Art*Science2017: The report
What happened at Art*Science2017/Leonardo50 for a New History in Bologna
Art*Science – on its first year dedicates to Leonardo “The next fifty,” the most authoritative magazine published by MIT Press, on relationship between art and science. The Journal turned 50, consists of a series of conferences and events on relations between artistic forms and scientific disciplines. This first event, set 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. The “new”, the “innovation”, has its foundations in history, in the past, but can and must revive this legacy in the future, re-invent it, and refocus it through scientific disciplines and technologies.
Art*science is born from an idea by Pier Luigi Capucci (as director of Noema) and the cultural association La Comunicazione diffusa, celebrating the anniversary of Leonardo, that has this year turned 50.
In addition to these two themes, Roger Malina, Executive Editor of Leonardo, has pointed to a third topic, which is being debated internationally, partly also in the Yasmin mailing list: the search of the integration of arts, design and Humanities among the scientific disciplines. This discussion, often referred to as “From STEM to STEAM” (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Design, and Mathematics), rests on the idea of “consilience”, introduced by Wilson in 1968, on the fusion of the modes of knowledge, and it was taken up by Slingerland and Collard in 2011.
What happened in Bologna during art*science2017/Leonardo50?
During art*science2017 in Bologna, Roger Malina has opened the conference inviting us to reflect on the change (a challenge). The executive editor of Leonardo Publications always advances a path of approaches to scientific knowledge that passes through art, a language capable of “making science more intimate, sensual, intuitive”. Malina has re-evoked how fifty years ago a group of artists, scientists, engineers and scholars created the Leonardo Journal. They advocated the use of science and technology in the arts to create artforms that responded to the contemporary situation and collaboration between art science and technology to re-imagine the science and engineering of the future. Also Nina Czegledy explored the collaboration between art and science observing precisely our contemporary and what is happening around the Mediterranean. In a warm weather in Bologna, also Michele Emmer has given us an extraordinary reflection on soap bubbles and the so awesome relationship (“wonderful architectural” combination) between aesthetics and math. Silvia Casini, through the visual culture research, entered a dialogue with STS to investigate the material contexts and practices that make use of computerised visualizations and models.
Very exciting is the artistic project Cabinet that has been presented by Roberta Buiani. Between October 2016 and March 2017, 12 artists active committed in various practices at the intersection of art and science (bioart, kinetic art, electronic art, sound art, visual art) were assigned a series of abandoned cabinets and half-empty spaces located in the proximity of science departments and science laboratories around the University of Toronto St George Campus. The Cabinet project explores and brings to life historical, anecdotal and imagined stories evoked by scientific objects, their surrounding space and the individuals that inhabit them. Another interesting contribution was offered by the scholar Marcella Giulia Lorenzi who presented the European Scenar project: Scientific scenarios and art coordinated by the University of Calabria, where the close relationship between arts and science is highlighted.
The first day of the conference ends with the extraordinary intervention by Bill Seaman who has presented his interesting transdisciplinary research by investigating linguistic and algorithmic mechanisms between arts, computer sciences and neuroscience by presenting the latest project at the Duke Institute for Brain Science. Indeed, the autonomous machine, according to Seaman, can develop completely new aesthetic forms that humans have never considered.
After the recombinant poetics and Informatics by Seaman, Mario Savini mixes not only art and science, but also aesthetic and ethics through the presentation and reflection on the subject of Transgenic Art, reflecting on the forms (and behaviors) of the arts, as well as asking new questions and reflections on the relationship between art, science and life and this process of hybridization as well as new forms of life. Judith Van der Elst leads new initiatives focusing on a biosemiotic approach to art/science collaborations talks about Greenees with focusing in the spatial sciences a greenness index is a well-known statistic to monitor changes in vegetation health at global scale. There are many more signals in the semiosphere that we should learn to interpret. According to Van der Elst this process can only be accomplished from a broad-based, transdisciplinary approach, and bring together the art/sciences within our spatial experiences. Francesco Monico has thrown a provocative meditation on the future as apparatus of power. The future happens after the present, is inevitable due to the unavoidability of the future as the portion of the projected timeline that is anticipated to occur. The future and the past are unreal but is not real to forecast the future. While Charitos Dimitris reflects in the technological advancements that have turned virtual reality technology into a consumer product that may potentially be experienced by millions of individuals. According to Charitos we are living in the second wave of VR in a multi-level and transdisciplinary process, requiring input from several disciplines such as: interaction design, computer graphics, architectural design, cognitive and environmental psychology, visual design. Not only virtual reality, in fact in Bologna the very young Sonia Cannas has talked about the relationship between music and maths. She has discovered in modern music analysis irrational numbers in some musical compositions, in particular Pi and the golden number. Elena Cologni directly from Cambridge in teleconference, she told us about her current research project, focusing for sometime on various ways in which we operate in space and mapping it individually into place, but also socially, and in this process we memorise it in a technology-obsessed era, recollect it, and reactivate it, familiarise with, and revisit it. There was space also for very interesting and exciting moments dedicated to the centers in Europe devoting their research to the relationship between art and science, attending a genuine and rich presentation like that of Celestino Soddu and Enrica Colabella who presented their conference that now reaches 20 years: Generative Art International Conference. Following, Antonella Guidazzoli has presented the virtual project of Cineca di Bologna. She gives us an overview of the most significant projects realized by Vis.I.T. Lab where data, virtual reality and increased bottoming up new and challenging scenarios, even losing balance. Stimulating and renewed interest is the cinema of art and science that collects Serge Dentin from the Polly Magoo association and the desire to unite those two worlds and deliver them to a vast audience, bringing visual, film, video and experimenting. To continue the discourse of these hybrid meetings and crossroads Franco Torriani speaks to us about Pépinières européennes pour jeunes artistes, an association that facilitates and promotes the mobility of young artists in view of their professionalism on European and international scenes. In closing ends with the incredible center presented by Jadwiga Charzynska, Laznia Center for Contemporary Arts, in Gdansk, which showed the catalogs of the latest exhibitions organized in the center. From Stelarc to Bill Vorn etc…
The last but not least is AOS group (Art is Opens Source) by Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico who present their new Kernos project, a map of subjects, places, themes and relations between the arts and the sciences of the Mediterranean, activating a participatory reflection about essence, meaning, values, forms and differences in actions involving arts and sciences in the Mediterranean. Kernos tries to make us understand the possible, positive and constructive implications that come from the possibility of reflecting on the broadening of the visual field. An “almost shamanic” and meditative ritual for the participants of art * science 2017/Leonardo 50 has been the final event with the performance Accelerator, by Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico. Accelerator establishes a poetic and emerging parallel between particle accelerators and the transformation of human communities around the globe due to the advancement of science and technology and the planetary conversations that trigger it. Accelerator was a wonderful concert of science, society and its acceleration with sounds and generative visual elements.
From this acceleration from the particles to the data, art*science2017 has been proposed as fertile soil in which to sow new questions and reflections, but above all that the fruit of collaboration can start from here. There are places where science can provide useful explanations for the humanities and places where the latter cannot, and find out what is a very important task for interdisciplinary consilience. I am sure that this challenge is very hard, but not impossible. May it be the begin for a new history made of geography, disciplines, ideas, projects, relationships, dreams and connections. Especially in Italy it is not simple to follow this path, but we can try to pursue it. Art and Science are so close so far, in this uncertain, but at the same time astonishing interludio where wonderful things happen: an uncharted world, dimension, landscape and undisciplined body (metro-body). We have to keep going to appreciate the sound of the world and its extraordinary beauty that leaves us breathless.