Art & Technology #11: STARTS
The consilience of art and science
ICT & Art Connect – the stARTS Platform
Adding the beauty of art on science and technology
Three years ago, a fresh idea swept across Europe in technology, science and education. The idea was STARTS, an EU-led initiative that unites the talents of artists, scholars and scientists from around the world. The project began with the question: “How can we apply artistic imagination in the real world to complement the development of society?” Seeking to bring together the fields of art and science, the goal of the project is to create innovative solutions by merging cutting-edge technology with the imaginative sensibilities of the art community.
STARTS is a global project that selects a new roster of accomplished individuals to contribute every year. Their combined efforts result in the annual Electronic Arts Festival held at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, where the collaboration of participating creators converge into a show of experimental art.
Artists apply the various branches of science to further their ambitious ideas with the help of researchers and scholars, allowing them to transcend genre boundaries and move freely between art, music, installation and performance.
This event opens in tandem with the STARTS symposium, where presenters share the results of their research, discuss new fields of exploration, and bring their heads together to envision new projects. STARTS is always looking to the horizon for new ideas and exchanges. Through a close exchange with Ars Electronica, the renowned new media art festival held in Linz, Austria, and the Foundation Liedts-Meesen based in Ghent, Belgium, STARTS stays closely connected with the art world and its celebration of new technology.
It was the Foundation Liedts-Meesen that inspired Ralph Dum, Project Officer of STARTS, to entertain the idea of an art and technology convergence. The foundation aims to fill the gap left by traditional art and raise competitiveness around the world by paying close attention to the technological drivers in today’s global culture. To this end, it established the New Technological Art Award, given every two years to artists who present innovative works that blend new technology with the spirit of experimentation. Belgian artist Honoré d'O is one such awardee whose work has also been presented in Korea over the years. In a sense, the foundation first provided the guidance and direction for STARTS to begin.
Consilience, the springboard to innovation
Consilience is a notion much discussed in almost every conceivable field. It has now become a leading academic subject in itself, forging connections across disciplines such as humanities and science, art and technology, and ushering the creation of new innovative fields of study. Edward O. Wilson first introduced the concept in his 1998 publication Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, where he integrates the rigidly defined subdivisions within science and further proposes the integration of social studies, humanities, art and religion. It essentially refers to the dissolution of boundaries between various fields of knowledge, and the resulting production of new knowledge that can become the basis of entirely new creative possibilities. While the previous century was marked by developments in science technology and knowledge, this present century is undoubtedly an era of consilience among various fields that rest on imagination and creativity. Another key concern for the current age highlighted by consilience is the rediscovery of our natural environment, which had been largely overlooked during industrial development.
Steve Jobs once mentioned Norio Ogha, the man who invented the compact disc, as his greatest inspiration. However, invention was only one of many interests Ogha had. He was also an opera aficionado and an assiduous student at the Tokyo University of the Arts (then Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music). He was also an all-around athlete and an accomplished pilot. In short, Norio Ogha was the Renaissance Man of his generation, an embodiment of consilience. He demonstrated that development hinging on technological advancement might bring a certain level of convenience, but would fall short of bringing cultural affluence to our lives if made without consilience. Apple’s core values reflect this thought, combining free-flowing imagination with the power of technology. Their products are successful globally for discovering new issues to explore, leading creative endeavors and disseminating knowledge to create synergy. This is the goal of consilience, found within Apple’s core values. The countless success stories out of Silicon Valley aren’t about inventions made possible by technology. They are the realization of dreams fueled by pure imagination and unhindered energy.
Liberal arts is essential for innovation - Steve Jobs -
Consilience sublimates science and technology into forms of art that enrich lives. In the past, product development was a function of technological advancement, and product function would dictate its design. But the times have changed, and creative design is often prioritized over technology, which is now a means for design. In other cases, production itself has to take both design and technology into consideration. Consumers are no longer interested in products that fail to be creative.
To borrow the words of Paul Valéry, “Science and art are crude names, in rough opposition. To be true, they are inseparable.” Art is the mind and spirit of mankind expressed through acts of creation. Science, on the other hand, elucidates the workings of nature through rational principles and theories. It is art that inspires aesthetic beauty and sentiment, while science kindles curiosity and inquisitive spirit. Artists have always utilized science as a means of creation. Scientists also need the creative insight of artists in their process of inquiry.
Leonardo da Vinci was perhaps one of the first embodiments of consilience between art and science. His genius manifested equally across wide-ranging fields such machinery, art, music, anatomy, botany, mineralogy and philosophy. To this day, he is respected and remembered for his contributions to mankind through the consilience of art, technology and science.
Perfecting the consilience of science and art
Artists put ideas and values into physical form
– Olafur Eliasson -
Artists who have taken part in STARTS include Olafur Eliasson, Roy Ascott, Eric Joris and Laura Beloff. Eliasson, who also supervised the project, is well known for his works Weather Project, Waterfalls, and the more recent installation series Contact, in which visitors experience the interplay between light and space. His exhibitions draw visitors into a space where they can interact at a physical, almost visceral, level while enjoying a wider range of sensory and perceptive experiences. His works typically add an alien feeling to the familiar by manipulating the elements that surround us, including time and space, light, water, energy and crystals. His cluttered studio in many ways resembles a scientist’s lab, and his works come to life through the close proximity of technology and imagination.
Roy Ascott has presented at the Venice Biennale in addition to shows in Shanghai, Paris and Seoul. Ascott is a British artist who creates work through his knowledge of cybernetics and information communication technologies. His widely recognized installation, Aspects of Gaia, consisted of a global network that enabled artists, musicians and scientists from around the world to interact with one another in telematic space. Images of scientific, cultural, spiritual and mythical consilience beamed in unison as if to highlight the converging nature of Gaia.
Eric Joris is the artistic director of CREW, a collective seeking to explore the space between art and science, performance and new technology. He also develops live art projects in close collaboration with scientists and fellow artists. Most of his endeavors involve electronic and digital media and performances that encourage audience participation, creating an unusual artistic experience of communication and new ways of thought. His aesthetic universe is open to change and has no absolutes.
Laura Beloff’s Appendix is a wearable robotic tail that is connected to a network. With the appendage, she expresses the complex relationships between our body, technology, humanity and the environment. Appendix is an experimental attempt to look into the possibility of integrating technology as part of our physical and emotional existence, while exploring the hybrid spaces that bring together our physical world and technological networks. It highlights human dependency and connectivity to other beings, objects and elements of nature. Various factors control the movement of the tail, which implies a future where advanced technology may reconfigure our connection with non-human entities.
For artists, STARTS hopes to provide the means to bring creativity to life and realize works that look to wider horizons and future-oriented values. For scientists, STARTS hopes to provide a free, diverse range of content that expands human scope of thought. We look forward to the project playing a major role in bringing rise to the consilience of art and science. ■ with ARTINPOST
Davide Quayola <Strata #1> Video Installation 2014 BOZAR Electronic Art Festival
ICT ART CONNECT 13 BOZAR Electronic Art Festival Photo Courtesy Fernando Vaz das Neves
2014 BOZAR Electronic Art Festival Belgique Bruxelles
ICT ART CONNECT 13 BOZAR Electronic Art Festival Photo Courtesy Fernando Vaz das Neves
Jean-Michael Arbert & Ashley Fure <Tripwire> Installation View at 2014 BOZAR Electronic Art Festival
CREW(Eric Joris) 'Live-Art' Project BOZAR Electronic Art Festival
Act(Michel & Andre Decosterd) <Pendulum Choir> 2014 BOZAR Electronic Art Festival