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Alan Watkins

Re: Art and Science Meeting

Jan 29, 1999

David Peat

Beauty in Art and Science

Jan 30, 1999

David Peat


Jan 30, 1999

Chris Isham

Thoughts on the Arts-Science Interface

Jan 30, 1999

Stuart Hameroff

Reflections on Art and Science

Jan 31, 1999

Nick Herbert

Jabir's Formula

Jan 31, 1999

Gisela Domschke

No Subject

Feb 3, 1999

Matthew Fuller

No Subject

Feb 7, 1999

Alan Watkins

Art and Science Language Issues

Feb 8, 1999

David Peat

Dialog and Conflict

Feb 11, 1999

Antony Gormley

No Subject

Feb 15, 1999

lori B

think thermal

Feb 15, 1999

Michael Petry

Art and Science

Feb 17, 1999

Siraj Izhar

Somewhere Else

Feb 20, 1999

Bruce Gilchrist

Sci-Art Debate

Feb 23, 1999

Martin Kemp

Dialogue Forum

Jun 10, 1999

Liliane Karnouk

A Celebration of Time

Jun 11, 1999

Don Foresta

Dialogue Forum

Jun 17, 1999

Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 09:46:16 +0000
From: Dr Alan Watkins <>
Subject: Re: Art and Science Meeting

Dear All

In pursuit of David Peat's "hare", I would like to suggest that rather than ponder the reasons why many scientists adhere to the myth of independence from culture (and therefore art) and a belief that science is "objective" and we might find the issue of "transformation" a more interesting subject. Transformation of energy into matter, energy into energy art into science, science into art, and how such transformation relates to our own human experience, our conscious awareness and, as David suggested, the role of intention in the transformation process.


Dr Alan Watkins

Date: Sat, 30 Jan 1999 11:42:50 +0100
From: David Peat <>
Subject: Beauty in Art and Science

Another area that could be touched on is the question of aesthetic judgments in art and science. To what degree do they share common ground and in what areas do they diverge? The concept of beauty, for example, is not so fashionable in art criticism today although it is often used about the work of Anish Kapoor. Physicists and mathematicians are not so shy. Paul Dirac has spoke as the search for beauty as being important in the way he did physics and the strong emotional reaction he had when "everything fits". Roger Penrose argues that beauty is "not only an end in itself but a means to that end." When a mathematician or theoretical physicist is stuck then looking for the most beautiful thing to do often turns out to be exactly the right move needed to produce a theoretical advance.

But is such beauty identical to that found in work of Anish Kapoor, Fra Angelico, J.S Bach and the Easter Island heads? Mathematicians often prefer the word "eligance" which has to do with economy of means and a certain sense of inevitability when everything finally fits together. Beauty in art and science certainly share in common notions of order, symmetry, economy and inevitability and maybe even that mysterious association with "truth". But are their other qualities of beauty, and its complementary attribute of The Sublime, that are found in art but have no place and science. Likewise if in physics beauty must ultimately stand the test of experiment are there similar criteria in art.

David Peat

Date: Sat, 30 Jan 1999 11:31:34 +0100
From: David Peat <>
Subject: Embodiment

One issue that could be touched on in the meeting is that of embodiment and the role of the body. That is how do people actually feel and sense when they are involved in creative work. Below are three quotes, two from an artist and one from a scientist.

The painter Patrick Heron, quoted by A.S.Byatt in "An Act of Seeing", Modern Painters Vol. II, no 2, Summer 1998 "As a painter, I can testify to the following sequence of sensations: the sudden apprehension of the form of a new picture is first registered, in my own case at any rate, as a distinct feeling of hollowness: and to locate this sensation somewhere in the region of the diaphragm is not to indulge in a pretentious whim: it is merely to acknowledge physical fact. I am noting possible subjects all day long, every day. , quite involuntarily. Thus it is not a question of painting when I see a subject: it is a question of calling up a subject (or to be more precise, of calling up an immense variety of remembered subjects simultaneously) when I am read for action with my brush and palette. So I begin with this hollow feeling. Next, this uncomfortable sensation in one's middle grows into a sort of palpitation, which, in turn, seems rapidly to spread upwards and outwards until the muscles of one's right arm (if one is right-handed!) become agitated by a flow of electric energy. This energy in one's arm is the prelude to painting because it can only be released by grabbing a brush and starting to paint."

