Genresis: Trends and Trajectories within the Art/Science Genre

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Presentation Title:

  • Genresis: Trends and Trajectories within the Art/Science Genre

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Abstract:

  • This panel will address the influence of scientific developments on art and the emergence of themes within the Art/Science genre. Recent work presented at Ars Electronica, SIGGRAPH, and ISEA propose integrations of art with life‑sciences, and nanotechnology. Much of this would not be possible without the scientific advances preceding them. In fact, the resulting artwork often critiques the very technology used in their realization. But to what degree does technology determine the emergence of Art/Science themes and movements? Where does art set the precedent?

    ISEA2010 featured presentations by two major figures in Art/Science research, Roy Ascott and Peter Weibel. Both acknowledged the advance of technology and, particularly, developments in brain research. Weibel proposed that artists might create a non‑sensory art generated by electronic brain‑stimulation. Separately Ascott has long promoted arts/technology/consciousness research, and suggested that art can lead the way where science cannot.

    The years since have seen considerable developments in neuroscience and cognitive research. In 2013 the USA’s Obama administration announced the creation of the BRAIN Initiative – Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies. With funding of $100 million the program will use emerging technologies to record signals from vast numbers of brain cells, even from entire sections of the brain. This reflects large neuroscience ventures elsewhere in Europe, China, Japan and Israel. In a recent article in Scientific American Rafael Yuste and George Church write, “The global consensus that is now propelling investment in brain science recalls other postwar science and technology initiatives focused on pressing national priorities…The Century of the Brain is now upon us.”

    Among current tools for this research are electroencephalography (EEG), functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), emerging nanotechnologies, and optical techniques – such as Optogenetics and Optochemistry – that employ light signals to detect patterns in neural firing. The tools used for sensing neural signals can also be used to stimulate the brain discretely. Researchers have employed optogenetics to “implant” false memories into mice.

    If we relate memory to experience and being, then their creation could conceivably become a disembodied art form as Weibel suggests. When science leaves consideration of the material world to address emotion, identity, and mind it has  indeed entered on ground long held by the arts. Here science could learn from art just as art learns from science. This reciprocity opens up many questions about Art/Science sub‑genres: How do they emerge? To what degree do they depend on technique, cultural influence, or precedent? When are genres defined: by assertion (manifestos), prediction (technological determinism), or when they are recognized in retrospect? What are successful models for collaborations between artists and scientists? How can they negotiate the different processes and methodologies of the disciplines involved? Where are art/sci projects positioned in relation to the mainstream art world? Our panel will seek answers to these questions.

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