SEAD: TO SUCCESS AND SUCCESSION. Drawing on pioneering works and forming a new infrastructure

Coordinator: Bronac Ferran

Amnesia can dominate when it comes to building new forms of support for art/science/technology research and practice. Despite practical experiments and theoretical analysis stretching back for more than a century, there is often a ‘year zero’ assumption – a sense of building something entirely new. Structures and systems of support tend to come and go with few if any signs of critical accumulation. This White Paper will reference the lineage behind highly contemporary practices and argue that accessing the critical wisdom of earlier pioneers across arts and science borders is an important part of strengthening the seemingly new. Often these pioneers have had migratory careers, moving between institutions or even countries, which has contributed to a sense of dispersal of knowledge and a lack of integration into formal structures. We should explore some of the challenges involved with drawing together distributed viewpoints, disparate processes and (often) contrasting ideologies. We need to observe a continuum of ‘praxis’ alongside the joy in ‘discontinuity’ perfectly described by Jonathan Benthall when he commented, writing in Studio International in 1969, on how: ‘ discontinuities between science and modern art’…are….’as interesting as their interactions’. Benthall also wisely pinpointed the value of difference and divergence within SEAD practices. In his view: ‘there is no apparent correlation between the stature of a given artist and the validity of his scientific assumptions’. In 1969, also in Studio International, the great artist-engineer Naum Gabo wrote about how he had seen little success in terms of bringing together the arts and sciences. This leads to a second very important challenge and question for this White Paper which is to ask how might we choose to evaluate success across the breadth of the terrain signified by a framework such as SEAD? Without evaluative processes there can be no methodology for learning and passing on wisdom.  As curricula and reading lists are being formed to underpin emerging Masters courses in ‘art and science’ might the SEAD initiative finally help signpost a stable direction in this productively unstable terrain? Is it feasible to produce a summative assessment of what constitutes success in the interdisciplinary domain and what might this mean for future institutions? How might art and science pioneers now define success? How might the value of preceding events and practitioners be more readily accessed? The SEAD community is invited to contribute to the development of proposals to address some of these fascinating challenges.

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