Then the physicist, David Bohm, speaking about his experienced when doing theoretical physics. Here he is referring to a counter-intuitive result to do with the spin of the electron.

"I had the feeling that internally I could participate in some movement that was the analogy of the thing you are talking about. I can't really articulate it. It had to do with a sense of tensions in the body, the fact that two tensions are in opposite directions and then suddenly feel that there was something else. The spin thing cannot be reduced to classical physics. Two feelings in the mind combine to produce something that is of a different quality....I got the feeling in my own mind of spin up, spin down, that I was spinning up and then down. Then suddenly bringing them together in the x direction (Horizontal).... It's really hard to get an analogy. It's a kind of transformation that takes place. Essentially I was trying to produce in myself an analogy of that, in my state of being. In a way I'm trying to become an analogy of that - whatever that means."

Bohm spoke to Einstein about this and learned that the physicist similar proceeded from minimal body movements. Einstein carried a ball that he used to squeeze when thinking about space and time. Bohm also suggested that since the matter out of which the cosmos is composed was a part of his body then somehow it's laws should be accessible though a sort of sensory introspection. And here is Cezanne talking about the act of painting. "The Landscape becomes reflective, human and thinks itself though me. I make it an object, let it project itself and endure within my painting....I become the subjective consciousness of the landscape, and my painting becomes its objective consciousness. ....I am becoming more lucid before nature, but always with me the realization of my sensations is always painful. I cannot attain the intensity that is unfolded before my senses.... Here on the bank of the river the motifs multiply, the same subject seen from a different angle offers subject for study of the most powerful interest and so varied that I think I could occupy myself for months without changing place by turning now more to the right, now more to the left."

David Peat

Date: Sat, 30 Jan 1999 20:09:54 +0000
From: Chris Isham
Subject: Re: Art and Science Meeting

Chris Isham has contributed a discussion paper, Thoughts on the Arts-Science Interface, available here.

Reality is "veiled" with no single discipline capable of uncovering more than a fragment. Science, art, music, poetry, etc. each point beyond themselves to what lies beneath the mystery. Isham also makes some important philosophical qualifications to the art and science debate and provides a series of suggestions for further discussion.

Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 09:05:44 -0700
From: Stuart Hameroff
Subject: Reflections on Art and Science

Stemming from a debate between Socrates and Aristotle are two general types of approaches to the problem of consciousness. To paraphrase: 1) consciousness emerges as a higher-order property of computational complexity (Socrates), 2) consciousness also involves something fundamental to the universe (Aristotle). I favor the latter, in particular a philosophical position best described as 'pan-protopsychism' in which raw, undifferentiated primitive components of consciousness ('qualia') are considered as fundamental properties of the universe (e.g. like mass, spin, or charge) - embedded in the basic level of physical reality. The idea is that somehow our brains access this fundamental level and select particular configurations of primitive qualia into complex conscious scenes, perhaps as a painter selects particular paints from a pallette.

To push this idea past mere metaphor we can ask, what is the pallette, and 'who' is the painter?

The pallette of 'qualia' (it is suggested) is reality itself - the most basic and fundamental level of what is called spacetime geometry. It turns out that empty space at its most basic level is not smooth, nor empty, but patterned at the level of the Planck scale (10^-33cm). What does fundamental reality look like?

Several participants on the science side in this Art and Science Meeting are authorities in the understanding and portrayal of fundamental reality. To start the ball rolling (and please correct and add here) there are a number of physics interpretations at this level which yield imagery such as "quantum foam", "quantum potential", "quantum spin networks", and simplified two-dimensional "spacetime sheets". Roger Penrose's "twistor theory" also suggests that "light cones" may be relevant to a description of basic reality. Given what is known about fundamental reality through physics, can artists help portray spacetime geometry through acts of visualization? As David Peat (and Neils Bohr) remind us, the quantum world can't really be described in classical terms, however sub-conscious artistic intuition may reside in the quantum realm (at least according to the Orch OR model, for example). So the visualization of Planck scale reality is a potentially fruitful area for collaboration between artists and scientists.

