Italiano [English below]
È uscito, a cura di Giorgio Cipolletta e mia, il volume degli atti del convegno internazionale art*science 2017/Leonardo 50, che ha avuto luogo a Bologna dal 3 al 5 Luglio 2017, di cui Noema è stato co-organizzatore e partner principale. La conferenza era dedicata al rapporto tra discipline artistiche e scientifiche e ha celebrato il 50° anniversario della rivista Leonardo, pubblicata da MIT Press, la più influente in campo internazionale sui rapporti tra arte, scienza e tecnologia. L’argomento generale di art*science 2017/Leonardo 50 è stato “Il Nuovo e la Storia”, nel volume c’è anche il mio saggio “Art as a philosophy of contemporaneity. Poetics of complexity, Third Life, locality and universality”, che si può scaricare da qui, di cui sotto pubblico un estratto in inglese.
Il tema generale di art*science 2017/Leonardo 50 è stato “Il Nuovo e la Storia”, la relazione tra due concetti apparentemente in opposizione che invece possono e devono convivere. Il “nuovo”, l’“innovazione”, hanno le radici nella storia ma possono proiettare questa eredità nel futuro grazie alla collaborazione tra arti, scienze e tecnologie: un elemento importante in un Paese, come l’Italia, che possiede un enorme patrimonio culturale.
Ad art*science 2017/Leonardo 50 hanno partecipato presenti studiosi, artisti, scienziati, operatori culturali, studenti, semplici appassionati e curiosi, nonché istituzioni e aziende italiane ed europee impegnate a sostenere progetti di arte e scienza. art*science 2017/Leonardo 50 è stata anche l’occasione di incontro e coordinamento tra i partecipanti alla mailing list internazionale Yasmin, supportata da UNESCO, da Leonardo e da Noema. Nata nel 2005, Yasmin è̀ il progetto collaborativo di una rete di persone e organizzazioni, artisti, scienziati, ingegneri, teorici, studiosi, studenti e istituzioni, che promuovono la comunicazione e la collaborazione nell’arte, nella scienza e nella tecnologia nelle regioni del bacino del Mediterraneo.
Gli argomenti di art*science 2017/Leonardo 50 sono stati:
1) Una riflessione sull’idea di “nuovo”. Che cosa è il “nuovo”, qual è il significato del “nuovo” e dell’innovazione? Oggi sono parole inflazionate, tutto deve essere “nuovo”, “innovativo” per ottenere la considerazione dei media, del pubblico, dell’economia. Che significato ha l’innovazione per uno scienziato, un artista, un filosofo, un sociologo, un ricercatore, un banchiere, un amministratore, un atleta…? Che cosa significa veramente “innovazione”? Come la si riconosce, comunica, promuove, sostiene e diffonde?
2) I Paesi del Mediterraneo, e in generale i paesi europei, hanno una lunga storia e un rilevante patrimonio artistico e culturale che può essere valorizzato attraverso nuove discipline, scienze e tecnologie. “Il Nuovo e la Storia”, che è il tema generale di art*science 2017/Leonardo 50, suggerisce una relazione tra due concetti apparentemente in opposizione che invece possono e devono coesistere. Il “nuovo” e l’”innovazione” hanno la loro fondazione nella storia, nel passato, ma possono e devono rilanciare questa eredità nel futuro, riattualizzandola attraverso le arti, le discipline scientifiche e le tecnologie. Si tratta di un elemento importante dal punto di vista culturale, storico, sociale ed economico.
3) Si discute molto in ambito internazionale di iniziative per integrare arti, design e discipline umanistiche all’interno di discipline scientifiche, ingegneria e medicina: un percorso che negli Stati Uniti viene chiamato “Stem to Steam” [STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine; STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Design and Medicine]. Si tratta di una vecchia discussione sulla necessità di ricerche di natura inter- e trans- disciplinare, in proposito si veda il concetto di “consilience” [Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, 1998], criticato per il suo approccio riduttivo e unificante, e il punto di vista di Slingerland e Collard [Edward Slingerland, Mark Collard (a cura di), Creating Consilience: Integrating the Sciences and the Humanities, 2011], che sostiene che l’integrazione dei modi di conoscere non implica l’unificazione.
Gli argomenti di art*science 2017/Leonardo 50 sono stati introdotti da una discussione su Yasmin prima dell’inizio del convegno e sono stati rilanciati durante gli eventi. Voglio ringraziare i partecipanti che hanno animato la discussione, moderati da Roger Malina, da Nina Czegledy e da me. Sono Elif Ayiter (Turchia), Wafa Bourkhis (Tunisia), Roberta Buiani (Italia), Salvatore Iaconesi (Italia), Pau Alsina (Spagna), Giorgio Cipolletta (Italia), Katerina Karoussos (Grecia), Živa Ljubec (Slovenia), Oriana Persico (Italia), Elena Giulia Rossi (Italia), Judith van der Elst (Olanda). Alcuni di loro hanno anche partecipato alla conferenza. E ringrazio tutte le altre persone che hanno dato il loro contributo alla discussione.
art*science 2017/Leonardo 50 è stata anche l’occasione per un incontro tra i partecipanti alla mailing list di Yasmin.
