Art and Innovation

STT - Stichting Toekomstbeeld der Techniek - verkenning kunst en techniek
9 april 2013

At first sight art and technology may seem like separate worlds. Art is associated with aesthetics, with ambiguity and with critical reflection on the world. Technology is very much in that world, functional and direct. But do art and technology really stand so wide apart?

Etymologically they do not. The word technology comes from the greek tekhnikós, which is derived from tékhnē (τέχνη): art, skill.

But what about everyday practice?

While the arts and the sciences certainly still have their own ‘scenes’, the lines between the two worlds are also deliberately blurred. In universities, for example, where professors are appointed to study the relationship between art and science and brand new studies on the intersection of art and science are introduced. And in a growing number of artistic practices, where art and technology are very much intertwined. Or take, for example, the high tech company that is keen on ‘artistically interpreting technology’ or the engineering firm that sees parallels between the work of artists and of engineers.

There are various reasons to make art and technology meet. Technology plays an important role in the interpretation of existing art (origins, creation date, identifying fakes), in conservation and restoration, and in new ways of presenting works of art.

Technology is not only just relevant for existing arts however; it is also indispensable for artists who depend on in-depth knowledge of material properties and technical processes to give shape to their artistic ideas.

Other artists intentionally use (new) technologies incorrectly. A new technology invokes their interest to develop a new artistic genre or start discussion about the ethical dimensions of the technology itself. By appropriating technologies, turning them inside out and upside down, the artist explores both potential and limitations of these technologies and in doing so supports the development of new artistic platforms.

Technical engineers turn to art for different reasons, for example, because an artistic approach may shed new light to the aesthetic potential of a technology and thus contribute to the appeal of a new product or service.

Parallel to artists using technology for new artistic aims, the (intentional) improper use of materials, media and products may lead to unexpected functionalities and applications, and thus business opportunities for manufacturers.

Last but not least, may technical parties be interested in an important characteristic of the artistic practice – the open attitude of the artists, his resourcefulness and his ability to connect research and creation in a unique way. Qualities that are not only relevant in the artistic context, but which are ever more essential in development of meaningful technologies.

About the futures study
The key question of this study is how art and technology can be brought together in meaningful ways in the future. Which new forms of interaction between art and technology can we envision? And what will be the relevance of these new combinations? Does the added value lie in better art and more aesthetic technology? Or will these combinations lead to fundamentally new insights? To solutions for the grand challenges of the future even?

These questions were the focus of two kick off meetings which took place in the spring of 2012. The goal of these meeting was to sketch the general shape of the futures study:
• What should be the exact aim of the futures study (ambition)
• What interpretation should we choose (focus and limitations)
• How should the futures study be designed (method, process)

In the kick off meetings several experts presented their ideas on topics they believe will shape the future interaction between art and technology.

Watch the video recordings of:

• Geert Van Der Snickt (Antwerpen University; technical analysis of paintings)
• Ysbrand Hummelen (Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands; technical mediation and materiality in art and conservation practices)
• Annet Dekker (independent curator and researcher, conservation strategies for new media art)
• Robert Zwijnenberg (Leiden University, art history / Art and Genomics Centre; the artist in his lab)
• Angelo Vermeulen (artist, biologist and TED fellow; the symbiotic relation living matter and technology)
• Taco Stolk (ArtScience Interfaculty; art as a way of exploring form potential)
• Maaike Roozenburg (art historian, designer, KABK; smart replica’s, high tech for historical heritage)

From the kick off meetings we concluded that ideally the futures study complies with the following conditions:
• The study contributes to removing any non-functional distinctions between art and technology
• The study does not have an a priori focus on a specific art or technology. Important developments are not expected to occur within a confined domain.
• The relationship between art and technology is considered non-hierarchical.
• The study will be an interdisciplinary endeavour. Natural sciences, the arts and the humanities work together. Practitioners, educators, researchers, government and industry – all participate and cooperate.
• The futures study should aim at collaboration with existing organizations and current initiatives.
• The futures study should be not a cerebral exercise only. Thinking with our hands is promoted.

Design of the futures study
Based on the requirements above, three projects have been defined. These are:

Project 1: CSI ART
In 2014 Piet Mondriaan’s Victory Boogie Woogie painting will celebrate its 70th birthday. A time for reflection, of course, but also a great opportunity for exploring the future. What will birthday number 90 look like? What state will the painting be in? How will the work be put on display, if at all? In what new ways could the Victory Boogie Woogie be experienced? Will we be able to walk, smell and feel the atelier where the paining first saw light? Will the original painting be a source of inspiration for new works (of art)? In CSI ART we will explore the role different technologies will play in keeping the Victory Boogie Woogie alive and relevant, ranging from technologies for conservation and restoration to social media and from technological trends that will shape the future of the museum to new artistic platforms. Learn more about our student project here.

Project 2: The Future of Art-Science Collaborations
There are more and more partnerships between artists and scientists. These Art-Science Collaborations are believed to have much in store. Mixing art, technology and science could lead to fresh insights and new forms of knowledge even. But what exactly is the value of these Art-Science Collaborations? And what could the future of these collaborations look like?

Project 3: Study Guide 2024/2025
What if we force ourselves to become very practical, and think of a future school where art, technology and science are combined in new and exciting ways? What would the study guide of this school look like? Writing a study guide necessitates becoming very clear about the need and the motives to rethink the relationship between art, science and technology. But also about jobs in this new field, about courses and projects, about the vocabulary, the skills and attitude of our students, and so on.

Explore with us
The futures study Art & Technology is a two year project, and will end in the spring of 2014. If you’d like to participate or learn more about the project, please contact Jacco van Uden, project manager, at vanuden@stt.nl or by telephone: +31 70 3029838.

You can also follow the blog of the futures study: http://kunstentechniek.wordpress.com (often in English, sometimes in Dutch).