This brings us to the second question: 'who is the painter?' Obviously, our conscious minds somehow assemble primitive qualia into complex scenes, but is the process completely deterministic, or is there some rationale for creativity, inspiration and free will? If proto-conscious qualia do reside at the Planck scale, then as Roger Penrose suggests it is not unreasonable that the fundamental level of spacetime geometry also contains Platonic values like mathematical truth, aesthetic values and ethics. Our model of consciousness (the Penrose-Hameroff 'Orch OR' model) suggests that quantum computation in microtubules within the neurons of our brain are influenced by these Platonic values in choices and selections. Artists may indeed be in touch with nature, influenced by an actual 'muse' in their creative process. Creative choices, like free will, may be a combination of deterministic processes acted on by values embedded in fundamental spacetime geometry.

One final area I'd like to bring into the discussion has to do with the biological structures deep within the brain's neurons. Microtubules and other cytoskeletal filaments define the shape and function of each cell in a system of rigid rods (microtubules) which don't directly interconnect, and contractile elements (actin) which suspend the rigid microtubules into a 'tensegrity' network. Tensegrity was described as an architectural form by Buckminster Fuller, and implemented as sculpture by Kenneth Snelson (See 'The architecture of life' by Donald Ingber, Scientific American, January, 1998). A careful look at the elegant and unusual components of the cytoskeleton might elaborate further architectural/artistic principles.

Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 22:56:08 +0100
From: Nick Herbert
Subject: Jabir's Formula

Nick Herbert, physicist, poet, performance hermit of Boulder Creek, California has sent us the latest version of Jabir's Formula (the key to Quantum Tantra)

Jabir's Formula

i want to woo Her, not view Her

pet Reality until She purrs

yearning to merge with Dame Nature bodily

longing to mingle my substance with Hers:

them content with mere observation

are nothing but Nature's voyeurs.

Doctor Jabir 'abd al-Khaliq
(aka Nick Herbert)

Date: Wed, 03 Feb 1999 10:06:10 +0100
From: Gisela Domschke
Subject: No Subject

Gisela Domschke will be recording our meeting. She was not one of the participants originally invited but I hope that she will not only observe but join in and participate. She writes:

My main interest when I'm developing a work is not to have it finished, but to enjoy the possibilities of exchanges that it can bring to me. The value of art resides, I think, in this dynamic flux of communication. Its existential commitment resides in the revelation of the disorganization of life, that's so often disguised by static divisions and classifications.

In this sense, I believe that Dewey's aesthetics of continuity is a promising tool to think this theme of the meeting. He was keen to connect aspects of life experience that had been divided by specialist disciplinary thought. "Different ideas have their different "feels", their immediate qualitative aspects, just as much as anything else...But in any case there is an unbridgeable gap between science in the laboratory and the work of art." (John Dewey, Art as Experience, Southern Illinois University Press, 125-6)." (AE, 80). "Experience is the result, the sign, and the reward of that interaction of organism and environment which, when is carried to the full, is a transformation of interaction into participation and communication."

"In life that is truly life everything overlaps and merges." (AE, 24). this vague idea in a challenging act of perception ...

Matthew Fuller had originally hoped to join our group but the pressures of another conference prevent him. Matthew has been working via the Internet, creating ironic and satirical comments on the business of science. He sends us the following message.

Date: Sun, 7 Feb 1999 21:54:07 +0100
From: Matthew Fuller
Subject: No Subject

Dear David,

Unfortunately it looks like I will not be able to make it to the meeting on the first weekend of March as other commitments are taking longer than I had anticipated to deal with.

I do wish you the best of luck with it all - I'm sure much will come of it. Especially if as seems intended, things do move away from the usual scenario at these events where scientists smile benignly at the artists before lecturing them on how important beauty or a sense of wonder before nature is of course ever-present in their work and ticking them off ever so gently for not quite matching up after all to the power of disinterested reason, with of course the artists equally glib in submission to the worthy task of illustrating the manna of scientific knowledge or veneration of some numinous cosmic gloop that binds us all in some unified cosmic task etc etc. Scientists at least at these events should sign a pact in blood to preclude them from acting like the school prefects of the universe.

With best wishes,


Date: Mon, 08 Feb 1999 18:02:32 +0000
From: Dr Alan Watkins <>
Subject: Art and Science Language Issues

Having read some of the other attendees thoughts for discussion two things occur to me:

Firstly there may be a real problem of language. With people coming from such different starting points and with their own unique languages and phraseology there may be a possibility that people get less out the discussion than they might simply because they do not understand the language of other attendees. Therefore to avoid potentially boring some who sit and do not understand what someone else is saying can I suggest that we either have someone act as a translator and chairman of the discussion or else encourage attendees to restrict, as far as possible, their jargon and esoteric phraseology.

