Art & Science

Ever since I opened the video art section at the Ecole Nationale Supèrieure des Arts Decoratifs, I have been involved in the discussion around art and science.  Many of the conferences I organized like Prague and Bellagio were specifically on that topic.

The art of my generation engaged with the new tools of electronic technology as they appeared; It took on the job of testing their artistic potential to see how art could enter into that new space of electronic communication, pushing their capacity for artistic expression rather than allowing them to remain in the superficial and intellectually stultifying mode of contemporary media.

Working with the ideas and products of science and technology has led many contemporary artists to a deeper examination of science in order to understand the why and wherefore of our current situation.  How does what we know intellectually about the world through science lead us to a better understanding of it?  As a teacher of video art in the ‘70’s and founder of the first media art department in Europe – a program without curricula – I was myself forced to turn to science to better understand my chosen technical environment and, by extension, the collective worldview proposed by science.  As a professor of a practically non-existent art form, I was obliged to find a logic and a philosophical base for work in that area, hopefully to be able to give to my students some semblance of order, continuity, in human creativity in the later half of the 20th century.

This was a time when creativity had begun to appropriate more and more of the products of modern technology as well as the ideas that science proposed. Science became the matter of art and the collective worldview of science a subject of artistic reflection. That brushing of shoulders with science led to a deeper understanding of the philosophical parallels between the two as they redefined our understanding of how the world works and our representations of it.

It has been clear to me for some time that we are in a period of radical transformation, a period, while proceeding from the past, is breaking with it in profound ways and charting new directions.  As in all historical periods of change, many of the same basic philosophical questions are being posed anew; the constitution of matter and the universe, objectivity versus subjectivity, continuity versus discontinuity, man and society, the role of art, the role of science, the definition of truth.

During periods of radical change the total intellectual and creative energies of humanity, expressed in art and science, become mobilized in the search for new exits from the impasse.  It can be said that such periods demand a rapprochement between these two poles of knowledge.  The result is that we find ourselves in a particularly interesting moment in history, accompanied by extreme difficulty as witnessed by our past history, but demanding and exciting in its potential.

During such change, the givens around us, the concrete manifestation of the world and its inhabitants, do not change.  Our perception of them does and in this both the artist and the scientist play preponderate roles.  One of my nterests has been to explore those roles, to see how the worldviews of the artist and the scientist enter into the collective subjectivity of man to become the objective representation of reality.  This leads to a different attitude toward the work of the scientist – less absolute but more creative than in the past, and a redefinition of the role of the artist – closer to that of a researcher, which is knowing.

This exploration has led to the development of my own worldview which I am attempting to share with others to advance the debate on the open question of current condition of society, which I define as a new renaissance with all its attendant consequences.  I am interested in all forms of art from other eras and cultures, but particularly in the work of contemporary artists using the tools of three of today’s converging technologies, video, informatics and telecommunication.  At the same time, however, I relate that to the roots of human tool-making to link the earliest expression of what might be called art and finding its origin in the mechanics of perception.