Wednesday, May 25, 2016

[Yasmin_discussions] Mercado Central Exchange: Niki Baccile


Eduardo Kac referred us to scientist Niki Baccile who has an art science practice in France- here are his answers to our questions to scientists

1 - what is your background as a scientist? In the arts, design or humanities ?

My name is Niki Baccile and I am a researcher in materials' science and physical-chemistry. I have a PhD in these disciplines and I am full-time researcher employed by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, the French national research council. I have no background in arts or humanities.

2- when and how did you become involved in a hybrid art/science practice?

I started being interested into this topic during my PhD thesis, when I saw an exhibition in Paris (France) in which the field of nanoscience was explored in an small exhibition. I then tried to connect my research activity to the fields of arts, mostly for fun, at the beginning. I eventually ended up trying to explore the art-science relationship more deeply byt discussing with artists first and then by putting in relationship several artists with fellow scientist colleagues on joint projects to build up together.
This approach was very much different than the given need of an artist to seek for a specific scientific expertise or, on the opposite side, it was different than the approach of a scientist using mostly photoshoped microscopy images as pieces of art. In collaboration with a critic of art, Margherita Balzerani, we tried to give value to mid-term new collaborations between scientists and artists.

3- what have been the major obstacles to overcome?
I had several. First, I had to convince my fellow scientist colleagues to play this unsusual game, considering that scientists are not judged on these extra-curricular activities. Then, I had to convince my hierarchy, both in my research lab and my own employer. Obtaining all authorization and possibly some funding was quite complicated.
On the contrary, it was very easy to convince artists.

4- what have been the greatest opportunities/breakthroughs?
Not less than 5 artists have collaborated with about 10 scientists (full-time and students) and that occurred on topics of current research in the laboratories. Mostly all works have been conceived together by both parties and each party has influenced the other so to conceive the final artwork. Some artworks have benefit several weeks or research in the lab to optimize the conception protocols and some works did not meet the final artist's aesthetic will and for this reason these works were not signed. This is very rare in this field.
Plus, we have had the opportunity to expose the artworks in a dedicated exhibition in an Art Center normally dedicated to Arts and not to science. We really wanted the artworks to be considered as such and not as scientific, beautiful, prototypes.

5- what would you do differently, knowing then what you know now?
I would probably contact the scientific institution (e.g., University...) ahead of time and start working with the since the beginning, rather than proposing them a well-conceived project. This would also probably help in financial support from the institutions themselves, as well as in a large communication support. Several doors were shut because I contacted them once the project was already fully conceived.

6- any advices to someone who may want to walk in your footstep?
These projects are hard to build up because one generally lacks a proper interface which knows the added value of such a collaboration. I would probably do that again if someone would propose that to me with a budget on hand. Otherwise, it is a long path towards uncertainty which keeps both scientists and artists on the razor blade for too long.
I suggest to try to those who really believe into it, even if they must start from scratch. Your own passion to develop the art/science interface is able to convince many people, in the end, because art and science make people dream. However, the quest for funding and support can take long time and it can be quite tiresome.
In addition, a similar project can only occur if recognized actors of each field work together, because the scientific and artistic community will only trust somebody they know, someone who can speak their own language, before trusting somebody on the other side.

7. Add other questions and your responses you think are relevant

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