1. F. David Peat
Event organiser F. David Peat summarises the events of the meeting, the feelings of the participants and makes recommendations for future meetings in this report written for the Arts Council of England.
2. Jemma Gascoine-Becker
Jemma Gascoine-Becker attended the meeting as an ACE observer. Soon after the meeting she provided these preliminary observations of the event.
Report on the Art and Science Meeting
by. F. David Peat
On 3-5 March, 1999 a meeting artists and scientists was held at the October Gallery, London. The meeting was sponsored by the Arts Council of England, under the auspices of Bronac Ferran, and organised by David Peat.
The participants were as follows:
Lori B - Contact dancer interested in the embodiment of thought
Ansuman Biswas - Artist and musician
Gisela Domschke - Media artist
Bruce Gilchrist - Artist collaborating with scientists
Anthony Gormley - Sculptor
Siraj Izhar - Artist/curator
Riccardo Morrison - Contact dancer interested in the physics of movement and the embodiment of thought
Michael Petry - Artist, with an interest in scientific themes
Martha Senger - Artist and organizer of the G2 artist and scientist cooperative in San Francisco
Tood Watts - Artist/photographer with an interest in scientific themes
Caroline Webb - Artist/photographer
Basil Hiley - Theoretical physics
Alan Watkins - Physician and medical researcher
Stuart Hameroff - Anesthesiologist and collaborator with Roger Penrose on theories of consciousness
David Peat - Theoretical physics
The topic of Art and Science has become fashionable of late with meetings, talks, exhibitions and publications focussing around this general theme. Most of these tend to be proscriptive with goals, themes, agendas and topics being set before hand.
The intention of the October Gallery encounter was to foster a creative atmosphere and conduct an experiment to see just what a highly creative group of artists and scientists would talk about when gathered together in a congenial environment. No goals were set and the participants were not required to address a general audience. The intention was for the participants to get to know each other quickly, spark off ideas, explore new pathways and suggest original approaches.
Within science there is a precedent for such intense closed meetings. In the early decades of the century the leading physicists, chemists and mathematicians met annually at the Solvay conferences. In the 1960s C.H.Waddington gathered a small group of biologists, physicists and mathematicians to map out the future of Theoretical Biology. Early in 1998 a small group met in London to compare new ideas of fields in physics, biology and psychology. In each case the meetings were highly fertile and, as a spin off, lead to long term collaborations and friendships. While public discussions have been held on art and science, such a closed meeting had never been attempted. Within the secure confines of a closed meeting, participants are willing to take more risks, speculate and talk openly about their beliefs and motivations. In addition to the artists and scientists, two contact dancers were invited to participate. They had been present at the Their introduced a somatic awareness into our discussions and, at times, moved the discussion from the purely verbal into physical movement.
To this end the meeting, along with a suggestion of topics, was discussed on an individual bases with the participants for the three months leading up to the March meeting. To focus the meeting Discussion Papers were circulated and a Discussion Forum initiated on the Internet to which participants sent their comments and reactions.
In addition to the group present at the October Gallery meeting, several other artists and scientists were active in the planning stage and contributed to the Internet Discussion Forum. In several cases, circumstances prevented them from attending at the October Gallery. They included:
Susan Derges - artist and photographer
Anish Kapoor - sculptor
Cornelia Parker - artist
Martin Kemp - history of art
Chris Isham - theoretical physicist
Brian Goodwin - theoretical biologist
Most of us met for dinner on March 2, the evening before the meeting, and were therefore able to launch directly into an animated conversation on the following morning. Discussion on the first day ranged over a wide variety of topics as artists and scientists explored each others view points and investigated their different ways of working. Clearly this was a stimulating and liberating experience. The artists wanted to understand the ways in which scientists worked, and the nature of their ideas. For their part, the scientists were interested in the ways artists think and the broad range of their interests.
