Art – Science – Engineering workshop, guest speaker Johannes Goebel

Today I attended the Art – Science – Engineering workshop, with guest speaker Johannes Goebel (Director of EMPAC – Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center Professor, Arts Department and School of Architecture, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Member of Attenborough Centre International Advisory Group). The workshop was convened and moderated by Sally Jane Norman (Director of the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, Professor of Performance Technologies, University of Sussex). Here is the blurb for the event:

“Vital differences across this spectrum of activities are often glossed and lost by discourse in praise of “innovation”. This session will look at the goals and values underpinning these respective domains, and at how their convergence might be organized more thoughtfully and productively”.

It was an interesting talk and it raised many questions for me about the boundaries between the fields of art, science and engineering. Johannes Goebel gave an overview of how new technologies have historically been appropriated by artists. He proposed that Art, Science and Engineering should be considered as distinct paradigmatic terrotories, which pose very different questions and have different motivations. The three schematic categories according to Goebel could be thought as:

  • Science – asking questions of why/how – producing models and interpretations
  • Engineering – asking questions of what/how – producing ‘things’, or matter
  • Art – asking questions where/when – producing experience

The examples used for the workshop were great – particularly the video where Neil de Grasse Tyson (an American science communicator) states that science is part of the human DNA (!).

I am a bit sceptical when it comes to categorisations, especially because I am a proponent of drawing productive links between disciplines. However, this workshop was really valuable for me as it raised the issue of precariousness in relation to artistic education and practice in the current economic climate.

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