Thanks Roger for this suitably agnostic commentary on what has been an enjoyable discussion.
While there are those who bemoan the return of religious dialogue, the cleavage between the humanities and the sciences that every popular science (or recently, "evolutionary" humanist) work attempts to reconcile is unavoidably inaugurated at the origin of the religions of the book. In Genesis there is a wayward nature whose ultimate purpose is hypothetically discernible and a flawed human who cannot keep up the task of managing it in the name of that divine purpose ("scientia" was knowledge of God's natural world before it was of the world named as nature). The question of belief or not in a deity is less important than the Romantic idea of otherness to the self that can be discerned in most lines of knowledge-seeking, whether scientific or artistic (Galison puts it best I think with his claim that "objectivity" is perhaps itself Romantic).
Nevertheless, as you point to, the modes of practice, institutional foundations and justifying rhetorics between art and science (or I would also suggest, between scientific or science-like practices from a Christian heritage versus others) are radically heterogeneous, even more than the already grave distinctions between scientific disciplines, for example. They are all, as Haraway et al have taught us, unavoidably storied and discursive.
I think this requires those who wish to explore such frontiers of knowledge paradigms to hold, first of all, an open attitude to different ways of knowing and understanding to those we have been raised in, whether those are scientific or humanist, and this means not taking topics off the table, no matter our thoughts on their relative worth. It also means having a historical and critical account of the methodologies that have birthed our own methods of enquiry, with a resolutely material account of their cultural and technological underpinnings, and there are many cases we can look to in the arts and the sciences for instruction on our current conjuncture, and so the critical conversation of sharing those between disciplines remains urgent and necessary (but not police-able).
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On 28/10/2014, at 1:31 AM, roger malina <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> -- Against Syncretism ?
> The last series of posts on our supernatural discussion has incited me
> to make some personal comments against having goals to create a
> 'syncretism' that unites the variety of practices that come under the
> general label of art-science. Elsewhere I have argued against those
> who are promoting the creation of a 'third culture'. I have also
> provocatively said that I don't think 'inter-disciplinarily is a
> discipline". Unlike the way that astronomy and physics came to create
> astrophysics, or biology and chemistry led to biochemistry, I don't
> think we are developing a unified field of artscience. We are seeing
> those that founded what is called 'digital humanities' having to back
> track because after all scholars are born digital digital humanities
> will disappear and re-emerge as the humanities ( digital astronomy has
> long disappeared; fortunately no universities started departments of
> digital astronomy that had to be closed down).
> I think that we have to understand that there are different ways of
> knowing (the Exploratorium conference on this was a landmark). Even
> within the sciences, observational and experimental sciences come to
> their conclusions in different ways and the scientific method itself
> has evolved ( eg the use of computer models as hypotheses, or data
> driven science today). And phenomena which were held to be outside of
> scientific investigation sometimes come into scientific purview ( eg
> the recent science of consciousness area, quorum sensing in non
> Similarly the work of artists itself has continuously evolved. The new
> 'art as research' movement often does not result in art objects or
> experiences that are meant to be assessed using aesthetic criteria
> that were developed for static images, or time based art performances.
> Today we see a large growth in socially engaged and public art
> practices that are to be evaluated by the cultural changes they bring
> about rather than the individual aesthetic experiences. That doesn't
> make it 'pseudo-art'. Sustainable development and controlling and
> adapting to climate change are opening up whole new areas for
> interventions by artists that would be un recognizable as art to a
> 19th century art critic; in a Leonardo ebook
> )we argued that this doesn't mean that the 'sublime' is not part of
> the art-science lexicon.
> I am not arguing that 'everything goes' ; my father once accused me of
> having a mind so wide open that the wind blew right through it. As a
> scientist I do think we have to be careful and indeed I sometimes am
> troubled by areas of art-science that I think mis-understand and
> mis-use certain scientific ideas. Sometimes I do see art-science which
> seems to me pseudo-science. An no, anything is not art just because
> its called art; there are criteria for evaluating and assessing art
> and its impact on individuals and our cultures. I am sometimes
> troubled by the work of scientist engaged in art-science who seem to
> be ignorant of the last hundred years of art-making. Just because you
> make a pretty picture doesn't make it significant art today. In my own
> art-science practice, our artscilab seeks to develop projects that can
> be assessed both on their scientific interest and their artistic
> interest without syncretism, or what I have called 'hybrid' practice.
> One of the areas that I think could be useful in these discussion is
> the field of Translational Studies. This field has expanded from
> linguistic translation, to cultural translation and in more recent
> years to trans-disciplinary translation. In Translation Studies it is
> established that some facts, concepts are not translatable from one
> area to another because of the importance of semantic and social
> context. We need to identify false friends ( eg the word prototype
> does not mean the same thing in technoscience as in art). Analogies
> and Metaphors are very difficult to translate and there is a whole
> literature on this area. But often I see concepts from science
> translated unscrupulously to art with misleading implications from
> fuzzy thinking and use of words and analogies; translation is a real
> expertise that needs to be deployed with sophistication.
> Finally I think one of the processes that art-science engages in is
> what might be called cultural digestion of science and technology.
> Some technologies are culturally sterile ( steam engine art ?) but
> until the technology is culturally appropriated it is often hard to
> understand its cultural meaning ( eg the birth of digital arts
> industries, net-art leading to social media etc). That means we have
> to be patient until artists appropriate the science and technology and
> translate it within the arts and culture. Some artists take scientific
> experiments and just restage them in a gallery- often this translation
> is absurd; sometimes it can be generative ( cf Root Bernstein's
> restaging of the Urey origin of life experiments).
> In recent posts the predictable debate about science and religion has
> begun to surface. It is impossible to deny that some scientists are
> deists and some atheists. As are artists. The %s are highly variable
> depending on location ( I live in Texas !) The art science field
> reflects this cultural variety in its local grounding. It is
> interesting to see art-science begin to be practiced in deeply
> catholic cultures in south America ; and in India with its multiple
> religious influences; what direction will they take us in ? I don't
> think that art-science is a 'universal' practice ( whereas I do think
> that scientific is knowledge is universal and not culturally
> specific). Necessarily in the process of translation from science to
> art ( and back again) some art-science will be culturally grounded and
> not universal. And as argued above I don't think we are seeking to
> create a global third culture, or a syncretism.
> roger malina
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