the spur magazine

#02 art, ciència, tecnologia i la ciutat

Art, science, technology and the city. Key elements for artists’ inspiration

L’être absent et le trop-plein de l’étant

Edwige Armand

We will question the similarities and differences between artistic and scientific approaches, and we will try to prove that art is a process of gaining knowledge and it opens the possibilities of modes of appearance.

From the beginning we will distinguish between the idea of the real and reality. For Lacan, real is the noise where we can hear everything. It is shapeless, disorganised, from the non-world. Reality is a product from our relationship with the real, it is a possible formalisation that depends on our interpretative capacity and of our sensory-motor body.

Each culture, each era develops capacities and models to get to know the world. But the discovered knowledge participates in the construction of representations that frame the visible possibilities. In the western world we have favoured a knowledge method linked to Cartesianism and rationality. This modus operandi has allowed us to make progress with our sciences, our techniques, our architecture. If this relationship with the real allows us to understand a part of the real, by itself, it should explain the whole of the real. As conveyed by Castoriadis, the real is always pre-existing and we only have access to some of its layers which are some of the possibilities of the worlds.

Science establishes a way of being and prefigures perceptive possibilities, formalising-constituting by itself a piece of the real, but it cannot impose full knowledge of the world or of the worlds.

Science is successful in what it undertakes, and succeeds increasingly, because the observation carried out is produced by the reproduction of acknowledged perceptual patterns. Science has built an arbitrariness of the view and a consensus on the visible. Above all, it is analytical and not phenomenological.

One of the major issues raised by the philosopher Heidegger is based on the fact that science does not reflect upon the being, nor the existence. Existence is about the revelation of things, while being is about questioning the meaning of the revelation. He states that technique is what models existence through rationality, and science forgets that the creation of visible is above all produced. The sense is left behind in benefit of existence and technique.

Our visible and understanding forms are submitted to this rationality created by humans and promoted through our technical objects that are the consequence thereof.

Hannah Arendt will, in turn, criticise our relationship with the world, now instituted through nationality, reducing the visible world to calculation, to measurable, to the useful. She states that humans have increasingly a utility relationship with the world and only they can understand what they have created. She reminds us that Descartes, to prove the existence of God and humans, excluded human senses from knowledge. As senses refer only to themselves, they were not able to prove the certainty of existence. However, the mathematics “God’s seed”, allowed us to understand and decrypt God’s language, assumed to be good, could not make fun of humans making them believe that they existed when they only would be dreaming. She states that Descartes didn’t prove the existence of God, but his kindness. Thus, as senses could not be a source of knowledge, mathematics and rationality allowed them to assure us a worldly existence. Through the creation of objects marked with mathematics, humans could explain the world and ensure that they existed outside their reflexive consciousness. For 300 years, this belief in science has pushed each generation, one after the other, to an accelerating pace of progress and technique that allows us to ensure ourselves of our existence guaranteeing control over the world that we, ourselves, have built.

Only science does not compensate for the lack of sense, to the question of being and to the nonsense of our existence. It removes the question of Why on behalf of How. Through the imitation of the environment, science thinks it controls and rules it. Through the imitation of humans, they think of humanity in terms of determinism and calculation.

This is forgetting that the world is not at our level and it would not know how to lower itself to our human senses. It is forgetting that the utility relationship that we have with the world prevents us from associating with the multitude of senses and interpretations of the world.

If the visible is, before anything else, in the order of perception and is limited by our sensory-motor body, it is thus replaced by calculation and rationality, by measure and utility.

Merleau-Ponty encouraged a return to the prior to words, to the pre-culture world to reopen perceptive worlds. The visible world is, before anything, a projected world and understood by my sensory-motor body, making it immediately an extension of my flesh and my spirit, as my flesh and my spirit are structured in this environment. It is a world resulting from the structural linkage between body and environment. It is a world that continuously emerges in my frameworks of thought, my world models shape it and give meaning to it, in order to understand it and understand myself.

The way I will perceive my body determines the way I will perceive the world. And it may be in a search for the singular world, not set by the scientific institution and all kind of standards, that artists have an effect on. Artists surpass the conditions of possibility, invent other existences and perceptive methods. They expose other relationships with the real, which could only happen under a unique method claimed to be true and unique. If art has crossed time and space, if it is behind our humanity according to some philosophers, and for others it is an expensive practice that in spite of everything has been protected by our evolution, it is certainly not without a reason, nor a meaning.

Artists, in a perceptual singularity, formalise other pieces of the real, they allow us to explore other open truths available for the audience through art. Far from imposing an unequivocal meaning, the work breaks this ultra-rationalised, ultra-technological extra-meaning and provides an understanding that does not close, but which falters within the doubt of the visible.

The artwork causes a rupture in the reflection linked to logos and in the linearisation of the sense. It allows each of us to surpass the accepted frameworks and the consensus to perform something visible again and continue to make us discover possible worlds and alternatives. Art prevents the sight and the senses from closing.