While many of the participants found the range of topics exciting some felt frustrated at the possible lack of depth. Therefore, on the second morning the meeting focussed on two topics - the significance of human consciousness and the need for artists and scientists to create a new type of space for discussion. In the afternoon the meeting split up spontaneously into several small groups to explore individual topics in greater depth. Several of the participants made plans for future collaboration and meetings together.
On the final morning the meeting moved to a different location - a larger room was needed as observers from funding and arts organisations were to join the group towards lunchtime. In retrospect this move was something of a mistake. Over the previous two days the group had developed a considerable sense of solidarity. In particular they had discussed the pressures and stresses they were experienced from university administrators, funding agencies, dealers, galleries, the market place. Although the change of location had been previously discussed its effect was to break continuity. Several of the participants felt uncomfortable and even hostile towards the presence of outside observers. At least this aspect of the encounter did expose the strong sense of frustration that is currently being experienced, and shared, by both artists and scientists. Also the sense that institutions and funding agencies are neither listening to nor responding to the needs of artists and scientists. It is an issue that should clearly be addressed at any future meeting.
The Connection between Art and Science
From the start there was a strong sense that all the participants were on the same side of the fence. The similarities of their approaches, philosophies and sensibilities was far greater than their differences. Indeed one of the scientists, Basil Hiley, said that he found it more rewarding to explain his speculative ideas to the artists than with fellow-scientists.
Artists have traditionally draw on ideas from science and technology. Now the transaction also appeared to be taking place in the other direction as well. In several fundamental areas theoretical physics had reached an impasse. Despite many years of work by top minds in the field, little true progress is being made. It was here, it was felt, that the different reactions, approaches, interests and researches of artists might help. For example, artists bring a refreshingly different attitude to issues of matter, space and consciousness studies that may help to give scientists an alternative perspective.
As to active collaborations between artists and scientists, it seems that these are best done in individual, idiosyncratic ways and cannot really be planned for or controlled. While many scientists, particularly in the fields of elementary particle, artificial intelligence and the human genome project, have learned to work together in large research groups, in general, the best scientists, like the best artists, are free spirits who have learned .to follow their instincts and enter a particular field because of curiosity and the stimulation it brings, rather than the thought of any external reward. For this reason things don't seem to work that well when external agencies become involved. These agencies are perceived as being driven by aims, goals, agendas and bureaucracy rather than by a free spirit of enquiry. For this reason they are not likely to get thanked for their pains in attempting to promote collaborations between artists and scientists!
There was general agreement that impulses and attitudes are remarkably similar in art and science. Both are motivated by a high degree of intellectual curiosity and in their respective ways are constantly asking questions in the pursuit of truth. In particular, scientists urge their students not to accept theories at face value but to look into them and question them. Likewise much of art takes place within the context of the history of art which is constantly being re-read and deconstructed.
In another area of common ground artists and scientists both felt that their work "came to them", rather than being something they intentionally set out to do. Maybe this is why scientific theories and works of art are defended with such vigour against commercial corruption - their origin lies beyond the individual ego or personal history in something more important than the individual who makes them.
On the other hand much of modern physics, and contemporary art, seems far from everyday life. Science is becoming increasingly abstract and mathematical and, for its part, the general public ignores much contemporary art. Should artists and scientists pay more attention to the relationship between their work and society in general? Should they be concerned with the moral and social values of their work? And to what extent is the need to comment on new ideas and relate them to society the business of art?
In their discoveries scientists are strongly guided by aesthetic criteria. All the participants agreed that in many ways creating a scientific theory becomes a work of art. On the other hand, as Antony Gormley spoke about his approach to sculpture, it appeared that the very physicality of matter, with its mass, scale and texture was of great significance to some artists. Possibly artists are less prone to abstraction and generalisation than scientists.
A difference between the two approaches may also lie in the artist's attitude towards continuity and art history. Much of art is concerned with a continued dialogue, deconstruction and renewal of the past. This seems to be of far less importance to most scientists who have never felt it necessary to read Bacon, Galileo, Copernicus or Newton and may even be painfully ignorant about the writings of Neils Bohr on quantum theory.
