Response

Linda Francis/ I certainly concur with Leonard’s post on legitimacy, although it is difficult to know how to judge things that we want to call art of any kind, and within that sci-art. The problem both Taney and Daniel have identified is the problem of relevance or authority in society as a whole.. But I ask this question: what do we want from sci art, and how is that similar or different from what we want from art in general. Taney and Suzanne speak about Activism or social relevancy in art. Bio-art when it is positively positioned gives us some excellent and useful ideas in trying to solve various pressing problems we have as a society-However, is the “art” we are attempting to label an art that maybe does not operate in any quotidian sphere, and is there no need for it at this point? I don’t mean to exempt design from art per se, on the contrary, we are in a kind of exploded Bauhaus position.. growing numbers of practitioners in the arts and a concomitant expansion of the aestheticized life. I wonder though what Mondrian would have thought if he saw the drinking glasses MOMA sells with his painting on it or his name on a condo or nightclub. But, as I said earlier, my experience with effecting a positive outcome regarding conservation was not through art but through political and legal intervention.

5 Replies to “Response”

  1. Linda I agree with your point about activism. In my work also I have seen that art can be a levering mechanism for bringing awareness about issues like climate change and plastic pollution. But does it get anyone to change their behavior? The great power that journalists hold – the only one really – is to raise awareness, and artists can also play a role here, but I think art-as-activism has been over-hyped. Activism requires boots on the ground and the long hard slog of community work, which might be entailed in an artist’s practice, but often isn’t. A question that I have increasingly is “Can alliances be made between sci-artists (if we want to call it that) and groups doing the hard political work?” Are there ways of supporting such alliances? In my work I’ve experienced that when my work becomes more politically engaged and activist it becomes harder to fund. Sci-art funding often seems to be allianced to an aesthetic that fetishizes “cutting edge science” and the newest terminologies. (I notice some previous comments about the fetishization of jargon.) I am interested in how (and if) sci-art can serve as a mechanism for helping to prise open hierarchies that often get enacted in relation to science.

    1. That’s an interesting idea, Margaret, about pairing sci-art activists with political activist groups. I wonder what that would look like. I have a filmmaker friend who does some interesting work that might provide a model. One of his projects involved working with the employees at a recycling facility to create a large-scale video work (very large — 50 by 8 feet) that was absolutely beautiful. Part of its success was its subtlety; rather than being a documentary-type film explaining what happens to our waste, it was just a slow sequence of shots showing the enormity of the problem (no voice-over, no explanatory text). I saw it installed at the Museum of the Moving Image, and it was one of the most powerful works I’ve ever seen — leagues above what one usually sees with activist art. I wonder what would happen if he were to team up with some environmental activists and together bring it out into communities that might be affected by it. (Sadly, very few non-art world types frequent that museum.) (For anyone interested, his name is Pawel Wojtasik, and the work is called Single Stream.)

  2. Taney, Pawel was my student years ago and we are still in touch!I know the piece you are talking about and I had him show it to a class of mine at Pratt..I think space, and consequently time really curves back on itself- Heh heh.(.Longer post later..)

    1. Pawel and I were at Yale together, Linda. He was doing sculpture then, but his transition to video has made him, in my opinion, one of the best artists around these days! Small world, eh?

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