the spur magazine

#02 art, ciència, tecnologia i la ciutat

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

The union between arts, science and technology: an opportunity or a need in the near future?

Thierry Besche

The ongoing digital revolution profoundly changes our relationship with the world, it shakes up the individual and collective practices of all the lines of business in society.

The implementation of relationships between arts, science and technology creates fruitful transversalities at a national level and across generations. These relationships favour interdisciplinary exchanges. Currently, digital allows an intermedial construction that shakes up, for example in arts, specific practices to each of the areas.

For Passerelle Arts Sciences Technologies that we represent, in response to the question: “The union between arts, science and technology: an opportunity or a need in the near future?”, is already set by our practices. Indeed, our association is already involved in this union approach since its creation.

Having said this, what seems to be missing currently is the line of execution of this transversality between arts, science and technology. We can talk about it because particularly this matter is of great concern.

Where is the connection made between arts, science and philosophy for example?

Where does this sharing take place? Where can this expected transdisciplinarity be developed? Some sites, some places sometimes allow the subjects to rub each other up the wrong way, but they are very few to express them like this.

Today, I am speaking on behalf of Passerelle, but certainly because of my “professional deformation”, I will mention the example of the National Centre for Music Creation that I directed two years ago in Albi, the GMEA; it is a structure a little bit similar to the Centre d’art Le LAIT but in the sound and music field. Please allow me to mention it, because these Centres (the CNCM) from their beginnings, are places (at least until these past few years) where the union between arts and science, between research and creation is the foundation of their approach.

One of the reasons for this situation is certainly that in music, the composer and the musician are regularly rushed by technological evolutions. These, in turn, disrupt the string instruments used. We can observe this in thousands of ways, either through the evolution of wind instruments from the cornet to the saxophone, or from the incredible mechanics of the organ with its pipes, air pump, valves… to the synthesiser and modern technology.

Hence music has always been driven by technological advance, like it or not!

I still think about the studio machines, when the radio emerged, or with the possibility of recording a sound for the first time with the gramophone and then with the disk and the possibilities of the tape recorder.

So many devices, new technologies that the musician has embraced, very often diverting them from their original purpose to create new materials to immediately introduce in the musical processes.

Musicians, due to this ability of adaptation to diversion, due to this way of turning their practices upside down determinedly accepting these technological developments when the musician himself/herself is not requesting them, is certainly pioneering. It is indeed one of the reasons why there is an IRCAM in France, and this is why there are national music creation centres spread throughout the national territory, and which are spaces, specific places where the connection between research and creation can be developed. Certainly there are other places, of course, but I mention this example because I know it well as I have participated in it.

From an early stage these centres have therefore worked to connect arts and science. In particular, the GMEA has overseen research projects funded by the French National Research Agency, which is itself extraordinary, because usually this assignment is rather entrusted to academic laboratories. This privileged situation, where artists oversee a research activity, has allowed some musicians to rediscover themselves “among”, among what? Among scientific research spaces which are in their own lines of thought and development of goals, and artistic places which also have their own production logic for example, of the relationship with the public which obliges specific time frames.

This research time in arts, which we talk about so much, this artistic experience time, is often very short. Even if each well-listened to artist is in an experimental phase, it is also true that he/she is caught up in production logics, in deadlines: if we have to play on the 22nd, it’s on the 22nd! We cannot delay it to allow ourselves more time to experiment. Therefore, you will either search or not, either experiment or not, it does not matter, what is important is that we have to play on the 22nd and therefore we must play. Then we go on tour (when we are lucky!). This is the truth for many artists.

So, the question to be asked is: Where can the time needed for research and experimentation take place? Where is this place that protects our own logics? Who protects us from the excess of economic demands or who addresses these lacks? Who provides the time for this experimentation in arts and science? Who allows these different behaviours, subjects, to rub each other up the wrong way, to confront one another, to stand side-by-side, to allow them to mutually compensate one another, to enrich one another?

Passerelle Arts Sciences Technologies has been created with the desire to work on the emergence of a space that encourages this transdisciplinary approach, this alloy of knowledge and practice. A space that is also a territory for the mind, and which can be partner sites or a specific place. One or many places where approaches can be conciliated, where things can be rounded up, be assembled, be shared, met.

If the aims seem conflicting, the artistic approach and the scientific approach are not in contradiction with each other, as such. Art is not subjected to a purpose, but intuition, doubt, experimental attitude, representations for example, are as many places where arts and science can meet.

On a national level, as of a few years ago, there is the desire of creating spaces where relationships between arts, science and society can be developed, particularly on the possibility of creating meetings between artists and scientists. It is a matter of encouraging the production of artistic forms that account for this exchanges. It is also about raising awareness among the audiences on scientific and artistic matters.

