[spectre] Arts and Sciences

Jose-Carlos Mariategui jcm at ata.org.pe
Mon Feb 20 00:11:21 CET 2006

Thanks for putting so clear and concrete examples and points to enrich this
In my opinion, the DIY approach reminds me to what happened to computer
technology three decades ago (the Altair and the famous computer clubs), in
that sense DIY biotech could be the first step towards the malleabilization
of Œhard¹ bioscience (the one that is usually hidden inside laboratories).
>From my point of view when this will happen a much more broader debate will
open around the ways of Œdoing science¹ and also, what I find more
compelling, the reasons for doing science.
If art practitioners contribute to this debate it could open deep critical
issues around art-science practice.  In that sense, I am not dismissing the
importance of the art-science relationship, but as we all know, today there
are still very simplistic ways approaches towards this kind of
collaboration: usually arts are not valued by scientists (or they think is a
nice thing to have, merely in esthetic terms, but don¹t realize the
potentialities of its social transformation and critical interpretation); in
other cases, some artists try to get involve in science to make their work
seem 'more serious', more Œscientific¹, or more Œacademic¹; these two
extremes had blurred the immense possibilities of art and science
It is also true that inside science, there exist a very rich discussion.  In
that sense, not only the last 25 years of sociology of scientific knowledge
debate (Latour, Knorr-Cetina, Law, among others) had contributed to open the
Œblack box¹ of science, but also, as you mention, there are some debates
inside science, but we should remind that this debates are prolongations of
the social stance, for example, the concept of progress in evolution or the
discussion about ethics Œafter¹ scientific developments.  In my opinion,
artists¹ contribution here should seek for a link with society (people
awareness, public opinion).
All the best,

on 2/18/06 10:26 PM, Anna Munster at A.Munster at unsw.edu.au wrote:
> Jose,
> You raise some important distinctions that have to do with an approach and
> critical relationship to science within bioart (or indeed within any
> art-science collaboration). Just like any artistic practice there will be
> a range of political relations to the 'object' or 'discousre' with which
> we are collaborating (or dissenting against). This is true of bioart where
> a numbar of artists are simply interestede in gaining access to science in
> order to make beautiful images or objects etc. Then there are more
> oportunistic collaborations in which artists use the space, equipement,
> lab etc to getsome funding but do their own thing. then there are DIY
> approaches etc.
> One of the more interesting strategies to emerge has been that of Critical
> Art Ensemble's 'amateur science'. By engaging with actual biotechnologies
> (although at a rather high school level of biology) and in collaboration
> with sympathetic and radical scientists (they do exist!), CAE create
> performances that engage in the process of demystifying the practices and
> claims of biotechnological corporations and state support of these
> (http://www.critical-art.net/biotech/index.html). CAE claim that amateur
> science can  use scientific techniques to create different knowledge about
> current scientific claims that can then be disseminated to the public.
> This is also the startegy of artists such as Natalie Jeremijenko. In a
> sense this is a DIY approach but it collaborates with scientists and also
> requires the artists involved to become fairly sophisticated users of
> biotechnologies. It also requires the artists to be aware of the history
> and politics of biotech.
> Another approach comes through the Tissue Culture and Art Project
> (http://www.tca.uwa.edu.au/) - an Australian artist group who work within
> an art-science lab in a university in Australia. In order to get into this
> position they have had to buy into the current funding for sciences thrust
> that is part of Australian research culture. However, their position is
> that they are not scientists but are artists who are critically
> questioning the hype, politics and ethics of biotech by engaging with and
> making work that is biotech. One could say they are in a privileged
> position. However, what they have doen with that privilege is to set up an
> entire residency program for international artists to apply for in order
> to come and live and work with the laboratoty. They also hold regular 'wet
> lab' mobile workshops in Australia, UK and US where up to 15 or so artists
> can come and learn some basic biotech, discuss the politics and ethics of
> art-sci work and develop projects.
> So, what I'd like to say here is this - while it is useless to put forward
> a grand plan of art-sci collaboration, it is also uninformed to dismiss
> the art-science relationship. What we need instead are concrete histories
> and discussions about who is doing what, where and why. the debate around
> these issues is really becoming very sophisticated within the bioart
> arena. the Tissue Culture people, for example, do not claim to be
> scientists at all but rather to be creating a critical discussion about
> biotechnology by engaging biotechniques. I also think that we should not
> make blanket statements about science and what scientists do. the life
> sciences, for example, are incredibly contested in terms of framework -
> neo-Darwinists vs. palentologists vs, complexity theorists vs,
> symbioticists etc etc. there is rigorous and heated discussion here and
> there are a lot of scientists 9although not enough) who are radically and
> politically engaged with the practice and politics of contemporary science
> (see, for example the Union of Concerned Scientists
> http://ucsaction.org/ucsaction/home.html).
> Lastly, I agree however, that the area in biotech and in bioart that has
> rarely been thoroughly thought through is that of  biotech and so-called
> developing nations. This is something that could really be a point of
> constestation and intervention for critical art-science intervention.
> Theer's a good interview on why it is that issues of biotech and
> developing nations are always pushed aside by Nikolas Rose
> (http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/bbing/stories/s1539272.htm),
> cheers
> Anna
>> Anna:
>> I see your point but I am not sure if the recent bioart movement has to
> do
>> with the investment in biotechnology on certain countries, specially if
> we
>> define bioart not as a sophisticated laboratory-like approach, but more
> a
>> DIY home-based practice.  It is true that the value of media art is to give
>> a critical dialog around these practices and in that sense is
> interesting
>> the DIY practice versus the formal laboratory practice (and we should
> analyze both their differences as well as their similarities).
>> My point is that if bioart is being developed in counties such as
> Australia,
>> UK, US and Canada are we promoting the DIY approach or just devonting media
>> practice to an elitist realm, or even worst towards a sophisticated
> laboratory formal practice in the arts?   As somebody who came to media
> art
>> from the basic sciences I can tell you that biotechnology is
> fast-growing
>> and has been growing in developing countries for centuries and there are
> also interesting approaches including many DIY practices.  What we
> should
>> do
>> is to promote bioart in those countries (some of them are germplasm-rich
> developing) instead of just focusing in just a small bunch of developed
> countries.
>> Best regards,
>> Jose-Carlos
>> on 2/18/06 2:47 AM, Anna Munster at A.Munster at unsw.edu.au wrote:
>>> 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
> keynote.
>>> 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!
>>> cheers
>>> Anna
>>>> 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
>>>> ______________________________________________
>>>> SPECTRE list for media culture in Deep Europe
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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
>>> Paddington,
>>> NSW 2021
>>> ph: 612 9385 0741
>>> fx: 612 9385 0615
>>> ______________________________________________
>>> SPECTRE list for media culture in Deep Europe
>>> Info, archive and help:
>>> http://coredump.buug.de/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/spectre
> 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
> Paddington,
> NSW 2021
> ph: 612 9385 0741
> fx: 612 9385 0615
> ______________________________________________
> SPECTRE list for media culture in Deep Europe
> Info, archive and help:
> http://coredump.buug.de/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/spectre

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