Another alternative might be to suggest each attendees has 10 minutes or so to put forward their views on the subject in a language that a general audience would understand.

My goal in suggesting such a process is to ensure that all attendees get as much out of our discussions as possible. Those who are new to such fantastically eclectic and I anticipate very stimulating discussions may feel inhibited from contributing what may be interesting and/or useful perspectives because we are struggling to follow a language we do not fully comprehend. Similarly those who are used to mingling across the expected language barriers may miss hearing alternative perspectives simply because those that might voice them are not following the flow of the dialogue.

I remember being present at a Royal College of Physicians conference on Psychoneuroimmunology, the Mind and Emotions, where several medical disciplines were sat around a table with the explicit intention to discuss how different perspectives could become more integrated and learn from each other to promote better health.

The whole day was a complete bust because the immunologists talked about chemical intracellular signaling, the social scientists talked the importance of social support and poverty, the psychologists talked about emotions, the behaviorists talked about environmental upbringing and so on.

Since we have spoken already on the issue of language I know you will understand my concerns on this. I would see this as vital to achieving a successful meeting. If we can keep the language elegantly simple then we will have a wonderful time.

Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 12:37 +0000
From: David Peat <>
Subject: Dialog and Conflict

An artist friend told me how he had become involved with some scientists and technologists. It came about in a perfectly natural and organic way because of people's interest and excitement. In addition their different perspectives on things made for some interesting spin-offs. At some point this collaboration reached the point were an art and science agency became involved. I gather that this led to the problem of creative energies being deflected into all manner of rhetoric and bureaucratic complications.

Maybe this is something that needs discussing at the meeting. Is it simply another case of what happens when outside agencies, with quite different goals and briefs, become involved in someone else's creative work. Or is it particular to the current fashion of art and science collaborations?

Is this sort of thing inevitable when art and science meet?
Are these relationships being forced by outside agencies?

This leads me to a further consideration. There was a time, during the sixties when science had a bad press. Then things turned around and suddenly everyone wanted to talk to scientists, particularly to theoretical physicists, and even include a specimen of a scientist at their meetings. Chris Isham has experience of Science/Religion meetings. Some years ago, with Leroy Little Bear, I organised a series of dialogues between Native American elders and Western scientists. I and a number of my colleagues have also been asked to talk at meetings of psychotherapists. Now it has become the fashion is for scientists and artists to talk together.

While it is important to cross boundaries and heal fragmentation. Some of these meetings can be of great value, as when people from quite different world-view begin to see the limitations of their own approach and the possibility of other ways of seeing. But there can also be a negative side to all this. People often want to appropriate science for their own use. There is a tendency to use science as a way of justifying certain positions - and in the process taking science beyond its proper domains. There is also the desire to import, in an uncritical way, all manner of scientific metaphors and half-baked ideas into other disciplines - particularly psychotherapy - as a way of supporting people's theories and conjectures.

At times I sense a backlash against all this. In one discussion the psychiatrist Stan Groff clearly because irritated at the way so many psychiatric models are supposed to rest upon metaphors of physics. He felt that something really interesting would occur when physics was forced to use ideas emerging out of psychiatry! (This in a sense echoes Wolfgang Pauli's notion that just as Jungian psychology must come to terms with the objective side to the unconscious so too physics must come to terms with the irrational in matter and the subjective side to physics.)

Now it's all very well for physicists to protest that their theories and ideas are being used in loose and metaphoric ways. On the other hand I take to heart Mat Fuller's remark about theoretical physicists acting as the "prefects of the universe". Ever since Oppenheimer's involvement with the Manhattan Project- a time when science "knew original sin" - scientists have learned to seduce power and money. They also know the importance of good public relations and how to present their ideas in ways that are palatable to governments and society at large. In addition any of them write books with a distinctly mystical tinge, acknowledging that scientists have become the new priesthood. (They even speak of "the mind of God") And if that sounds far fetched I well remember a speech by Fred Hoyle to the American Physical Society. It was in Chicago in the late sixties. Hoyle pointed out the enormous sums of money and international effort needed to build elementary particle accelerators, and space travel. (Today he would probably have added the Human Genome Project to the list,). It demanded funds in excess the entire budged of smaller nations and in human effort and collaboration was comparable to the building of medieval cathedrals.