The artists were interested in Grand Unified Theories and the way that science seeks closure, ultimate theories and all-embracing explanations. Some felt this is a very masculine approach and noted how few women are making significant contributions to the physical sciences. Some participants wondered what a "feminine aspect" of science would look like. Likewise some aspects of the visual arts have a strongly male approach - these were characterised as big statements, large scale works and the sense of permanence as opposed to subtle suggestions, fleeting appearances and work that is designed to disappear. On the other hand, a case was made for "Neolithic" art of geological duration as an expression of human consciousness.
Consciousness was a theme that kept cropping up during the meeting. It is an issue that is currently engaging theoretical physicists who feel that their own topic may contain clues to its nature. For their part, several of the artists specifically felt that their work was about consciousness itself.
In a certain sense art and science explore the nature of consciousness, its evolution and transformation. Works of art change the consciousness of those who see them, and in turn, this change of consciousness permeates society in general. Scientific ideas also change the way we see and respond to the world.
The group also enquired how far consciousness extends - into the body, into society as a whole, into nature and right down to the elementary particles and space-time itself? And can a creative act change both consciousness and the nature of the matter it is manipulating? Clearly this is an area in which art and science offer each other mutual stimulation and support.
The idea that art and science may actually change human consciousness is highly significant. One of the artists even suggested that what art does is to encapsulate and compress our present view of the world and then pass it on, in a symbolic form, to future generations.
Several of the participants urged us to think about immediate values in a world that is becoming increasingly obsessed with pseudo-events and where signs are rapidly replacing the real. What art can be produced in such a society? What significance, what importance, what values can it have? There was also general concern about the way scientific and artistic work is corrupted and comodified by society. One artist felt that changes made to work are akin to a kind of rape.
Some of the artists expressed frustration at the dislocation between their own work and demands of the market place, galleries, funding agencies and so on. Funding agencies and other institutions were perceived to be over constrictive and unable to cultivate fresh ideas. Others felt that, provided the spoon was long enough, it was possible to sup at the same table - provided one first negotiated a strong contract in favour of the artist.
Likewise the scientists expressed their anger and frustration at what had been happening within the universities over the last decades - original, creative work was no longer being fostered. In extreme cases the universities were in danger of becoming degree factories administered by accountants!
Some participants felt it was time for us all to take a political, social, moral and ethical stand. We were all leaders in our own fields and should assume the responsibility of leaders in society. Scientists should be concerned with the ethics and implications of their work and should not simply disseminate their results whole heatedly. Likewise artists should be concerned with the impact of their work on the whole of society.
Not everyone agreed with this position. Some felt that their first duty was to their own subject. While, as members of society, these questions were important, as artists or scientists they were not of primary concern. Following Voltaire's "il fault cultiver notre jardin", they believed that it was more important to pay attention to the excellence of one's own work rather than concern oneself with more global issues.
But in one area there was general agreement. That was for artists and scientists to claim their own space - a space in which to dialogue and in which to work.
Space and Meetings
The consideration of space and its possession led into a general discussion of the nature of this and future meetings. All agreed that it had been helpful and important to talk to each other in a free and open way and that that this process should continue. One of the artists pointed out that the meeting had made him realise how little artists talked to each other - and when they did it was only about extraneous matters like real estate and taxes. Not only was it important for artists and scientists to meet and dialogue, but also for artists to talk amongst themselves.
And what of scientists? Do they need to talk together? Certainly they attend many conferences but do not always explore values, meanings, ethics and metaphysics. Some years ago the physicist David Bohm had suggested a meeting of scientists, not so much to talk about their field of research, but about the whole process of doing science, its values and motives.
Was it possible for these discussions to be continued, and even extended, via the Internet? This would certainly play a significant role. But the participants also felt that it was important for people to meet face to face. The key issue was to find and claim a physical space. As one participant put it, "we need a large Victorian house with a cook and housekeeper"" There should be a strong sense of continuity with an absolute minimum of bureaucracy involved. People should be invited on the recommendation of other participants rather than having to fulfil a series of criteria.
