On Sat, Jan 14, 2017 at 8:06 PM, Ken Friedman <email@example.com
> Amy also asked an interesting question: "In terms of art, if someone does
> an artwork based on a scientific idea that proves wrong does that change
> the value of the art? I've also been wondering if and where artists who are
> not inclined to include science in their art fit in the educational
> pedagogy the STEAM agenda promotes?"
I have a tendency to believe that it is the wrong question, if we're
thinking about what the arts can bring into the science.
What does the "artist X does artwork Y based on scientific work Z" mean?
Are we talking about "decorating science"?
Yes, beautiful works and visualizations can come out of it. Some even
wonderfully managing to communicate the scientific idea to broader
audiences, creating cultural impact.
A question is: is that really it?
My personal answer is: no.
Artistic processes can contribute to bringing science out of the lab.
I will refer to my own experience, simply because it's something for which
I have evidence and deep knowledge about.
I am an artist, a professor, a robotic engineer.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, and I entered the hospital, and I was
forced to get in touch with the world of cancer research, I was shocked.
Because the entire system was based on separation.
When you become sick with cancer (and the same goes with other diseases),
you, as a human being, stop existing.
You are replaced by an administrative, bureaucratic entity, which is the
"patient". The patient lives through data, and it is the only thing that
matters to science, the hospital, doctors, researchers, etc.
There is no role, while being diseased, for my relatives, my wife, my
students, my neighbors, my grocer, for the people of my city. They have to
stop, accept the existence of the patient, and that's it. And I myself have
to stop being human, transform into the patient (data, data, data... I
received awkward glances and nervous reactions whenever I tried mentioning
things apart from my medical data while I had cancer... "you know, I played
the upright bass yesterday" "what?!? yes yes, but tell me, what about the
MRI, was it ok?" ... really happened), while delegating your body and
existence to some professional.
One day, while I was in the hospital, I asked for an image of my cancer.
Well, I was not able to receive it. Because during the "patient", that
image was not for me. It was the for doctors, nurses, researchers. But it
was not for me. And everyone else was excluded, as well.
The whole idea that "I have cancer" is very naive. It is not only me who
has cancer. My wife and relatives have cancer, too, because their lives
completely change. My students have cancer, because I can't teach them any
more. My grocer has cancer, because I don't go shopping there anymore. The
entire country has cancer, because they pay taxes (luckily, for now) for
the national health service. Emotional, cultural, economic, financial,
environmental, social declinations of cancer. But they have it.
And the whole idea that cancer is cured in the laboratory, through design
of therapies, is just as naive.
Because practically everything we do has something to do with cancer: the
way we eat, consume, produce energy, move, communicate, our lifestyle etc.
If the most wonderful molecule was discovered to defeat cancer, it would
be, as said, wonderful, but it would have nothing to say about all the rest
of this fight with cancer. Because the rest of it, which is enormous, is
not in the laboratory, it is in the world, outside, in society.
I left the hospital and started what we called "La Cura", the open source
cure for cancer. Which is a global art performance. In which we asked a
very simple question: "how can you cure me?"
A little more than a million people answered. In simple, less simple,
complex, wonderful, incredible, awful, terrible, amazing ways. Sharing the
idea that it is not me who has cancer, but it is the whole of society.
In Rome, we live next to a beautiful market, in Piazza San Giovanni di Dio,
on the hills above Trastevere, Monteverde.
When "La Cura" went on the news, and the merchants at the marked found out
that that guy they saw every day got cancer, they had a meeting, in the
market. "Iaconesi has cancer and he asked for help! What do we do?"
The response was incredible. They transformed themselves into researchers,
understanding how the things of their daily practices could be transformed
and put to use for, if not curing, creating a world in which cancer is
something for which more people can do something. There was people finding
out what were the best foods for having positive impacts on cancer. There
were people studying how usage of some chemicals and industrial processes
could have something to do with cancer. There were people who engaged
doctors and researchers in the process. A whole market transformed into an
open-air, socialized laboratory, in which researchers and local producers
researched and experimented together. Some even transformed their
productions. Some even discovered new markets.
We received fresh vegetables and medical advice. People noticed changed and
started asking, and they gained awareness. Other people who had cancer,
Cancer was simply something that affected everyone. The fight for cancer
was inside and outside of the laboratory, social, engaging for everyone,
and in which everyone had something they could do.
This is just one of the thousands of stories of La Cura.
During La Cura, doctors, artists, researchers, farmers, designers,
technologists, anthropologists, economists, and many other different types
of people, ranging from very extraordinary to very ordinary, worked
together to try to transform the meaning of the word "cure". (note: not of
the word "therapy")
Multiple doctors were delighted.
Because doctors have the disease, too. Think about the phenomenon of
burn-out, think of oncologists for children, seeing the little ones die
everyday, and how alone they are, separated. They have cancer, too.
The new definition of "cura" included them as well. They were not alone and
And there were people who developed software tools, to keep track of
everything, to discuss, review, collaborate, schedule. Platforms were used,
analytics were used. Grandmothers adapted to using tools, and designers
made it easier for them, by creating and suggesting interfaces to do things
more easily. Knowledge was catalogued and made openly available (currently
on GitHub). Scientists met with other scientists and started to do things
And the same goes for other profiles. What happens when an architect
collaborates with a doctor? Or an artist? Or a grandmother who cooks who
cooks wonderfully? Or a designer who knows how to create objects? etc
And the description could go on an on. It has been an incredible 4 years
since it started (it was 2012), and it doesn't seem to stop.
"La Cura" is an artistic performance. Bringing together arts, sciences,
design, technology, society.
It does not "decorate". It creates an environment in which all of these
things work together.
It is "indisciplined".
It is "transgressive".
"Trans" which means "on the other side"
"gradi" which means "step"
Talking about "excess spaces", Elizabeth Grosz says that transgressors do
not eliminate borders and limits. Rather, they recognize them. And, by
transgressing, they move them.
This is, for me, an incredibly powerful role for the arts in sciences. To
positively and collaboratively introduce "indiscipline" and "transgression"
in the process, to go beyond separation, and to figure out meaningful,
effective ways in which to bring society into science. For human dignity
*[**MUTATION**]* *Art is Open Source *- http://www.artisopensource.net
*[**CITIES**]* *Human Ecosystems Ltd* - http://human-ecosystems.com
*[**NEAR FUTURE DESIGN**]* *Nefula Ltd* - http://www.nefula.com
*[**RIGHTS**]* *Ubiquitous Commons *- http://www.ubiquitouscommons.org
Professor of Near Future and Transmedia Design at ISIA Design Florence:
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