Hoyle felt that the final appeal to society could not be done on strictly rational argument alone, such as the importance of the pursuit of pure knowledge, on technological spin-offs to the economy. Rather it was an essentially religious impulse and scientists had to learn to present themselves in this light. Once it was artists appealed to popes and kings. Today the pope calls congregations of scientists!

Date: Mon, 15 Feb 1999 09:10:48 +0100
From: Antony Gormley
Subject: No Subject

Art and Science like the two sides of a brain, one objective analytical and abstract and the other inspirational, erratic, emotional and empathic....whose brain one wonders..... I am fascinated by the way the two disciplines echo each other and often seem to coalesce.

Date: Mon, 15 Feb 1999 22:09:13 +0100
From: lori B
Subject: think thermal

riccardo and i perused the website the other night and were fascinated and a bit overwhelmed. All the submissions are striking me as extremely academic and i find this a bit daunting. i am no slouch intellectually but my research about the intersection between art and science has been utterly informal. i bring to the conference my body and my very fine faculty for conceptual thought. i hope this is enough.

in particular, two areas interest me: perception is one and responsibility is the other (what this means to the scientist and what this means to the artist). also, i am curious about very fundamental questions like what art is for and what science is for. (PURPOSE) also what art is and what science is (DEFINITION). perhaps there are as many answers as there are artists and scientists but i would love to hear some musings from other participants. i am full of questions .

on a much more technical note, perhaps a neurophysiological inquiry?: i am curious about the difference between function and expression in movement. riccardo and i have witnessed a phenomenon again and again in dancing with people with physical disabilities. people who have profound functional incapacities find themselves with very different physical limits when it comes to expression. what shifts inside the body (brain/nervous system/motor center) when the motivation is expressive rather than functional?

Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 17:30:20 +0100
From: Michael Petry
Subject: Art and Science

Dear Participants

Just a short intervention at this point. Having read the papers and the letters so far, I am feeling a tone of confrontation setting in or being perceived as preexisting. Perhaps it is in the nature of compare and contrast, the writers, or the subject matter, but positions seem to be forming along binary lines. Perhaps a step back is needed.

Perception seems to me to be at the core of all the disparate ways of describing our existence. How we are, how we come about, and where will we wind up are the questions that art, science, religion, and philosophy are asking in different ways and getting different answers. Who is to say which is the more privileged field of study? A non-hierarchical discussion is what I think we all are interested in.

"When can I look back? Kiss me, kiss me now, there is no time but the now, there is no time, time runs out and then there is only the past, but we are here now, now in the present, make me a present, present yourself to me as a present, presently"
-excerpt from The History of the World my current video installation

Michael Petry

Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 20:03:32 -0200
From: Siraj Izhar
Subject: Somewhere Else

Dear David,

I am just reading this piece called "Behold The Lamb" by Jan Harris in the current issue of Inventory. Its about Dolly, the cloned sheep and just WHY she was called Dolly. There are references to Dolly Parton, mammary glands, Russian dolls, Diana and the pseudo-event: that is, an event in which it impossible to separate the object of representation from the process by which it is represented.

Perhaps all the conundrums that any form of self conscious thinking, object-making, symbol formations presents today in what ever discipline all come together in the pseudo-event. In science, art whatever. We may avoid talking about it and refer to old languages of aesthetics, irrelevant straws of tangibles but the pseudo-event is our inherited and very particular condition of existing.

A few weeks ago, when we were chatting in a Soho pub with the photographer Mark Edwards, you brought up the issue of usury and interest and why in some cultures the idea of a money ( or any representation of materialism accruing value) by itself is immoral. Later you sent me an email saying that Aquinas thought that since time belonged to God, it was immoral for humans to allow money to reproduce itself by itself in human time. You asked how this related to the Islamic philosophers. Once again this takes us in the orbit of the pseudo-event, pseudo-existences and pull of our own cultural black hole. The strings of metaphors cross over between all the disciplines, the strings that pull together all that our creative thinking irrespective of the disciplinary label. I found the thrust of your question stimulating and I hope we can discuss these things further with more people. Just as a reminder I enclose my quick reply:

>The way you have put it is really quite clean. One of the big issues for
>the Islamic philosophers and also for the schoolmen was distinguishing time
>from eternity; which can be puzzling to modern theories of the Big bang etc?
>For heretics like Al- Hallaj, time was internal whilst space was external and
>neither was infinite.

