Sunday, May 10, 2009

[Yasmin_discussions] One Two Three or More Cultures; 50th anniversary of C.P Snow's The Two Cultures

Dear Yasminers

It it great to hear from Jasia Reichardt, who created the cybernetics
exhibition in 1968
( and from
Frieder Nake a pioneering computer artist who first started showing computer
art in 1965 (

I hope some other pioneers in our field will join in with their comments
re C P Snow and the two cultures way of framing the debate.

I hope also that some of the yasminers who are under 30 will join in the
discussion on the problems they face trying to bridge between the arts and
other disciplines and also give us examples of places around the mediterranean
that are generating exciting opportunities.

Eddie Shanken, one of the younger historians has been an important
scholar helping
us analyse and figure out the trajectories
( he mentions
the work of Victoria Vesna one of the artists
( who among other
things runs the Art Science program at UCLA.

Eddie asks about pedagogical developments.

UCLA have an interesting art-science summer
program for high school/secondary school students
( and
they are starting
an on line curriculum in art/science for distance learning. Working
with secondary
students is surely a key area that needs developing. High schools
certainly arent
going to do this.

Another person on YASMIN heavily involved in distance learning is Pau Alsina
who runs at Open University of Catalunya the Artnodes distance
learning programs: He is in
Barcelona. Maybe he can

Finally I want to mention the Mediterranean institute for advanced
studies (IMERA)
at the university of provence where I work ( With
Samuel Bordreuil,
a sociologist we have set up an Art Science Instrumentation and Language (ASIL)
where we will be hosting residents from the sciences, arts and
humanities. We will shortly
be announcing our first art science residents, and a second call for
applications with a deadline before
the summer will be coming out. The ASIL will be hosting artists,
scientists and scholars
to enable cross discipline projects and research within the southern
region of france. It is a small
effort , but we hope to make a difference and create new kinds of

As I mentioned in my first post, I am personally skeptical of the
university as the main
institutional context for art/science and art/technology developments,
although as there
are counter examples, and I think universities can provide key
platforms within the overall
ecology of sustaining institutions. I dont think inter-disciplinarity
is a discipline ( which is part
of my resistance to the third culture framing). I also think that
universities have the wrong
kind of time constants to really engage in the fast moving research
agenda in the art
science and technology field. Many of us have good memories of
Temporary Autonomous
Zones, and fast moving groupings like barcamps (
are proliferating.The
"make' and 'hacker' communities are often doing more interesting work
than the top 10

In 2000 i attended a workship organised by David Peat on 'the future
of the academy" , the report from the meeting is at

The premise for the workshop was= lets imagine that all universities
close tomorrow
morning. If you were re inventing the university, what form would it
take ? how would you
best set up a system for advanced education and research ? When the
medieval university
was created (which is still the model we use today) it was in a very
specific cultural
political and technologies of education context. Needless to say we
didnt come up with
a strategic plan for implementation ! But it focused my thinking on a
couple of thoughts:

a) art/science and art/technology work is by its very nature
migratory, transient, distributed.
The wrong model is the Bauhaus model of building an institution. We
need sustainable networks that
allow people who want to work at disciplinary boundaries to find
resources, collaborators, places
to work and to show. We can use universities as platforms or nodes (
eg the planetary
collegium nodes) but the action is not institutionalisable in the same
way that electrical
engineering is.

b) Art/Science and Art/technology work is inherently a process of life
long learning. You need
systems so that practioners of all ages can plug in when needed.
Distance learning models
are attractive. The traditional university degree presents difficult
contraints. The big push in
universities to create bachelors/masters/phd programs ( the LMD
process in europe) will work
in some situations but may be really stiffling of the most interesting
work in others. it doesnt make
sense to me to create a PhD in each area of art science practice. We
dont need three hundred
Symbioticas !! Just a few as really good as Symbiotica.

c) The medieval university was founded when life expectancy in Europe
was less than 40 years.
We now live in western societies where the largest growing resource is
retired intellectuals
who retire at 65 and still have a whole career of time available to
them. ( david peat is a retired
physicist and his Pari center in italy is a watering hole for retired
scientists= a great place
to find scientific collaborators for art science projects).Is there
some way the art-science,
art-technology educational system can somehow create cross
generational structures that
tap in some of the best scientists and engineers as they retire and
involve them in art science
work on burning issues of our time ?

thanks to eddie for asking the pegagogical question= the world has
changed since CP Snow
analysed the situation.

Michael Punt pointed us to

"It reminds us of the context and particular historical moment of the lecture
and also that it was critiqued at the time as being rather anachronistic and

roger malina
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