ArtSci Nexus was founded in April 2016 in Leipzig, Germany, as an open platform for collaborative aesthetics between the arts and sciences. Our first Think Tank “9 Evenings Revisited – In Theory as in Practice” involved 20 artists and scientists from Russia, Taiwan, the UK, US, Canada, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany. This occasion marked the launch of the platform itself, which artist/independent curator Candace Goodrichdeveloped together with biochemist Dr. John LaCava from the Rockefeller University. The think tank included scientific lectures, artist talks, artsci film screens curated by the Science Festival of Moscow, and educational workshops with refugee children, underprivileged youth, and prisoners from Regis Breitingen in Saxony. We coincided the genesis of ArtSci Nexus with the 50th anniversary of the monumental exhibition 9 Evenings Theater and Engineering, as a tribute to the Swedish engineer Billy Clüver who in 1966, brought together 30 engineers from Bell Laboratories to cooperate with 10 prominent artists at the 69th Regiment Armory in NYC. It was in homage to this historical happening, that we began the Nexus, as a contemporary reformulation of the organization, E.A.T., Experiments in Art and Technology, which operated from 1967-2002, with 28 chapters internationally. E.A.T. facilitated collaborative relationships between artists and engineers, and produced exhibitions, a periodical, and workshops that expanded C.P. Snow’s concept the “Third Culture”, that called upon the universities to reintegrate the arts, humanities, and sciences, in order to more effectively and actively address social and political issues that faced contemporary society.
Since the 1960’s, the digital revolution has precipitated the development of innumerable new fields of scientific research, such as biochemistry, nano-technology, neuroscience, and quantum physics, to name just a few, and as a result, we have witnessed incredible advancements across the spectrum of scientific disciplines. In order to expand the communication of science beyond the laboratory, scientific journals, and conference settings, we have constructed a context in which scientists and their universities and artists and cultural institutions, can begin a new dialogue with one another with think tanks and public presentations globally. The experimental nature of creative expression as an open, flexible, and inventive vehicle, extends the exposure of scientific themes to the public, using creative analogies and representations to make ideas accessible, promoting interest and literacy in the sciences.
Artists in the Nexus, work with scientific themes, data sets, or techniques to constructively critique the scientific process, visualize research real data, and work towards contributing to new methodologies and approaches. The artists ask questions of scientists as a direct communication between both parties, often in a laboratory residency, or through long distance consultation. This situation can be a provocation or challenge for the scientists to open their own perspective of the research or how they as institutions communicate their findings to the “layman”. For the artists it brings them into direct contact with cutting-edge research that addresses critical pressing problems that face society. Furthermore it opens the artist’s practice to new modes of expression. We hope our Teams may lead to new directions and discoveries.
The mission of the ArtSci Nexus is to become a world-wide open generator of team collaboration. At present we have 4 active teams, Bacteriality, Neural Module, Arrthymia, Well-Tempered Brain, and guest project Dolphinet. The well-established project Hybrid Bodies has also been a guest in 2016. The Nexus is designed to produce annual phases of perpetual collaboration and advocacy between the arts and sciences, operating outside of any specific institutional structure. The geographic fluidity of this network, its kind of orphan persona, has great emancipatory potential. As being based in collectivity, nomadic and peripheral, we are insured that the integrity of the Nexus is not undermined by commercial viability standards or market values, the pigeon holing of populism and mass consumption, nor gratuitously instrumentalized for the sometimes short-sited development of city, regional, and national identities. Being immobile and without roots, without a homebase, means that the Nexus can remain independent of habitual assessment processes which is often largely based on artificial numerical constructs such as visitor counts and popular press, as indicators of relevance or success. Each year we can expand and contract as our progress in this respect is about the flow of ideas, lateral communication as an alternative evaluation of social impact. Without borders and embracing global attitudes, means that we can critically engage with a place, its people, and each other, yet stand outside of the hard decisions that museums and institutions must make in the face of financial stress that often compromises their programmation, limiting their innovation in favor of the status quo.
The global networks of the arts and sciences play a crucial role in this resistance, and must collectively act in defiance of the rise of authoritarianism. Historically, the arts have been a cornerstone of social movements. As a marginalized group, we have the capacity to create innovative channels of subversion, for political cognizance and solidarity. As scientists march in demonstrations globally to defend open inquiry and evidence-based policy, recalcitrant in protecting and cataloguing decades of publicly-accessible research, engagement, advocacy, and collaboration is becoming increasingly critical. How can these epistemologically diverse sectors transgress their borders to create a more integrated society? Why are the arts and sciences under attack, and what does this mean in our quest for truth in a post-fact age? Who are our allies and our hidden enemies? How do we resolve our “inability to endure freedom”? How can the arts provide new perceptions and affects (for instance, those of justice, responsibility, and mutuality) through which life might be reinvented? If the sciences must fight for the truth, we, in the arts must fight for meaning. We should aggregate our power, recognize and mobilize our agency, identify the most effective facilitators and avenues to take, and intensely counter-educate and organize.
We can be free to concentrate on the process of the production of ideas and the meaning of the collaborative interaction itself, while working to communicate science to the public, and integrating our disciplines and universities. While exchanging and building knowledge collaborative aesthetics is more about listening than it is about making any objects or exhibition. Our think tanks, which take place annually is the testing ground for the journey and challenge the participants to expand the boundaries of their personal artistic practice and scientific research through the development of group compositions and team development for long term independent collaboration and engagement in this thought community. Important features of the Nexus include the elimination of the abstract notions of authorship and the maintenance of a nonhierarchical atmosphere one based on mutual respect shared responsibility valuing each other’s contributions equally and the commitment to be open and receptive to be willing to alter one’s perspectives and even to be wrong. A commonality among historically influential collectives is discord and cooperation where individuals with independent and equally strong identities can share their experience to stitch together a common thread and research themes of mutual interest. The Nexus is a tangible opportunity for us to move from the dividing realms of two cultures towards a third. Setting aside what makes us different. Focusing on the blind spots the vacuum the white space between us making them potential’s zones for overlap and integration. The range of distinct positions within this group does determine the complexity of the exchange. As artists and scientists we will construct dismantle build a new set aside immerse work through contradictions and ruptures. This dynamic will steer the Works produced and curatorial direction of the whole. I found that the nature of cultural exchange in such settings, implicitly and explicitly addresses and founds new communities. Those communities have the potential to respond to essential questions that face us today to work against and outside of the abuse of free market capitalism and neo liberal globalization that has endangered our political process. Collaborative work is a breeding ground for radical new ideas a transgression of contemporary individualism.