process of reclaiming these botanical biological forms as however, the work takes a critical stance on the transformation just by figures, this acquisition also extends to the essence of the original materials and function.  Following the philosophies of  Deleuze and Guattari this type of , “becoming-” is not one of imitation or analogy, but instead, it is generative of a new way of being that is a function of influences rather than resemblances. In principle, this act of becoming-other expands on our notion of the confines inside bodies and bodie’s materials by extending meaning through the incorporation of the subjective qualities of other-lifes.The “Becoming Plant” project is a speculative experiment and ritual that attempts to reframe the opposition between artificial and natural realities and rethink the inviolacy of borders between human and plant bodies.
    https://ibtlaurart0.wixsite.com/mysite/project-01
  3. Joe Davis – Baitul Ma’mur : Bridging Invisible Worlds
    [Please note that this is a project I have carried out with Sarah Khan (Peshawar, Pakistan), Kyle Cromer (Stanford), George Church (Harvard), and others]. A centuries old tradition involves the practice of making angels by uttering a certain phrase in Arabic. According to this tradition, there is no limit to the number of angels which can be generated in this way, and it makes no difference how the phrase is iterated, whether it is spoken, written, or caused to be printed. The phrase is “Subhan Allah” (سبحان الله), which roughly translates to the word, “Hallelujah” in English. Using technology to reliably synthesize DNA and a new technique for high-density data storage, we have repeated this phrase (linked to creation of angels) in several simultaneous layers of informational symmetry on the head of a straight pin. In this way, the 0.75mm head of an average straight pin can hold over two hundred million billion angels. This work explores new forms of information keeping in DNA that can articulate nested geometries of Islamic art in biological form. We hope our gesture of generating so many angels may provide comfort in the times of a pandemic that has claimed millions of lives. This has also been a performance in bridge building, between art, mathematics, science, and spirituality across multiple expressions. We see humanity as one tribe, confronting the accumulating toll of human impacts on our shared environment and the problematic nature of our “best intentions,” behind which all too often lurk terribly violent and destructive impulses that continue to threaten humanity.
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/6rs7qhtyvngf6yo/Baitu_Ma_mur_House_of_Angels.mp4?dl=0
  1. Pat Badani – Work Plans and Creative Chances
    This proposal centers on my recent work – an Artist’s Book titled “Comestible 7-Day Meal Plan: Food as Text”. Through my lens as artist/citizen scientist and with the intention of making visible the unseen world behind food cultivation, production, and consumption, the work takes on questions about the unique ontological and ethical challenges concerning a looming ecological collapse. Motifs, metaphors, and models from the arts and sciences are interwoven. For example, the editorial design alludes to instruction manuals and to scientific papers in that I take certain conventions –like periodic tables– to transmit the view of a laboratory exploration, or a biology cabinet. Then, mining Hellenic astrology, the days of the week relate to planets in the solar system (Saturn: Saturday; Sun: Sunday…) to expand the connection from the micro to the macro: how a plate of food contains a universe of registers—cultural, social, political, economic, ecological…. Further, content is organized under headings commonly found in pharmaceuticals (rather than cookbooks): Ingredients, Instructions, Uses, Warnings, intimating that food is seen as a prescription for health. These headings give way to geopolitical, environmental, medical, labor, and economic narratives that playfully review the search for the good life as defined by market-centered ideologies and the policies and measures that help their functioning.My ‘plan’ was not to just say something about ingredients on the dinner plate, but rather to bring into one realm all the human, natural and sidereal resources necessary for sustenance to be available every time, every day, throughout thousands of years, cultures, and lives.