It is in that sense that we need artists. They create existences and question the being. Through the opening of what is visible, they allow to expand the perceptive ranges and therefore cognitive ones. This is how artists can combine with science, by questioning the being and through the creation of existences, as they cast a shadow of doubt on the perceptive convictions that are not questioned by the scientific world any more, but which are however imposed as an unshakeable understanding.

It is not about undermining scientific knowledge, but recalling that scientific objectivity is, above all, a relative matter of opinion that we have to confront and that humans also tend to be objectified through pushed objectification. As stated by the beautiful sentence of Michel Lapeyre in return, “the manufacturer manufactures what is manufactured, but what is manufactured manufactures the manufacturer”. Scientific knowledge has a performative effect and it’s in an increasingly technologised and measurable world where it get developed as the unique possibility and which underlying logics remain unclear and quite often only serve the privileged few.

Human beings internalise their own view of the world from an early age, conveyed by their culture. This internalisation confines the “possibles” to understand and to see, which Thomas Khunn called a paradigm.

Artists work with bifurcations, in accepted thoughts that model our bodies. But should this be true for the artistic field, it also true for the scientific field. Scientists and researchers are also in constant uncertainty, they also look for common sense and practical intelligence, they also go against accepted understanding patterns.

What is questioned is the need of research, dissatisfaction towards the operated and accepted truth of a society in progress. This fundamental dissatisfaction is what pushes scientific researchers or artists to think above and beyond what is visible and understandable. While scientists update other understanding systems through methods and protocols, artists experience the limits and margins of a world through their singular bodies. Above all, it is our body which allows us to access a perceptive world and it is also through it that it is possible to discover the relativity of the environment’s data in a subjective experience, but also their deepest subjectivities.

It would be wrong to oppose the scientific and artistic approaches, because it constitutes a research of what has still not had access to existence. But protocols differ, while scientists look to explain the real, artists accept its mess, it’s chaos.

Art accepts methods of viewing that could make us discover possible worlds and currently it seems necessary, considering the industrialisation of the ways of thinking and feeling, for art to acquire a status that has been perverted for so long and which belongs to the field of knowledge.

Art is deeply linked to our survival thanks to the perceptive diversity that it offers and which cannot be reduced or restricted to the formalisation of our reasoning. Art creates other forms of perceiving and sensing and opens knowledge to a multiple reality where the realities that can be created are unlimited.

It is within the multiple networks of the real that can be created that knowledge can be deployed in order to avoid an apparent reductionism.

The naive evidence of a world that could only be unique and where ontology would be certain to become increasingly difficult to accept with the knowledge that is discovered every day. Since the development of the quantum theory and of genetics, how is it possible to still think that the world is an already existing, stable, unique and unequivocal world? How is it still possible for us to think that a meaningless objectivity, where an external world would exist before a body observes it, is still a plausible assumption? What is rather important is that there is no meaning to give before humans authorise themselves to give it one, inevitably built and at their level and where meanings have endless possibilities.

How can we reconcile this plurality of visible worlds and the need to create not only a society with humans, but also with knowledge that allows us to progress without defeating us?

We should create with this lack of unique meaning and in this plurality of worlds, in this world without unilateral nor objective value, values that would allow humans to re-singularise, values that intensify their power of existence and which provide a humanistic, inter-subjective view and a knowledge that would not paralyse the view nor the senses, but which would be open to the complexity of human views and respectful towards inter-subjective singularities. Technology and science have no sense unless they aim to improve the living conditions of all.

Within the ethical relationship between science and art, they suggest organised outdated views and thoughts, therefore we should additionally question the meaning of being and of existence, the production of what appears and the meaning of what appears, considering the necessary construction that is involved in the data emergence that arises. We should produce truths through science, technology and arts equal to ethics, within the meaning provided by Paul Audi: “surpass the conditions of existence” and where the power of existence is increased. Ethics, either in arts, science or technology should be the essential motor of every research.

Edwige Armand

Après avoir obtenu le DNAP aux Beaux Arts de Pau, elle effectue un master à l’université Toulouse Jean Jaurès puis une thèse de doctorat financée en Art (spécialité Art Numérique). Ses recherches portent sur la construction de la réalité au travers des représentations, du langage, de la technique qui par ailleurs modélisent les phénomènes vécus. Ses interrogations portent sur la manière dont l’art peut traduire les changements de perceptions et de paradigme dans une société donnée.

Ses recherches théoriques et plastiques l’ont amenée à travailler avec différents chercheurs, plus particulièrement proches de la génétique, de la vie et de l’intelligence artificielle.

En 2016, elle participe à la création et préside l'association Passerelle, art, science, technologie qui a pour objectifs de créer des projets art/science et est engagée à porter des problématiques issues de la porosité de ces deux champs de connaissances.