ART/SCI NEXUS PRESENTS
9 Evenings Revisited: In Theory, as in Practice…
In the style of avant-garde theater, improvisational orchestra, with a hint of Actionist sensibilities, 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, opened to an eager public in October 1966 in the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City. The space itself still held the faint scent of the spectacular shock of its last major exhibition, notably Cubism’s debut on the New York scene (1913). 9 Evenings was the culmination of a year’s worth of organized chaos, involving 30 engineers from Bell Laboratories collaborating with 10 established artists. The production of the works, installation, and performances were filled with failed experiments, explosive successes, an overall playful waking dream of endless creative possibilities.
As a tribute to this monumental exhibition, 9 Evenings Revisited: In Theory, as in practice, stands apart from its predecessor because it involves cellular and molecular life scientists, physicists, and mathematicians, rather than engineers, and therefore reflects the diversity and breadth of scientific culture. Working with scientists and artists representing several European countries, Russia, and the United States and Canada, we will focus on the theme“Bandwidth in Biology.” We will place emphasis on exploring the culture of information exchange between scientists, a rapidly evolving feature of the global research community and the world at large. We will also incorporate bandwidth, parallelization, and Big Data as they apply to living systems and the study thereof – underscoring the symmetry between the behavior of researchers, the systems they study, and the tools they use to achieve this.
We are all aware of the fact that any phenomenon, any event, or for that matter, any “knowledge,” any transfer of information implies an interaction, and that no interaction may take place without an alteration, an evolution of the interacting system.
– Jacques Monod, Proceedings of the 11th Nobel Symposium, Södergarn, Lidingö, Sweden, Aug. 1968.
9 Evenings Revisited: In theory, as in practice… is a collaborative traveling art exhibition, which explores the interface between science and art in contemporary practice. In 2015, the first stages of a network called ART/SCI NEXUS were established by myself, artist/curator Candace Goodrich, and biochemist John LaCava. The 9 Evenings project is a first attempt at this process of interdisciplinary symbiosis.
The Basics of the ART/SCI NEXUS
ART/SCI NEXUS is an independent platform that enables curiosity within and between the humanities, arts, and sciences, introducing professionals and the public to new creative modes of thinking. As these disciplines are epistemologically diverse, the transgression of their borders and expansion of their frontiers could allow for new forms of scientific research and artistic practice to develop.
ART/SCI NEXUS invites international artists and scientists to become members of a growing community and network, whose common ground is their curiosity in interdisciplinary exchange. Membership is on a voluntary basis and members can choose which level of commitment they are to offer, which is not fixed and can change over time, or on a project-to-project basis. Whether an exhibition host, a workshop host, a project leader, or a participating artist or scientist, ART/SCI NEXUS allows for one’s role to fluctuate, so that members are able to experience different aspects of the collaborative process.
During mobile workshops, artists and scientists gather and educate one another about their respective practice and research, through artist talks, demonstrations, and scientific lectures, followed by open forum discussions. The public is invited to attend and participate in the discourse. This active debate leads to brainstorming new conceptual designs for interdisciplinary, collaborative works, which can result in new research and experiments, the creation of objects, happenings, performance, and even new modes of representation and interactivity. Once several concepts are established and agreed upon, the artists and scientists will collide, forming into teams of interacting matter. As the arrangements between forces and masses change, the change is manifested in terms of energy, bringing the new works to life. This may require independent exchange, institutional partnership, and/or the introduction of additional experts and practitioners. This frame encourages an equal contribution from each field in the creative process, while additionally educating its members and public in regards to contemporary culture and science. The workshops can happen anywhere, and is constituted by a minimum number of participants of at least 2 artists and 2 scientists. Final exhibitions may take place in a variety of different kinds of venues, however scientific museums, contemporary art spaces, and universities are preferred. The theme of each workshop will change annually. Each workshop and exhibition is funded through the hosting body.
To echo the achievement of our historic brother, 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, each exhibition will be open for 9 full days and 9 spectacular nights. The density of the whirlwind experience will contribute a spontaneous energy and concentration to the “happenings”. Whenever possible, 9 Evenings will correspond with scientific conferences to further conceptually link the two disciplines. Scientific conferences typically draw hundreds to thousands of scientists from around the world to communicate their cumulative research expertise, functioning as a platform that facilitates the dissemination of knowledge among peers, globally. However, the public are rarely, if ever aware of these scientifically important events – and are rarely-if-ever involved as an audience. We believe it is important to expand the communication of science beyond the laboratory, scientific journals, and symposium settings. With this end in mind, we propose to develop methods of public engagement through the experimental use of the artistic medium. Creative expression is an open, flexible, and inventive vehicle to extend the exposure of scientific themes to the public, using creative analogies and representations to make ideas accessible, promoting interest and literacy in the sciences.