    http://www.patbadani.net/pro_comestible_7_day_meal_plans_1.html
  2. Janina Hoth – Innovation as Rationale in Art and Technology Collaborations. A case study on the Aspen Movie Map
    Interdisciplinary education and research became an important factor for innovation in science and technology since the 1940s/50s. In the US, MIT was an important institution in this development. Its Architecture Machine Group (ArcMac) was established as one of the first art and technology labs in 1967. Artists like Michael Naimark and Rebecca Allen would work side by side with engineers, animators, and graphic designers. This interdisciplinary research approach and the collaborative practices that resulted from it created a network of agency between the various intentions and goals of all stakeholders. Research projects could be commercial enterprises, art installations, and innovative technology all at the same time. In this paper, I investigate these diverse agencies of interdisciplinary research by analyzing art installations, interviews, and publications from the team members as well as the historicization of the project Aspen Movie Map in art history and history of technology.  While team members had different approaches to interpreting the project, scholars would contextualize the project in socio-cultural developments of the late 1970s. My analysis will show how intricately artistic practice and engineering were connected for this innovative project. I will particularly question how the role of the artists and humanists changed in this research environment.Interdisciplinary education and research became an important factor for innovation in science and technology since the 1940s/50s. In the US, MIT was an important institution in this development. Its Architecture Machine Group (ArcMac) was established as one of the first art and technology labs in 1967. Artists like Michael Naimark and Rebecca Allen would work side by side with engineers, animators, and graphic designers. This interdisciplinary research approach and the collaborative practices that resulted from it created a network of agency between the various intentions and goals of all stakeholders. Research projects could be commercial enterprises, art installations, and innovative technology all at the same time. In this paper, I investigate these diverse agencies of interdisciplinary research by analyzing art installations, interviews, and publications from the team members as well as the historicization of the project Aspen Movie Map in art history and history of technology.  While team members had different approaches to interpreting the project, scholars would contextualize the project in socio-cultural developments of the late 1970s. My analysis will show how intricately artistic practice and engineering were connected for this innovative project. I will particularly question how the role of the artists and humanists changed in this research environment.
  1. Gary Cass – The invisible world of microbial soft machine bio-synthesisers
    Evolution is the future. The future is an advancing pathway… And it is time to travel this evolutionary highway. Fashion based on a perpetual quest for change – is cyclic in nature (Lipovetsky, G., 2006). The technique of the invisible microbial world for future fashion is a way to evolve, not revolve! The use of living microbes to ferment material challenges pre-existing relationships between body – garment – environment. Fashion beyond its economic drive can reflect the social, cultural and political circumstances in a capitalistic society. To try and make sense of these new fashions with its ‘Beauty of the Grotesque’ is where science meets art meets fashion.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gv7ktspZXII
  1. Gina Czarencki – After Heirloom
    The art work ‘Heirloom’ was specifically made to address what we leave of value what do people inherit from us. In heirloom myself and John are co-authors; a mutual creative collaboration that had different values to both of us. Over the last year the value of art and trans-disciplinary collaboration has never been more evident but we are now faced with the UK Government plans to cut funding for art and design courses by 50% across higher education institutions in England and prioritise funding towards the provision of high-value subjects that support the NHS… STEM subjects science, technology, engineering and mathematics… the claim is that the A’ is integrated into all of these.
    https://www.ginaczarnecki.com/heirloom
  1. Niki Sperou – Finding fertile soil; laying down roots between art and science
    Empirical experience as the artist in residence at the Flinders University, Department of Medical Biotechnology and the Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development, since 2006, will be the focus of this talk. What has developed is a rhizomic mutualism rooted in trust. The focus will be upon the challenges and cultural shifts that have occurred during this time. In particular, the impact that culture, duration, funding, and personality have had upon navigating within this space. Rather than the reductive perspective that held sway in the modern biological sciences, the current trend is toward a systems approach. This can be viewed as a metaphor for the growing cultural trend toward cross-disciplinary endeavor. Conceptually multilayered and metaphors for broader biopolitical concerns, the resulting artworks, simultaneously reflect the politics of working within a cross-disciplinary environment. During the residency it was determined; interdisciplinary research between art and science has value; good ideas can come from anywhere; evidence is developed in stages and via novel connections; multiple forms of evidence are useful; collaboration facilitates change. Both science and art can benefit from an inclusive milieu where observation, anecdotal, qualitative and quantitative research are valued.
    http://nikisperou.com
  1. Paul Rosero – Cacti Assemblage
    For this talk, Rosero Contreras will bring some of his research projects related to biodegradation and the production of hybrid objects. These projects put together notions of DIY biotechnology, environmental recovery and new materialism. His work adopts a wide framework including perspectives ranging from contemporary anthropology to indigenous thought.
    http://paulrosero.com/
References

Joe Davis says: Like science, Art is a quest for knowledge. Few recall that for thousands of years, art was a principal instrument used by Homo sapiens to undertake the Apollonian search for secrets of God and nature. Only in recent centuries have special injunctions been adopted which proscribe artistic activities that might be confused with research and scientific inquiry. Students of art in our own era will generally have no idea that artists contributed to the invention of mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, physics and biology. This constructed separation of art and science has left little room for individuals who work outside contemporary frameworks of thought and language. Scholars of the humanities now acknowledge that this separation of arts and sciences was an artificial one perpetuated by centuries of history that turned metaphysics into the foundation of all things artistic. Yet, the machinery of this historical artificiality and its categories has assumed a kind of de facto reality. Until we can learn to think without the modern classifications of art and science, it will be difficult to encounter borderlines, interspaces and hybrids. 

Another view has been suggested by the British artist Gina Czarnecki, who has suggested there never was a gap, but just the perception of one (Science, technology, culture, innovation and their associated socio‐political drivers are inter‐related and there is an increased acknowledgement of the mutual evolution and the spaces between.)

Gary Cass, Australian biologist turned artist, is absolutely convinced that most of the world’s universities, the bastion of all knowledge, have recognized the value of cross‐disciplinary research, and that includes the arts and sciences crossovers, focusing on artistic and scientific creativity.

As motifs, metaphors, and models are shared between the arts and sciences, a large part of the public representation of science plays a crucial role in the wider interaction between sciences and the arts. Eugene Thacker tells us that “molecular biology is one field that consistently shows that metaphors matters”, primarily referring to the metaphor of information as applied to the living, and the resultant ways in which we increasingly come to regard life as defined by and through information. Iina Hellsten discusses the “politics of metaphors,” focusing on metaphors as flexible tools of making sense of the world and communicating these views to others.

Peter Weingart points to the historical evolution in society of both mass media, and the sciences, both of which have their own logic, yet in contemporary society they are becoming interwoven. All, however, vie for their structural possibilities, and the deciphering of their ontological reasons for being, which results in different actions being taken, and evolving metaphors being used for the scientific and public discourses. 

Keep in touch with the ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Arts Community Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/acm.siggraph.digital.arts.community/

ZOOM:  https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYode2pqjsqGtNTINABcVQ2k3wCSHYObsc3