Session 3 - Arts and Science
Participants: Philip, Berna, Leo (remote), Willi (a bit later), Markus, Florian
The topic for the last discussion was open and we collected some topics from the days before (especially the questions that arose in Leos talk).
- collaborations outside academia
- input Leo: much easier, than expected!
- possibilities to extend pool of possible collaborators?
- is science a hobby or a job?
- suppose you had financial independence, what would you do?
would you do science at all?
what would you do, if you do not progress, but also do not need to publish “by outer pressure”
- why do you do science?
- how would you explain other people why you would do science?
With Philip, we also had a new guest, who also brought many topics from his side. He does storytelling and dance theatre, decided himself not to graduate as bachelor out of protest. As an artist he now works in the so-called “free scene”. A comparison to science is interesting, where no real “free scene” exists but state funding works in very similar ways. The artistic free scene can be seen as divided into a small successful part and a larger “Komposthaufen” (compost heap). From this viewpoint one should see the benefit of (German) state-funded cultural institutions. There are a few funding opportunities available for the free scene as well like FQXI and Templeton
Science vs Arts
After a bit of introduction, we started talking about the similarities between science and arts and came very soon to the conclusion that they are much more than one might think: the hierarchical structures are almost the same (few powerful leaders/ directors/ in charge versus many “workers” that are treated largely exchangeable).
On the institutional level, there are also many similarities, but there is one large difference: In science there is practically no free scene. Thus, we started talking about the possibility of establishing a free science scene and if this would be advantageous. The vagabond scientist could very clearly be seen as such a free scene scientist. Why is there no free scene in science? There is no funding! Example social scientists who tried to do a free project without institution: Rebranded there work and applied for arts grants (Markus). Pedro mentions one exception: FQXI, which is sponsored mainly by private investors. Pedro and Philip tell about their experiences as free artists/scientists, which was very difficult, because how to say no if more work is there than agreed?
Philip emphasizes that one should not underestimate the advantages of institutions. The free scene is very competitive and has also its power structures and especially it is largely influenced by the free market.
Markus proposes a kind of mix between both: An institute that by “constitution” allows members to “work for their living” maximally say 50 % of the time. Since, there are many people involved it is more likely that such a balance will work out (for example the institute has much more bargaining power). Philip mentions Xenorama as a god example for this. They even combine arts and scientific research. But they are also very fortunate being at the right place at the right time. Markus names as another example the open source projects of bigger companies that also do not have a direct return.
Philip argues that also for such an institute one should not underestimate the advantages of state funding to not have the problem of entrepreneurship. He proposes to define the institute of the 21st century that overcomes problems of traditional institutes (one example, it should be much more local oriented). Interesting example: perimeter institute in Canada.
Again about the idea of an in-between: a collaborative free scene or an independent institute, for example with people working 'split-time' in paid work / free research, like Xenorama actually does with cultural service (projection mapping) and art projects. But the split must be implemented on a structural level into the collective, not on a private level (Pedro has experience with that). An example would be open-source development in some big software companies. A new institute could also work with state money in principle. Philip gives the French example of state artists with a basic income, something similar for science? Philip highlight the importance of a local connection for such a collective; he also raises aware that in application and selection a lot of work is effectively lost/destroyed.
Could we also reduce the exchangeability of the members at such an institute? Exchange of people has also some advantages, yet in classical art/science institutions everyone is highly exchangeable except of the director.
Question of governing: Philip argues against the “star” system of traditional institutions.
Markus: Changing established institutions is hardcore politics and almost impossible. This also stresses the importance of an ideological determination of any form of institutionalized project. The questions will arise anyhow thus it is important to be clear about it beforehand! One strategy to argue for a new institution: it should have the structure that fosters creativity, so probably less/not hierarchical. Any hierarchy will just reflect the interests of the upper reigns in any decision. Another argument for new institutions: we tend to believe in democracy or at least it is presented as a core value in the west, so it should also be effectively implemented in (new) institutions.
Specific features of such an institute according to Philip:
- important theoretical work necessary: collaborative thinking, diverse input, self-reflection, creativity, collective leadership
- tests of the practice of such ideas are of course necessary
Science together with Arts
This topic started with a question form Markus, whether it is legitimate to use “some form of entertainment” to promote science (thus maybe reducing things etc.), or stated differently: using the “myth of science” that it allows us to decipher the secrets of the universe
Willi: People who pay do not understand. Thus, it is necessary to find ways to communicate science, where entertainment naturally comes also into play. Thus the topic of science communication arises. Philip sees communication also as a reflection tool. He then talks about a planned project of his together with Xenorama: “Interrupt” scientists while giving a talk by music/dance/performance. It will contain 3 talks with dance and music as audio-visual input.
Such formats are for sure helpful in the communication/teaching aspect of talks (Berna), but Philip emphasizes the work with the artists/scientists there. The audience anyway only will watch/experience for a short time. But the people who create the performance are forced to reflect and thus also the scientists. But can such reflection ever lead to scientific “progress”? Berna mentions the example of an astrophysical experiment, where an artist was involved by providing examples for the experiment. Scientists needed to enhance their experiment to make this possible an in this sense there was some progress inspired by the artist.
Florian proposes to have has audience for such a talk not the public but other scientists. Could we get something scientifically valuable out of this?
Berna gives example of art-science project where a image signal of portraits is transmitted over the moon.
Willi throws an example in the round that was interesting him since a while: How to visualize a more than 3-dimension space? Markus has some proposals: Use a 3d representation, then remove one dimension and add another one. By doing this with different paces, one can get some idea of visualization. Another proposal, he called the Alice in Wonderland idea. Imagine the new dimension with some other property/qualities, thus “going into” a certain dimension could mean for example adding red to a monochrome plot. Of course, the question came up, whether imagining more then 3 dimension is possible or if it makes sense to ask this question. Florian argues that it is a question of learning or being used to. So for example a person that has only one eye and thus is only possible to see 2d needs other tricks to “view” the third dimension (Markus mentions that such people never pour water in a glass without holding the glass with the other hand, thus using the touch sense to substitute the missing part of the seeing). Philip mentions the very pictorial writing of Einstein. Philip would intuitive approach such a problem by starting at what is not possible and thus indirectly framing what the extra dimension is (illustrating the negative/boundary). Some problems are solved in math but totally lack visualization. He would offer an A/V lab for visualization. Later from Philip: different timelines / interpretations can also be seen as extra-dimensions.
Example by math friend of Markus: has a proof using a special derivative concept which is accidentality perfectly visualized by a artwork with sticks around a tree.