9 Evenings Revisited: In theory, as in practice… will focus on one particular aspect of science that is especially shrouded from public perception – the worldwide sharing of information now fundamental to the scientific community. This is the soul of the scientific effort, without it, progress and discovery would move (by todays standards) impossibly slow. Technological advancements that assist scientists in collecting data and analysing effects have exponentially increased the flow of information between researchers. This is true even for traditionally data sparse sciences (e.g. the advent of the ‘Omics’ revolution and systems biology in life sciences), and a whole field of ‘information science’ exists to catalog, quantify, and coordinate information both as a concrete and abstract resource. For artists, technology has also provided them with a new set of tools and an entrance point into scientific topics. Throughout the exhibition, we will incorporate and explore a thematic component of “parallelization” and “bandwidth” within the artistic offerings. This, we feel, is a fitting subject to investigate, as these same terms apply to the enhancement of communication between people – broadening modes of education, fostering interconnectivity, diversifying our identities and ways of thinking, 9 Evenings Revisited: In theory, as in practice… is a relevant contemporary format.
9 Evenings Revisited: In theory, as in practice… will include aspects of sculpture, audio/visual, print, and performance-based art – with emphasis on the above themes and interactivity, including direct audience engagement. Fittingly, the event will itself constitute an experiment – in it’s attempt to validate the efficacy of science communication through art. Furthermore, popular science lectures will be given by local and international scientists throughout the duration of the festival, in parallel with the artistic events. These lectures will crucially enable the public to engage directly with cutting edge science developments, as well as wrestling with the more general and abstract concepts that permeate science as a discipline – to further satisfy the crucial educational component of our scientific outreach objectives.
In preparation for the production of new works, in April 2016 we will host a five-day workshop at the Kunstkraftwerk Leipzig. We have invited scientists from various fields and artists that utilize different mediums and techniques to participate in this workshop. The ultimate aim of the work is to build team between the scientists and artists so that over the following 6 months they are equipped to independently consult with one another in the realization of new works. We hope that the first stages of these encounters will be only the beginning of long-term collaborations.
Since the 1960’s, new fields of research have developed in the sciences, and as a result, we have witnessed incredible advancements across the spectrum of scientific disciplines. Notably, life sciences are in the midst of a historical period of rapid expansion akin to the early 20th century in the physical sciences. Science has become a daily part of our lives, a fixture in our news media; social, economic, and political agendas; and shapes our understanding of ourselves biologically, as well as our place within the ecology of the planet. It has been proven again and again, that when the public has a broader education, and more of the populace has access to education, a more vital and adaptive society is possible. We can become more responsible consumers and generate innovative thinking to problem solving, promoting us to act as a conscious community rather than isolated individuals. The lack of comprehensive edification in the sciences has negative consequences, and therefore must be addressed, not only in schools but also in how the scientific community reports their research to the public. With this in mind, we intend to bring together scientists and their institutions and artists and cultural institutions, in order to begin a new dialogue with the public.
Artists working with scientific themes or techniques constructively critique the scientific process, asking questions of scientists as a direct communication between both parties, meaning that they must truly understand the science in a deep way, often provoking the scientist to open their own perspective of the research, which can lead to new directions and discoveries. Artists confront issues of socio-economic influence on research, such as stem cell research, eugenics, in vitro genetic selection, designer pharmaceuticals, patenting new organisms, and genetic modification technology involved in our food production. Artists play with the redefinition of the body by the machine; theorize on the changing concepts of the continuum of time and space; contemplate the reduction of biology to code and develop aesthetics from the code itself; address laboratory ethics that are tied to biological and medical research; and scrutinize and manipulate the indiscriminate amassing of Big Data and web usage and dissemination, acknowledging and debating hacking sub-cultures and surveillance, exposing us to the danger and the beauty of the algorithm.
9 Evening Revisited grew out of a lecture I gave last year at the Institut für Biochemie II, at the Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt am Main, titled After C.P. Snow: A Brief History of Recapturing Consilience, Art and Science Collaborations since 1959. The 33 minute lecture can be viewed on youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2shVii_Nq6E. The lecture is in part the basis of 9 Evenings Revisited: In Theory, As In Practice. Among the concrete deliverables associated with this project is the production of a solid framework, built out of our expanding network, so that we can easily and regularly host art and science programming, both in our own institutions, as well as providing the service for other institutions, globally.