The book of the proceedings of art*science 2017/Leonardo 50 conference, that took place in Bologna, July 3-5 2017, has been published, edited by Giorgio Cipolletta and me. Noema was a co-organizer and a main partner of the event.
art*science 2017/Leonardo 50 International conference was keen on the relationship between artistic and scientific disciplines and celebrated the 50th anniversary of Leonardo journal, published by MIT Press, the most influential in the international arena on the relationships among arts, sciences and technologies. art*science 2017/Leonardo 50 general topic was “The New and History”. The “new”, the “innovation”, have roots in history but they can project this heritage into the future thanks to the collaboration among arts, sciences and technologies. In the book there is also my paper “Art as a philosophy of contemporaneity: Poetics of complexity, Third Life, locality and universality”, which can be downloaded from here (below an excerpt).
The conference main topics were:
1) A reflection on the idea of “new”. What is really the “new”, what is the meaning of “new” and “innovation”? Today it is a very inflated issue, everything must be “new”, “innovative” to get attention, to be considered by the media, to get money. What is the meaning of “innovation” for a scientist, an artist, a philosopher, a sociologist, a researcher, a banker, a CEO, an athlete…? What does “innovation” really mean? How can “innovation” be recognized, communicated, fostered, sustained and spread?
2) The relationship between two concepts seemingly in opposition, that instead can and must coexist. The “new”, “innovation,” has its foundation in history, but it can and must revive its heritage in the future, through arts, scientific disciplines and technologies. This is a key element, from cultural, historical, social and economic viewpoints. The Countries in the Mediterranean Rim, and more in general all European countries, have a long history and heritage in art and culture, that can be valued through new disciplines, sciences and technologies.
3) The integration of arts, design and humanities into science, engineering and medicine, sometimes called “Stem to Steam” in the USA (STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine; STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Design and Medicine). This is a historical discussion on the need for an inter/trans-disciplinary problem driven research. Among recent approaches on this topic the idea of “consilience” by Edward O. Wilson (Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, 1998), and Slingerland and Collard’s perspective (Creating Consilience: Integrating the Sciences and the Humanities, 2011, editors).
Some weeks before the conference beginning the topics of art*science 2017/Leonardo 50 were introduced by a discussion on Yasmin, and were relaunched throughout the events. Yasmin is an International mailing list, supported by UNESCO, Leonardo and Noema, born in 2005. It is collaborative project of a network of people and organizations, artists, scientists, engineers, theorists, scholars, students and institutions that promote communication and collaboration in art, science and technology in the Mediterranean basin regions. Many thanks to the invited discussants/respondents who animated the discussion, moderated by Roger Malina, Nina Czegledy and me. They are Elif Ayiter (Turkey), Wafa Bourkhis (Tunisia), Roberta Buiani (Italy), Salvatore Iaconesi (Italy), Pau Alsina (Spain), Giorgio Cipolletta (Italy), Katerina Karoussos (Greece), Živa Ljubec (Slovenia), Oriana Persico (Italy), Elena Giulia Rossi (Italy), Judith van der Elst (Holland). Some of them also participated to the conference. And of course thanks to all the other people who gave their contribution to the discussion.
art*science 2017/Leonardo 50 conference was also the opportunity for a meeting among the participants to Yasmin mailing list.
Life and the living
Contemporary sciences and technologies gave rise to many applications and disciplines, like software entities, autonomous agents and objects, Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Life, biotechnologies, genetic engineering, Synthetic Life and biology, Robotics, biorobotics and nanorobotics, nanotechnologies, modified and hybrid organisms, De-Extinction. The digital-based realms, like Robotics and Artificial Life (Langton, 1989; Parisi, 1995), recall the idea of life, of living beings, simulating or emulating some behavioural characteristics. Many recent and rapidly growing disciplines are biology-based, therefore they go beyond the digital because they deal with the matter the living is made of, which we are made of. They are: biotechnologies and genetic engineering; Synthetic Life and biology; biorobotics; modified and hybrid organisms; and De-Extinction, a discipline that promises to revive extinct species by genetic engineering or hybridization techniques (Gibbs, 2004; Baker et al., 2006; Shapiro and Benenson, 2006; Chen et al., 2014; Shapiro, 2015).