>With profane things like money, the question would revolve around the
>specific nature of its essence? What is its agency? What moves it?
>Man or God. Causality and Representation are the foundations I think of
>Islamic society and everything thereon has prescribed Attributes to prevent
>the wrong forces usurping causality.... If money can accrue interest on
>its own, the dangers are clear!

But also after all our conversations the past year, I m admittedly disappointed by the possibility of yet another Art and Science platform. It was the last thing I was expecting to participate in. I wonder, why does the Culture Industry have to keep milking this. It seems so frigid. Couldn't we all talk about something else, that is as artists and as scientists.

Maybe...well, somewhere else. Of course I speak as a multi-undisciplinarian. These Culture Industry "Art and Science" debates sit the inquiries so comfortably within existing frames, familiar symbols, framework of productivity, of productive thinking. They are within the frame, not somewhere else.

What shall we produce? "the necessity of producing has always been the enemy of the desire to create" That's from that book by Raul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life, which happens to be on my table. I would like to quote something from there because I think it targets the reason why art and science platforms have become so repetitive - a certain marketable nihilism: "Nihilism is borne out of the collapse of myth. When a mythical system enters into contradiction with economic and social reality a gulf opens up between the way people live and the prevailing explanation of the world, which is now suddenly completely inadequate." We know this gulf to be pervasive; it is the pseudo-event; it brings us all together as thinkers now. I do look forward to talking to everyone in the conference but my fear is that the space for creative thinking is somewhere else. It has a different form and it involves giving the old spaces the slip. I think you have expressed this as well but in other terms. As for Art and Science, today when can one avoid one through the other? Ask Dolly!

all the best,


Date: Tue, 23 Feb 1999 20:56:25 +0000
From: Bruce Gilchrist
Subject: Sci-Art Debate

"Too much of this kind of debate simply engenders schizophrenia. I've been involved in a project recently involving artists, technologists, scientists, and cultural theorists. We are all talking together essentially because we are excited about an idea; individuals inputting their perspectives, creating hybrid spin-offs. The process is organic - feels natural. Maybe I'm lucky to be having a positive experience. I don't know.

In this situation, when in discussion with someone from a different discipline and the relationship is working, there is an acknowledgment and respect of differing expertise (we can't all tread the same path). The frisson can be creative and speculative. We are not worried about how we are going to categorise future events. Too counter productive".

Date: Thu, 10 Jun 1999 10:16:56 +0100
From: (Martin Kemp)
Subject: Dialogue Forum

Dear David,

Thanks for latest.

If you are pursuing the idea of a centre (yes to Siena!), it might be worth discussing a link with our Centre for Visual Studies at Oxford, especially re. fund-raising and having access to grant authorities etc. Too snowed-under to respond at more length - but count me in.



Date: Fri, 11 June, 1999
From: Liliane Karnouk <>
Subject: A Celebration of Time

Since the last conference on Art&Science I attended in London , I kept away from that debate . It was so desapointing to see that it revolved continuously around avan garde art and industrial technology instead of where I was hoping it would lead. To my surprise not a single architect or philosopher was invited. However, I am still hoping to continue the discourse we started in Wye college in 1995, but I still have not found the context. Perhaps this is impossible for the moment, too much too soon, but I will not give up. Your idea of meeting in the country side , might work . The location near Sienna is full of power to inspire and lead. A village would bring the discussion to a ground base far away from the specialization of academics or trendy curators. I personally cannot stand cities such as London but I am all willing to relocate for longer periods of time in the Italian countryside. So, lets do it !

There is something else. A few months ago I wrote this letter but could not think of anyone to send it to. Are you interested ?

An exhibition idea for the Millennium

In 1994, I was part of a major exhibition entitled "Time Machine " held in London at the British Museum . The exhibition involved twelve artists who were requested to present their work in the main hall of Egyptian Antiquities in the mist of the masterpieces of Ancient sculptures . The artists were free to express themselves in any medium but were invited to manifest through their presentation some continuity or inspiration based on the Ancient Egypt artistic legacy.

Without pictures I cannot show you the interesting integration of the contemporary works in the context of the huge and impressive hall , or reflect on the disturbing confrontations of aesthetic meanings provoked by the juxtaposition of Ancient and Modern works.

In all , the exhibition was unique as a statement about Aesthetics as well as Time, because it blended coherently the works from antiquity - reduced to fragments through the damage of the centuries and also their removal from their original context, and the new works - prematurely displayed in the classical time frame the British Museum .