An extension of this idea was the creation of physical centres in several locations with a variety of real and virtual links such as the Internet, larger meetings, and so on. The image of an exoskeleton was used. The general conclusion was that this should be only the first of a series of future meetings and discussions. Several of the participants intend to have their own one on one meetings to discuss possible collaboration.
The Future of the Academy
One issue that became clear during the two days was the problems faced by individuals and institutions within a changing society. In particular, what is the role of knowledge, research, learning, teaching and artistic expression within the context of our modern values.
Following the meeting an email was circulated to scientists, artists, academics, administrators. It described the issue as that of The Future of "The Academy" and asked for responses. ("The Academy" being the tradition of universities, and individuals such as artists, poets and philosophers, commenting upon, questioning and preserving values within a society.)
Replies were received from all over the world. The issue, raised at the October Gallery, had certainly touched a nerve.. An active debate over the Internet is now in progress. Several respondents have called for a conference on this topic and funding is now being sought for a planning meeting (8-15 persons) in October of this year.
Discussions were held with individual participants before the meeting, as well as via the Internet Discussion Forum itself. This produced several questions that were circulated to the participants. While the October Gallery meeting did not formally address these questions they were certainly at the back of all our minds. The questions, plus reaction from the meeting, are given below.
Is the current interest in Art and Science simply the latest fashion or the beginning of a new sensibility in which the barriers between art and science will finally break down?
The issues are deep. There has always been a link between art and science and it is important to keep lines of communication open, particularly in a period in which science has become increasingly inaccessible to the general public, and the audience for art is also small. Some scientists feel that the input from artists may help to free their thinking in areas where science is now blocked. In turn, many artists enjoy exploring the new scientific metaphors and modern technology. This may assist scientists in presenting abstract ideas to a wider public.
Funding is currently available to enable artists and scientists to work together. Is this the best way to proceed?
The whole issue of support and funding is controversial. Both communities feel that they are always being well served or listened to. Where "Art and Science" are concerned initiatives should come from the parties themselves, rather than necessarily being promoted by external bodies. Collaborations should proceed with a minimum of external interference. Arts organizations are most effective when they act as gentle and sensitive catalysts, listening to the needs of those they serve.
Are artist's residences in scientific laboratories desirable or effective?
The initiative must come from the artists and scientists themselves. It should not be forced or institutionalized. Scientists could very well resent the intrusion, unless they have some specific request or interest in what an artist is doing. Likewise artists could end up feeling they are wasting a great deal of time.
Open lines of communication are always important but the danger is that people can end up involved in lots of talk with nothing practical emerging.
Patrick Heron has suggested that artists determine the way we see the world, and in this sense act and think about it. He implies that art can actually bring about a chance in human consciousness. To what extent is this true? To what extent to art and science together create the world?
The participants felt very strongly that both art and science, at their deepest levels are about human consciousness. Both these subjects emerge out of society's values and perceptions. Science and technology has certainly changed our world but the origin of this change may lie even deeper. Artists, for their part, question the order in which society operates.
Are artists involved in a genuine examination of scientific ideas or merely attracted by new metaphors?
Some artists do work at a deeper level with scientific ideas. Others use a form of creative play, questioning the metaphors and subverting them. Yet others are interested to work at the level of perceptions and meaning, levels shared by scientists.
How can artists help develop new technologies and exploit scientific ideas in novel and unexpected ways?
Pasteur suggested that while discovery comes about by fortuitous accident, such accidents only happen to the prepared mind. Artists, by approaching questions from different angles, can certainly suggest new ways of employing technology. But while technology can be given a boost by funders, institutes and policy makers, the best scientific research cannot be not planned. It comes about when creative minds ask questions in exciting areas. The same is true for artistic investigation.
