[spectre] Arts and Sciences

Anna Munster A.Munster at unsw.edu.au
Sat Feb 18 03:47:47 CET 2006

As someone involved in the actual conference (although not writing the
blurb), I'd like to weigh in on this discussion and basically agree with
what Trebor has stated in his post. I think there are specific issues to
do with geographic locale and governmentality that affect the terms and
conditions of the art-science debate.

In particular, I think the issue of funding in an Australian context
(which is where the conference is being hosted) has had a big influence of
where artists are now forced to seek their livelihhood. Similar issues of
funding and research that Trebor has elaborated in his post affect
Australian artists and therefore the relationship of art and science
within Australia.

Big assertions about art-science collaboration are probably useless but we
can certainly say that there has been increased collaboration between
artists and life sciences within the last 5 years - bioart is an emerging
process/genre/movement that indicates this. Interestingly enough, bioart
seems to be coming mainly out of Australia, UK, US and Canada. We don't
need to dig too deep here - all these countries have substantial
goevernement investment in biotechnologies...and of course, there is some
creative capitol spillover when this level of investment occurs and
artists are able to exploit opportunities for limited amounts of time (as
they did during the 1990s in these countries with 'new media').

I think the point is not whether art-sci  is happening but why, how and
what might be done with it. Especially, how can artists within a critical,
reflexive media art tradition deploy these strategies in relation to the
politics of the life sciences...

In addition, although I think the kind of bland blurb for the conference
is not great, I recommend people go in and have a look at the session
descriptions and at who is speaking....for example Steve Kurtz is a
The conference is  reasonably well thought out and does in fact put
artists and scientists in the same space and try to get them to address
each other, although I'm sure everyone is familiar with all the problems
involved there.

However, in the session I'm responsible for –'New Languages' – all the
speakers in fact start from a position that says: " Science and art don't
actually speak the same language, so then what do we mean by
collaboration? What is the mythology created around this idea by using a
'language of collaboration'? Is a 'communication' paradigm useful for
describing art-science working strategies or is there a problem here that
glides over crucial problems of translation, slippage, praxis etc?'. Other
sessions deal with the politics of legitimation ie how do artists use
science to legitimise their work etc. So I think you might find that the
content of this conference is not some kind of generalised crap about
happy art and science people!


> Andreas wrote:
>>(most of the 'gravitation' mentioned here might be coupled with a
>>centrifugal force, in which case it would be interesting to
>>understand who or what is keeping the two, art and science, in each
>>other's orbit.)
> In the face of resource scarcity the arts have a hard time! This is the
> (or at
> least -one) backdrop for the flirt between the arts and sciences. In the
> U.S.
> the business logic of the university moves the largest part of academic
> funding
> to the sciences. Universities see this investment as seed funding to
> attract
> corporate involvement aiming for large-scale profits that so far have
> largely
> not materialized. In light of the absence of much significant cultural
> funding
> outside of academia this trend matters a great deal in Bush country. In
> the
> battle over resources the humanities have no chance of winning and the
> funding
> for these areas of inquiry may increasingly be found only at
> long-established
> niversities who can still afford the luxury. In the context of this
> funding
> dynamic a widespread scientification of the arts kicks in. Cultural
> producers
> battling over grants adapt to science formats. This is not always their
> genuine
> choice. Their work is suddenly framed as 'research' and 'case studies' are
> being
> carried out. A Ph.D. is often necessary to apply for national science
> grants.
> The noticeable interest in practice-based doctoral degrees is more often
> than
> not related to this funding logic. This is at least one rational for the
> centrifugal force that you allude to...
> Trebor
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Dr. Anna Munster
Senior Lecturer,
Postgraduate Co-ordinator
School of Art History and Theory
College of Fine Arts
University of New South Wales
P.O Box 259
NSW 2021
ph: 612 9385 0741
fx: 612 9385 0615

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