Technological Art and Innovation Dialogues


Session Title:

  • Art – Science Relations

Presentation Title:

  • Technological Art and Innovation Dialogues




  • A critical mass of technological art is now visible through international exhibitions, public interventions, symposia, and specialized academic programs. At the same time, many nations are redefining the terms of technological innovation in ways that include funding technological art in their programs. These include:

    1. a shift in focus among many European countries from efficiency and expertise-based economies to creativity-fueled economies;
    2. institutional discussion in the U.S. of an expansion of the traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculums to STEAM (STEM plus arts) curriculums; and
    3. world-wide initiatives to establish IT-enabled creative clusters as a basis for innovation.

    Yet when it comes to articulating the relationships between art and technology within such institutional contexts, we are often left with a focus on the “aesthetic”, “humanistic”, and “creative” contributions of art practice to technological innovation. In this talk I argue that these institutions would benefit from more complex articulations of the relationships between art and technology. Technological art amplifies certain characteristics of postmodern art, specifically its tendencies toward destabilization, experience-based interaction, and contextual contingency. In contrast, technological engineering foregrounds stabilization over its more destabilizing aspects. The practice of engineering is to stabilize natural forces so that they act reliably within a device. This emphasis on stabilization extends beyond technological reliability to social and cultural stabilization as well, so that when we are acting within a reliable threshold of a technology, be it a bridge or an iPhone, we are also stabilizing reliable cultural practices. Technological art acts outside of these reliable thresholds, thus inverting the stabilizing mission of technology and foregrounding its destabilizing tendencies.

    Truly incorporating interdisciplinary art and technology practice into institutional contexts means admitting the dynamics of stabilization and destabilization within the dialogues of innovation. By allowing technological art to be a churn in the system instead of a well-behaved contributor to sunny-day scenarios of creativity and innovation, we open up new dialogues about what technology is and can be. Such dialogues would come as these institutions face the challenges of climate change, increasing competition for world resources, and a generation of innovations involving populations existing beyond first world commercial agendas.

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