Life Sciences have become widespread in recent decades. The relevance of ancient entities, such as bacteria, inside the living and the human, even as personal “fingerprints”, has been recognized. The search for life forms, traces and organic elements has become fundamental in scientific research outside Earth, on Mars, on comets, even in the planets in formation (Jenkins and Perez, 2010; Öberg et al., 2015; Goesmann et al., 2015). As if life in the universe should have the same characteristics of life on Earth, that is to say it was founded on the organic matter, on “what the living is made of”. Numerous sciences and technologies have to do with living things, with life. However, although it may seem so obvious, indeed life remains a mystery. Many disciplines have tried to define “life”, through their theoretical and operational tools: this slide presents a selection from biology, evolutionary biology, neo-Darwinism, physics, biochemistry, geophysiology, knowledge biology… But none of these definitions can be considered as exhaustive. Among life’s characteristics, the most intriguing, at least from a philosophical point of view, is probably its elusiveness. What makes a set of chemical compounds, a conglomerate of matter, a living organism?
An example of this uncertainty is the long debate on viruses, whether they should be considered as living entities or not. In fact, viruses are not autonomous, they can not live and multiply without an organism that hosts them. However, they are “pollinators” in the living’s evolution, they can be decisive in the existence of individuals and species, therefore on Earth they have influenced life since its dawn. According to Luis Villarreal (2004, p. 102), director Virus Research Center at the University of California in Irvine:
So life itself is an emergent, complex state, but it is made from the same fundamental, physical building blocks that constitute a virus. Approached from this perspective, viruses, though not fully alive, may be thought of as being more than inert matter: they verge on life.
This “verging on life” is intriguing. Is life a sort of terminus ad quem? A sort of continuum?
Art and the artists
Art has always drawn inspiration from the living, from life, and has often tried to represent it, from the Upper Palaeolithic wall pictures to the most recent technological forms. The living has inspired art, configuring its events’ horizon. And the artist has used the technologies of his time performing a function well described by Marshall McLuhan (1964, pp. 65–66):
The artist is the man in any field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of his action and of new knowledge in his own time. He is the man of integral awareness.
The artist can correct the sense ratios before the blow of new technology has numbed conscious procedures. He can correct them before numbness and subliminal groping and reaction begin.
He is the one who first understands the impact of technology and is able to respond, also critically.
Thanks to selection and breeding humanity has always modified the living and life creating new varieties of plants and animals. In the last decades, thanks to biological disciplines, genetics and related technologies, the ability to operate on the living or to create it has become more powerful. By the end of the ’90s Vilém Flusser (1988) wondered:
Why is it that dogs aren’t yet blue with red spots, and that horses don’t yet radiate phosphorescent colors over the nocturnal meadows of the land? Why hasn’t the breeding of animals, still principally an economic concern, moved into the field of aesthetics?
These questions do not really constitute a provocation. Although less flamboyant, what Flusser has imagined has been realized since a long time: many domestic animal varieties, as well as numerous varieties of flowers and plants, have been selected for purely aesthetic or utilitarian reasons, or for both. They would not exist without a human intervention that created and protected them.
Since at least twenty years there are artistic forms based on biology, the “bioarts”, which are actually made up of various subsets, as shown in this graph [Fig. 1] (Capucci, 2007; Gessert, 2010). The definitions are from a text that George Gessert, an artist and theorist who has been working in the field of genetic art since 1985, sent to Yasmin, a mailing list on the relations among arts, sciences and technologies in the Mediterranean rim sustained by the UNESCO DigiArts program, by Leonardo magazine and promoted by Noema. This graph is divided into two great domains: the inorganic and the organic realms. Inside the second one the wider domain is bioart, the art “that is alive or that uses living components” (Gessert, 2006), which can also include historical forms such as ecological art, performance and Land Art. Its first subset is biotechnological art, which involves biotechnologies: genetic and non-genetic manipulations, breeding and selection of plants and animals, manipulation of chromosomes, tissue culture.
The next subset is genetic art, which deals with DNA in the broadest meaning. As it is evident, a part of this set exits from bioart, from the organic domain, to enter the inorganic, and constitutes an interesting bridge that recapitulates the birth of life, according to the hypothesis of abiogenesis: starting from about 4 billion years ago the organic would have evolved from the inorganic (Simpson, 2003; Russell, 2006). Therefore, organic and inorganic should not be considered as opposed, but as complementary, as contiguous, osmotic domains. Art has crossed this barrier too: as shown in the graph, genetic art casts a bridge between organic and inorganic, crossing the border. This realm includes some “organic” works by Eduardo Kac but also inorganic works, such as those by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonnau, forms of painting and artificial life applications. Finally, as a subset of biotechnological art and genetic art, there is transgenic art, which involves genetic engineering.