To what extend should art offer a critique of science?
This is a particularly important role for artists to take. Not simply to question science itself, but the economic, cultural and institutional structures out of which it arises. During the meeting some of the artists drew attention to ethical issues of science, and to questions of values.
Participant's Reactions to the Event
I'd like to thank you very much for organizing the event. Last week's meeting sparked a lot of ideas. I think it's wonderful to have the opportunity to experience alternative modes of communication. It would be good to maintain it as a continuing forum in some way. It was very frustrating indeed not to be able to participate with the energy I would have liked, as there are lots of things I would have liked to say.
I think the conference was great. It was interesting to participate with a group of headstrong, project oriented people without a specific project. I think we all did quite well for a first attempt at an interdisciplinary melange and the e-mail I am receiving suggests that the communication will continue.
You were brave to organize such an event. I think you provide us the opportunity of very fruitful exchanges, in knowing how to create an opened situation where everyone felt free enough to give and receive different ideas and points of view.
The meeting, as far as I felt through the lens of my camera, was very successful. And I think that even the restrictions that some of us felt on the last morning are positive to be experienced, since they made clear how things are established in this kind of structures supposed to support challenging initiatives.
I very much enjoyed the meeting. I do hope that some contacts have been built that will be long lasting.
- The language was absolutely not a problem.
- The artists were extremely well informed and refreshingly knowledgeable (more so than nearly all the scientists I know!)
- Many of my understandings that I brought to the meeting were consolidated and I felt very much "of one mind" with many of the comments made. Commonalties were much greater than differences in opinion.
- The opportunity to "dance" (metaphorically and literally!) with such wonderful spirited and passionate beings was a joy.
I found the meeting very interesting indeed. One of the difficulties I have in discussing my ideas within the physics community is that people are not generally interested in thinking outside their own little domain. As to trying to develop some thing radically new I find I get no help from within physics, forget it. Those who have embraced the simple version of the Bohm interpretation see only the trivial implications, clinging onto outmoded classical ideas. They just corrupt what David Bohm was trying to do. The implicate order is seen as 'vague, mystical, new age etc'. Artists have much better imaginations and I like to 'tap' into that.
Talking with artists makes me think deeply about what I am trying to do in general terms. This is particularly true when I am asking questions like "How do we see the word?" "How do we capture those deeper thoughts that are thrown up into our conscious perception for what seems to be a fraction of a second and then disappears back into the noise simply because we do not have the language to capture it in some stable structure?" It seems artists have the same problem. I found that particularly true with artists like Antony Gormley.
We had no planned agenda to begin with and I felt that freedom was essential to get the group to find their common interests. I felt that developed in a fruitful way. Had we been asked to address specific problems we would have 'died.' The fact that we so were free helped ideas flow and develop as they emerged. This produced a very interesting dynamics, which certainly helped me in what I was thinking about at the time.
The value of the `October Gallery` experiment lay in the possibility of direct communication between people, chipping away at the generic, stereotyped definitions of artist and scientist; it became apparent to us I think that there are many shades of artist and scientist. Some more conventional than others. Maybe some residing on the same palette.
Perhaps the next meeting, as just having a meeting is a formal structure, should have a subject or a question. I think I like a question better. What do you think about….? I feel myself shrinking from a think tank sort of thing, so maybe the question should be phrased, "What are you thinking. If you would enjoy a chat, come to…..." A question might be a good starting point for a Web dialog
I think with all these things one must not try to push something if it does not have an internal dynamic of its own. I would welcome another meeting if the absent invitees could be persuaded to come. I very much like Todd's idea of a centre to meet. I would be careful of the word 'permanent'. Indeed I would avoid using it. I think Todd has been very generous and I wonder whether this should be followed up. I am not sure how because there are funding implications and I don't know how that could be thought through. In this
On the final morning Todd Watts gave a model of his vision - a Victorian house with a cook and housekeeper where people could drop in at any time to explore ideas and interact with each other. How can this be achieved?
