art*science 2017/Leonardo 50. A supernova that lights a new history
Art and science is a stumbling block. What really binds these two worlds apparently so far from each other, but actually so close, is an asterisk. In mathematical language this mark means a link. art*science was born this year in Bologna from an idea by Pier Luigi Capucci (as director of Noema) and has been organized by Noema and the cultural association La Comunicazione diffusa, celebrating the anniversary of Leonardo, that has this year turned 50.
art*science 2017/Leonardo 50 – in this first year dedicated to Leonardo “The next fifty,” the most authoritative magazine published by MIT Press, which has turned 50, on relationship between art and science. It consists in a series of conferences and events on relations between artistic forms and scientific disciplines. This first event in Bologna has the theme of “The New and the History”, that is, the relationship between two seemingly oppositional concepts that can and must live together. This legacy in the future, re-invent it, and refocus it through scientific disciplines and technologies. We think that this can be a key element in a country like Italy with such a huge cultural heritage. art*science will also be the occasion to meet and share ideas among the participants in the Yasmin mailing list, supported by UNESCO, Leonardo and Noema, on relations between art and science, which involves the participation of scholars, artists, scientists, teachers and operators in the Mediterranean basin.
art*science 2017/Leonardo 50, sponsored by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism (MIBACT), Leonardo/ISAST, Guglielmo Marconi Foundation, Complexity Festival, Rome, becomes an important international conference on relations between artistic and scientific disciplines. art*science 2017/Leonardo 50 has tried to reflect on the idea of ”new”. What is the “new”, what is the meaning of “new” and innovation? “The New and the History” suggests an intense relationship because both the “new” and the “innovation” have their foundation in history, in the past, but they can and must revive this legacy in the future by re-enacting it through art, scientific disciplines and technologies. These three days in Bologna have been strong and “hot”. Here we have tried to think about the next 50 years (Next fifty) with the theme “New and History”, two concepts that are (still with great difficulty) trying to co-exist.
To reflect on this hybrid territory is not simple, but it is precisely in this complex uncertainty that a new way of conceiving relationships can grow and live. There have been many questions and inputs that have reassured the great pot of complexity. Many speakers have mixed ingredients, others have offered recipes, and others have tried to give some answers, others have provoked or even hesitated on more and more important issues for our present-future. To break the seal was Roger Malina (physicist, astronomer and director of Leonardo Pubblications), who outlined the rich prospect of the first 50 years evoking the importance of contamination between art, sciences and technologies, re-imagining even the future of sciences. This new “research community” can lead to the involvement of both universities and civil society to reflect on the intimate and delicate union between two such great, wonderful and stimulating spheres. Malina spoke of an ethics of curiosity (and its limits). An ethichs of social, cultural, collective curiosity enacted, and even embodied. According to Roger Malina, many scientists to the question, if there is an ethics of curiosity, they would answer no. On the contrary, many artists would say yes. Malina argues that while scientific curiosity is pure, aimed at understanding ourselves and the world around us, art is inclined to believe that curiosity poses intrinsically an ethical issue. While the scientific ethos adheres to the universality of its discoveries, to the impersonality of the results, the impartiality of the research, the curiosity of artists is social, collective and cultural relevant, and it is embedded to human beings. According to Roger Malina there is no need for a third culture, but at the same time we now live in a situation of ‘networked knowledge’ and our institutional and social organization often makes it difficult to create the conditions of interesting interaction between art and sciences. And innovation and creativity theories tell us that we need to deploy the whole panoply of different approaches in inter-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary practices .
However, he recommends the need for creative dissent – a cluster that is confrontation, integration, dialogue – for anyone working in the artistic, scientific and technological fields. Just curiosity could be reconsider as a “core” where artists and scientists can open new scenarios through reflections and researches on new sensitivities, plural corporeity in a more and more full of data and increasingly empty of meaning world. In this contradiction, we should start and regenerate a change in the direction of a collaboration between artists and scientists for a ethics of curiosity (perhaps). According to Malina, we are still living in the stone age of data visualization. We receive so much information and feelings about the world through mediated data, but it is so primitive compared to human perception and its ability to integrate multimodal sensory interactions with the world. All this leads to the need to form the insight on mediated sensory data, a design, as well as an interaction with simulation systems, virtual, augmented reality. Finally, we need to give meaning to the immensity of the data (Big Data) and to make “intimate science, as art begins to impose on/with scientific tools for “new ontologies”, “new intuitions” and “new sensualities”. We currently live in a tele-surveillance world. More and more, our environment and ourselves are observed and monitored. According to Malina, we are living in a world of tele-surveillance; more and more our own environment and ourselves too are being observed and monitored. There is a proliferation of new devices and technologies that are used by ourselves, for instance for medical examinations of our bodies, or by others to observe and control our behaviours. These devices are also used to observe the universe and the earth, and allow us to understand and even predict the dynamics and processes at work. Our ideas about privacy are evolving, as well as the systems of intellectual property. Massive data bases are being accumulated in all fields of human activity as well as observations of the world. Some of this data is openly accessible, most of it is in closed archives. There are large inequities both in data collection and data access depending on how individuals and groups find themselves in different situations across the digital divides.
We are living in a dangerous time, and in an age of endangered species, says Malina. The impact of the human population on the earth’s eco-system is causing a variety of anthropogenic changes, from climate change to eco-system transformation. A possible answer could either be one of catatrophism, or one of cultural transformation to learn to manage the planet and maintain an equilibrium that allows sustainable development. The need for an “intimate science” that involves billions of people in understanding the world around them and their impact on it. The free access to data and the duty to collect data are part of this necessary cultural transformation.
Science and technology are related cultures – and no longer autonomous disciplines – able to share, and be shared, by the same media. With his work, Malina is therefore proposing to help bring science out of what the astrophysicist calls “ghettos of experts” in order to overcome the cult of “stagnant compartments” that prevent the free circulation of a culture as widespread knowledge to all disciplines of knowledge. In other words, Malina recalls a sort of Transformational Renaissance, where there are already many contributing art-science and art-technology artists, while opening innovation initiatives, distance learning networks, and other shared resource movements are leading to new methods of learning and research in the digital age. The right to data and the duty to collect them are part of this necessary cultural transformation. According to Malina, today we are in possession of the knowledge necessary to create. Another inspirational and innovative concept is the Open Observatories developed by Malina, which aims to disseminate tools, techniques, data and knowledge for the development of projects at the intersection between science and humanism. Observatories will allow the development of knowledge locally generated to foster the evolution needed to tackle the inexorable changes that are taking place. Transdisciplinarity in this sense can help us understand how to stimulate this contamination, reflecting, for example, on the use and approach to biomedical technologies, nanosciences, smart materials, climate change (increasingly compromised in recent years) and biodiversity. In other words, new media and technology-enabled forms of art become per-formative art.