Friday, October 28, 2016

How Art, Science and Technology Interact in Southern California

"Southern California and other large cosmopolitan arenas, as places for cultural intersection and memetic alchemy, are where creative economies best flourish and thus evolve."
Los Angeles is a metropolitan area of 15-million people. The city is a cautionary tale about the price of poor planning and car-centric development. But, it is also a locus of creative problem-solving that is reimagining its own structure and drawing in artists and creatives from the impossible rents of San Francisco and New York. The sheer scale of the hybrid art/science activity in this megalopolis is astounding.

As an example, this video by KCET profiles art/science convergence at The Studio at Jet Propulsion Laboratories,

Notable art/science interactions in Los Angeles include:
Plus smaller collectives and non-profits like:

Art Science Research Laboratory

"Art Science Research Laboratory (ASRL), a New York based, not-for-profit organization, is committed to the creation of intellectual environment and advocacy of interdisciplinary study, encompassing the areas of research, collections and publishing.

Founded in 1998 by Rhonda Roland Shearer and the late Professor Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), ASRL provides a unique setting where art historians, scientists, artists, designers, and programmers work together. Everyone is encouraged to contribute ideas, participate in a dynamic environment, and challenge the outdated but still prominent structures of practices in the arts, sciences, and humanities."

ArtScience Labs

"Le Laboratoire Cambridge is an interdisciplinary culture lab that invites visitors to explore the experiments and wonders of innovative artists, designers, chefs, and more discovering at the frontiers of science. 
Founded in Paris in 2007 by inventor, material scientist, and Harvard Professor David Edwards, Le Laboratoire now lives in Cambridge as the flagship of ArtScience Labs, a global organization dedicated to radical idea development."
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Le Laboratoire is part of a larger effort at art/sci convergence for cultural change called, Artscience Labs.
"Culture labs conduct or invite experiments in art and design to explore contemporary questions that seem hard or even impossible to address in more conventional science and engineering labs."
"Many of the questions that we face today — questions of innovation, of change — are not really questions we can deal with in a classical science lab."

"Labs are places of experience. We enter to explore. Each minute in a functioning lab is like a page of a smart novel that loses meaning without reference to what came before and is about to follow. 
Art, like science, is such an experience, and, yet, we encounter art and science in our museums more frequently as outcome, as product – dug up, carved down, highly edited – that follows a mysterious process of creative thought and engagement... 
At The Laboratory, we look for novel ideas of art and design that cannot be properly formulated without a sustained encounter with a pioneering edge of science. We then help broker encounters between artists and scientists that permit concrete idea formulation. Once ideas are formulated, we invest in development of the experimental projects that result. In this way, artscience, the process of creative thought that synthesizes esthetic and analytical methods, becomes a catalyst for innovation and the basis for partnership."
ArtScience Labs includes an educational program called the ArtScience Prize, a global "catalyst for student learning through passionate pursuit of innovative art and design ideas at the cutting edge of science...the ArtScience Prize [is] an interdisciplinary education program that supports young people as they explore and develop groundbreaking ideas around an annual scientific theme, seek[ing] to prepare the next generation of innovators."

2013-14 Boston ArtScience Prize from ArtScience Prize on Vimeo.

The winners of all the ArtScience Prize programs are invited to the annual ArtScience Labs Annual Innovation Workshop, which is like a Silicon Valley development incubator.

2015 ArtScience Innovation Workshop from ArtScience Prize on Vimeo.

More videos from ArtScience Labs on Vimeo and Youtube 1 | 2.
Books on ArtScience by David Edwards:


"Stories, of course, are an easy thing to love. They’re how we understand the world… how we pass information from person to person." -- Hank Green
The second annual Nerdcon:Stories took place in Minneapolis on October 14-15, 2016.

Nerdcon:Stories is a multi-disciplinary convention celebrating the socially transformative power of narrative. The convention is organized by Hank and John Green, successful science populizers and YouTube vloggers. Their output includes Crash Course, SciShow, the Brain Scoop, and many other channels and series which have garnered the brothers over 650-million views and 3-million subscribers.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Social Sculpture and Climate Change

Like politics, science supports a position. They both have an opinion, though arising out of very different sources.

Politics is a reflection and harnessing of public opinion: the aggregate of individual attitudes or beliefs held by a population for whatever reason. Scientific opinion, on the other hand, "harnesses the opinions of many different scientific organizations and entities and individual scientists in the relevant field, and is ultimately based on observation": that is, what is empirically demonstrable. The thing to note here, is that--unlike political consensus--once scientific consensus is reached and knowledge has been created from data, that doesn't mean there has actually been any connection made to public opinion, nor to the mechanisms of social change. Art can fill this disconnect, and has frequently been used by politicians as a tool to effect change in the working of the world.

As an example,  Soviet communist party leaders "depicted the United States as a cultural black hole and cited their own significant culture as evidence that they were the inheritors of the European Enlightenment". The Congress for Cultural Freedoms was organized, operated and funded by the CIA to promote American Abstract Expressionism to Europeans in the 1950's as a superior counterpoint to Soviet agitprop art. This covert operation was enthusiastically supported by New York's MOMA and the Ford Foundation. The CIA, acting secretly due to public and Congressional hostility to modern art, funded numerous traveling European exhibitions, symphonies, and many magazines that provided a platform for favorable art criticism. The aftermath of WWII was a not just a military Cold War, but also a cultural one, fought for the hearts and minds of the European intelligentsia. The fascinating and unsettling full story of the CIA and modern art is told in at least two books and a documentary, Hidden Hands (watch Episode 2 here), by Frances Stonor Saunders. Read Chapter 1 of The Cultural Cold War here.

In fact, the CIA still maintains a collection of important modern art used for agent training.
"We’ll have some of our guys and gals come down here and do a critical analysis of the paintings. Say you’ve got to analyze this big, heavy duty ISIL problem over here — maybe if you come look at the painting, it’ll help you think about how to solve the ISIL problem creatively."
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With climate change emerging as the primary global social problem of the Anthropocene geological era, and a massive obsession of the scientific world, it is startling and alarming that politics is not bending art to address this unprecedented challenge. As Bill McKibbon said, "...though we know about it, we don’t know about it. It hasn’t registered in our gut; it isn’t part of our culture. Where are the books? The poems? The plays? The goddamn operas?" Science can't offer this.

In the absence of political support (and funding), artists often seek to make cultural change on their own.
"There are experts in little things, but there are no experts in big things. All of us, no matter what we do, have the right to make moral decisions about the world....Everyone must be involved. -- Rachel Schragis 
The historian says [of war], "It's not my business." The lawyer says, "It's not my business." The businessman says, "It's not my business." And the artist says, "It's not my business." Then whose business is it? Does that mean you are going to leave the business of the most important issues in the world to the people who run the country? How stupid can we be? Haven't we had enough experience historically with leaving the important decisions to the people in the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court, and those who dominate the economy?...It is the job of the artist to...think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare to say things that no one else will say. " -- Howard Zinn
Art was supposed to change things … after studying art history, you realize that’s not always the case, but I love that spirit about what art is supposed to be. Art is part of our larger world so it’s not just by itself trying to do that … yeah, so art does change things.” -- Kellie Jones, Curator and Art Historian
Operating, as we do, on the front-lines of climate change, field stations and marine labs do well to engage with and support artists who are interested in the same things we are.