Sponsorship would be the main sticking point. Personally I would tend to go for the money first before taking "possession" of a building. But there might be some advantage to taking over a site first then there is something that funders could see.
However, if you are talking about making a "house" space into some sort of site where collaborative research could be done, where scientists and artists could pursue their work without having to struggle with the restrictions universities and their funding streams make on people then you are talking about a considerably larger vision with very much more money pouring into it. This would be quite exciting but much harder to get going. There are such models in the US that might be worth investigating in more depth.
You need to formulate a specific vision (plan) and start canvassing support for you plan from influential players who might be involved and support your efforts. What you need in the short term is someone who can write all the grants and make all the approaches and get together some sort of marketing strategy. Advertising on the web site should be delayed until your plan is more mature.
1. The discussions held at the October Gallery were both audio and videotaped. This material could be disseminated to a wider audience. In particular an edited transcript should also be produced that contains the key points in the discussion (Audio and videotapes could be made available on request.
2. A improved and more active Dialogue Forum should be placed on the Internet with the aim of attracting a wider audience.
3. Additional meetings of a similar nature would certainly promote a creative exchange of ideas but, while these would be of value to the participants themselves, it is not clear what new ideas and approaches could be generated above and beyond those of the October Gallery. The results of that meeting were clear - artists and scientists do feel a need to talk together, but this requires a more extended infrastructure than an occasional two or three day meeting And, where active collaboration is involved, this is best done on a one to one basis.
4. The notion of a centre or space in which artists and scientists can, when they wish, meet informally to exchange ideas is quote a different matter. This is a proposal well worth pursuing but will require funding.
To date an offer has now been made of the part-time use of a property in the Italian countryside for such a purpose. A good first step would be to gather a small group of artists and scientists to meet informally at that, or some other location, and discuss how such a centre should be set up and maintained.
5. A serious dislocation exists between artists, funders and other arts organizations. Likewise between working scientists, granting bodies and university administrators. The causes are complex and the resulting atmosphere is far from pleasant with accusations of lack of faith, misunderstanding, failure to listen. This is an issue that certainly should be addressed. But any meeting that discusses these issues would have to be planned with great sensitivity and organized on neutral ground and in such a hands-off way that all participants would feel sufficiently secure to speak their own minds and clear the air.
6. An important further issue to emerge from the October Gallery meeting was the problems faced by researchers and academics in universities and other institutions. This resulted in an email circulated to scientists, artists and other academics in several countries. The response to this emailing was strong and is now the subject of an active Internet debate. The issue is connected to the changing nature of values in our modern world. It is, in part, a questioning of the significance of the function once performed by the universities. Is it needed today, if so then how and where should such work be carried out.
Several contributors to this debate propose we all get together to debate the issue in person under the title "The Future of the Academy.". A number of locations for such a meeting have been suggested and offered. As a first step a planning meeting of 8-15 persons has been suggested for October 1999. Funding for such a meeting is now being sought.
Recommendations for Funders
An edited transcript of the October Gallery meeting should be made. This could be disseminated through the Internet or print publication.
A planning meeting should be funded that will enable a small group of artists and scientists to investigate and plan the structure of a semi-permanent Centre of Space in which artists and scientists can meet to dialogue and exchange ideas.
A small planning meeting should be funded to enable researchers, scholars, academics and other to organize a planning meeting. This will investigate and discuss the future role of universities, teaching, knowledge and research in a changing society - under the heading The Future of the Academy.
Funders should consider their relationships with artists and arts organizations.
I would like to thank Jemma Gascoine-Becker for sending me her own report on the meeting and for the participants who have sent me their comments and reactions.
Art and Science Dialogue Event 3-5 March
by Jemma Gascoine-Becker
Jemma Gascoine-Becker attended the meeting as an ACE observer. Due to the fact that she was so stimulated by the event she wrote this report in order to clarify for herself its outcomes.