Which brings me to the reason why I am telling you about that exhibition . A few days ago a well wishing friend forwarded to me the application form for the Millennium Art Grants offered by the Canada Council .I immediately felt that any proposal to create art worth celebrating the Millenium should account for the unqueness of the celebration. With this in mind , I remembered the British Museum exhibition and thought of it as a model for the following exhibition idea which I now propose to you.

Like the British Museum , all national museums , inclose treasures imported from the world . Besides their documentary value, these artifacts are not contextualized , for example in Canada's within its own cultural history . One the other hand , one could say that Canada inherited the World through the collective memory of its pluricultural inhabitants among whom are its artists . Having said that , from the personnel point of view of a Neo-canadian artist , I have always found myself in an awkward situation in Canada . I am westernized but not Western and my visual memory is occupied by images which interfere with my Canadian perceptual experience. Consequently it is often when the Canadian cultural discourse revolves to some extent around the culture and landscape of my origins that I am most comfortable in my creative work . I suppose , the same could be said about Native artists and artists from minority cultures in Canada .

Now more that ever, with the approaching Millennium celebration I find myself wondering as an Egyptian wither I should be celebrating the second or the sixth Millennium . I also wonder about the feelings of Neo-canadians like me . How do we sense cultural time and should we like others count start it with the birth of Christ ? In the same vein , do we look at museum artifacts , differently ?

To find out , it would be interesting and appropriate to organize a Millennium exhibition which will be conceived in the light of "Time Machine" with the added feature of including artists who emigrated to Canada from places where the artifacts displayed in the Museum halls originated. Artists like myself an Egyptian by origin and also others whose Millennium would not necessarily coincide with the birth of Christ , and who might be Greek , Italian , Indian , Chinese , Persian etc ...

I think that curators of Contemporary Arts such as yourself are more able to search for the appropriate artists . As of me , I would be glad to develop a proposal to the C.C. Millenium Fund around this idea , but feel that it would be more effective on a larger scale .

For that I need your expertise and involvement. Please let me know if you might be interested in discussing it further.

Yours truly,

Liliane Karnouk

Date: June 16, 1999
From: (Don Foresta)
Subject: Dialogue Forum

I would like to be added to your art and science debate as I have written much on the question, unfortunately mostly in French.

I've started reading some of your on-line texts and have found them very interesting and parallel to many of the things I have been dealing with.

Cezanne is a particularly important point of departure for me and I enjoyed your references to him. I'm adding at the bottom of this message as illustration a draft excerpt from a chapter I'm doing for book about to be published.

I am involved from the art side as a teacher of art and new technologies and am working on building a permanent high band-width network for artistic experimentation in order to inject into the newest medium of communication the high-end aspect of exchange, art. We seem to have forgotten that during much of the 20the century and I'd like very much that we avoid doing once again.

I'm also preparing an major exhibit on 20th century art with Jean Gagnon of the Daniel Langlois Foundation in Montreal. Our approach is to show how artistic experimentation has been responsible for much technological innovation in communications technology in form, content and carrier. We are discussing a section on parallel scientific models... We feel strongly that art criticism and history has to be reevalued and seen in tandem with scientific invention to better understand the changes in perceptual space and our society's collective imagination.

Best, Don Foresta


"...Today's art represents as radical a break with the past as the art of the 15th century did between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. New definitions of the human being and his relation to others and his environment are implicit in the work being done and are often made possible by the arrival of new technological processes. New tools are often the means by which artists can better express the things they sense and the vehicle by which the new ideas are introduced to society and culture transformed.

From the beginning of the artistic revolution of our times, artists have been anticipating the new space we are trying to define. Cezanne, in his still lifes, broke with the perspective of the Renaissance with its imposed single point of view by proposing several different points of view within a single image through multiple angles of view.

Marcel Duchamp proposed this same idea in 1913 in a simple manner with his work, "Trois stoppages-étalon". The work consisted of dropping a one-meter thread from a height of one meter and tracing the line formed to create a new "standard meter". By creating three of them, he suggested that there were several points of view, as did Cezanne, several ways of measuring and that each of us carries within his own standard meter. The subjectivity of perception furnishes each individual with his own form of measurement and the communication of these different points of view defines reality in the sense that Wheeler has proposed, of social convention..."

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