Revisiting practice: Arts, Sciences, and Experimentation

Konferenz, Wissenschaft, Roma

International Conference


Keynote Adresses

Konferenz, Wissenschaft

International Conference

Convened by Philippe Sormani (Istituto Svizzero di Roma), Guelfo Carbone (Istituto Svizzero di Roma) and Priska Gisler (Berne University of Arts)

Supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation

Of late, the relationship between the arts and sciences has become a topic of scholarly discussion and, at times, political and moral concern, leading to a renewed “debate on research in the arts” (Borgdorff 2006). This debate has recently been sparked by reforms in European higher education, transforming former art schools into universities of applied sciences or universities of the arts. Consequently, the debate has tended to rehearse terminological and institutional issues, regarding the character and legitimacy of “research” on, for, and/or in the “arts” (Borgdorff 2006:6; Freyling 1993). Rare, however, remain detailed investigations of artistic practices in situ and in vivo, investigations that devote a similar ethnographic attention to “research in the making” as this had famously been the case for the laboratory sciences (cf. Knorr Cetina 1995). It is against this background, then, that the present conference invites its participants to engage in revisiting practices at the manifold intersections of the arts and sciences, with a particular focus on experimentation across these domains (cf. Rheinberger 2012). The focus on experimentation shall allow us to discuss an argument made by art and science historians, the argument according to which “what much of (a conventional) focus on ʻartʼ and ʻscienceʼ as discrete products ignores are the commonalities in the practices that produce them” (Jones & Galison 1998:2). More broadly, the conference addresses the current relationship(s) between institutional discourses and practical inquiries in the arts and sciences, a topic that seems all the more pertinent given the alleged “de-marcations” (Entgrenzungen) of both domains (e.g., Jasanoff 2004; Rebentisch 2013; Reckwitz 2012).

Keynote Addresses:

Contemporary art: pluralized paradigm of boundary transgression
Nathalie Heinich (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France)

This keynote address offers a sociological analysis of contemporary art as a “pluralized paradigm of boundary transgression” – that is, a shared, yet diversified set of working methods and core values, which has been variously put into practice to challenge, and experiment with, traditional boundaries and conventional distinctions, including the distinction(s) between “art” and “non-art”. The sociological analysis is based on selected examples, exhibits, and episodes from contemporary art.

Artistic images and the artful production of science: the hybridization of artistic and scientific practices
Michael E. Lynch (Department of Science & Technology Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA)

In fields such as nanotechnology it is common in larger laboratories to host artists in residence, and artistic renderings have proliferated on the web, sometimes closely associated with and sometimes remote from research sites.  This keynote address draws upon work in science and technology studies (STS) and ethnomethodology to suggest that visual “art” is not only a product of professional artists-in-residence at scientific facilities, or of scientists explicitly attempting to create artistic images to promote their research or playfully engage with it.  Artful renderings of research materials also are featured in the day-to-day practice of science, and are integrated with the visualization of phenomena.  The talk suggests that the practical and aesthetic value of such artful renderings might be more significant in scientific research than that of any explicitly produced artistic representations of scientific phenomena.

Epistemics and aesthetics of experimentation: towards a hybrid heuristics?
Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (Max Planck Institut fuer Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin, Germany)

This keynote address discusses the epistemics and aesthetics of experimentation. In particular, it charts how novel insights and new forms of expression have hinged upon experimental practices both in the arts and sciences. It argues for a joint discussion, if not a stronger alignment of their respective histories and opens up a reflection on “hybrid heuristics” – a heuristics where the “new” blends (or suspends) hitherto separated categories of epistemics and aesthetics.

Contact: scienze@istitutosvizzero.it