I attended the event in order to discover whether there were any links between Art and Science and the nature of those links; and also to observe the mechanics of a closed event which contained such a diverse group. My discoveries/findings follow, however I would like to point out that as Laurie B mentioned, as soon as words are uttered, they do not belong to the teller any more, the listener appropriates them for herself often interpreting something other than what was originally intended.
Why members of the group attended an Art and Science Event
Many attended because they were familiar with David Peat's work and respected him and his ideas. They consequently believed that the event would be interesting, perhaps even inspirational. The majority were present also because they felt that there was a crisis in their field. This crisis was in part due to the fact that disciplines had become more and more absorbed into their own area, had severed links with each other and had thus become isolated. This became problematic when a line of pursuit came 'to a dead end' and there were no further ideas on how to progress with it. By severing connections with other fields, inspiration from those fields had ceased, lateral thinking had by and large, halted.
- The most obvious common link between the scientists and artists present at the event was their intellectual curiosity. The artists were open-minded and inspired by scientific modes of thought/theories, the scientists were interested to discover the dilemmas and problematic issues facing the artists with regard to their work.
- All present were concerned with the pursuit of the truth. Professor Basil Hiley was anxious that science students just accepted the theories that they studied and didn't question them. Martha Senger stated that 'Art was dead', as until recently, artists no longer questioned the world that they were a part of, or the systems that they were obliged to work under, such as Capitalism.
Art was linked far more with social responsibility than science was. Scientists seemed interested in knowledge whatever the consequences.
- Professor Basil Hiley stated on the first day of the meeting that he felt that scientific paradigms needed to reach real life. These paradigms could be equated with the social and moral values that Laurie B and Martha Senger felt should be a part of an artist's work. There was a general feeling amongst the group that both scientific and artistic 'ideas'/questioning needed to inform reality more. It was decided that this was an education issue.
- What was interesting was that disagreements within the group usually only took place between artist and artist, scientist and scientist. This was as a result of language in as much as that artists and scientists understood each other better and consequently the 'holes' in each other's arguments were more apparent and more easy to challenge.
It was acknowledged right at the beginning of the event that language was going to be an ever present issue and difficulty in terms of communication between artist and scientist. This was compensated for by the scientists agreeing to use as simple terms as possible. Semantics in fact was more of an issue between artist and artist. The contact dancing exercise however helped to disperse feelings of scepticism and distrust, establishing an environment which was conducive to enlightening discussion.
- In terms of thinking, both artists and scientists seem to 'discover' theories/ideas. They 'happen upon them' rather than are poured over and created. The 'happening' occurs however because the scientist/artist are receptive to them.
- Scientists and artists believe that their ideas/theories are often corrupted by society. Artists in particular felt that the commodification of their work was tantamount to rape.
- It was clear that both Scientists and Artists resented and distrusted the bodies that fund them. They felt that these institutions do not understand the difficulties they face, are not broad in their view and are unable to cultivate fresh ideas. They believe these bodies to be constrictive.
- In terms of time, scientists seem more concerned than artists about where we come from. Artists are only subjectively concerned with this. Artists are far more concerned about the future and where we are going, scientists are preoccupied with this matter as well.
It was agreed that there needs to be a physical space whereby 'ideas' people can come together:- to discuss topics that bother them in order to help make sense of them; and to jointly identify important matters that need to be taken on board by society immediately, using the influence of the network of people who attend the space to educate and to promulgate.
Such a forum as this would only be useful however if discussions were navigated, otherwise good ideas would be raised, nodded at and passed by rather than acted upon - and this would be to no purpose and thus extremely self-indulgent from my utilitarian view-point.
One member of the group asserted that discussion on the internet would be better than meeting face-to-face, as physical encounters led to hierarchies within groups. However surely a nominal 'Chair' or equivalent would prevent such hierarchies becoming a problem.
The main item that came out of the 3 day event was the need to break the ridiculous boundaries that demarcate each discipline and to make bridges instead.
Contact F. David Peat
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