We cannot leave to the consumer industry field only, the fact of building, alone, the mental representations of our contemporaries. The union between arts, science and technology has to forge for the 19th century and through practices thus renew, a culture common to individuals and groups. Contributing in this linkage with the desire to nourish the thoughts in the public space allows to capture ethic, cultural, social, economic, technological, educational, ecological matters that are considered on a local, regional, national, European and global level.

This debate generated, at the end of 2015, the national structuring of a network: the Transversale des Réseaux Arts Sciences: TRAS – which is also developed on an European level. TRAS combines production and cultural, festival, university spaces, etc.

The goal is to develop the Arts / Science approach in a consensus which is enacted through a charter drafted step by step by all the participants.

A great number of questions are considered here, such as the establishment of secularism in the use of emerging technologies… It the channel implemented in activities between arts and science shows the synergy necessary between: research and creation / production, diffusion and cultural action associated to all the stages, etc., “it seems necessary to establish new reading keys and thus build a form of “technological secularism” that encourages individual free will and the collective consultation for humanity’s great challenges and common goods”. (Article 28 of the TRAS charter).

Passerelle Arts Sciences Technologies has been actively engaged with TRAS from the beginning.

Locally, Passerelle is working towards stimulating the development of relationships between arts, science and technology in Albi, Toulouse and Occitania.

Passerelle organises, in particular, actions with the aim of creating a centre around this arts/science dynamic: training, productions, transdisciplinary space, an arts science pool with the ability to create new approaches, ways of proceeding, ways of making, practices and knowledge. The challenge is to accompany this renewal with cross-practice, support and forge ways of responding to demands, to claims, and to provide efficient responses.

Albi is lucky to have several national labels: the Centre d’art Le LAI, the GMEA for music, the Scène nationale and the Toulouse Lautrec Museum, but also a school in Mines that trains engineers, a university with a serious-games laboratory, a master in interaction, labs dedicated to light, geographers, etc., a degree in cultural development, a European School of Arts and Materials… and what is missing for this incredible dynamics to be effective in generating new aptitudes, know-how, crossover?

Where so many subjects ignore each other, what is missing is meeting spaces, the… Gateway(s) to be created. But, in my opinion, what is really missing, is the creation of a common culture, of common practices, of shared knowledge and know-how, a philosophical, sociological, artistic, scientific approach that faces and explores, at the same time, the reading of the contemporary world we are witnessing.

It would result in the ability to create multidisciplinary teams able to provide answers to questions posed by multiple areas.

We need to assimilate these matters, to develop the mind and the tools necessary to think about the world of today, and why shouldn’t Albi become a laboratory for expressing and articulating these desires in a regional dynamic. This is what Passerelle works for.

That’s all, it’s not a great speech fundamentally, but practically, because I think that it’s important to connect knowledge and practice, practice and knowledge, and to disclose it!

And even if scientists and artists need to invent tomorrow’s world, it is true that, in my case, I live here and now and it is what I’m interested in, in other words, what is happening here, now, and it is up to us to implement it.

Thank you for your attention.

Thierry Besche

Coordinateur Passerelle Arts Sciences Technologies & J’écoute sans répit. Directeur co-fondateur du GMEA, Centre national de création musicale d’Albi de 1981 à 2015.

Compositeur électroacoustique, formateur. De formation musicale initiale classique (1961-1972)., il s’engage très tôt dans différents groupes de création (1971-1974) et dirige une structure culturelle à Albi (1975-1981) qu’il oriente sur la création artistique.

Stagiaire de Pierre Henry, du GRM-INA et de l’Ircam-Conservatoire de Pantin il s’oriente vers la composition musicale électroacoustique (1977-1982).

Directeur-fondateur du GMEA, Centre national de création musicale, de 1981 à 2015, il y mène une politique innovante autour des missions de recherche, création, production, diffusion, formation et sensibilisation des publics. Dans la diversité des équipes qui ont traversé le GMEA au fil du temps, le lien entre recherche et création a permis d’interroger les nouvelles lutheries électroniques et dispositifs numériques (Prix de l’innovation pédagogique avec le synthétiseur à vocation pédagogique Mélisson, financement par les services culturels numériques innovants du Ministère de la Culture pour la réalisation du concept de Concert Prolongé).

L’expérimentation des dispositifs d’enregistrement, d’écriture du son dans l’espace l’ont conduit à porter des projets de recherche financé par l’ANR : plate forme Virage (2007-2010), OSSIA (Open Scenario System for Interactive Applications 2013-2015). Ces travaux ont participé à la formation d’un ensemble de connaissances et d’outils (logiciel i-score et Jamoma) autorisant le contrôle et l’écriture «temps souple» du son et de l’intermédia.

Depuis 2016, dirige l’association «J’écoute sans répit» et coordonne Passerelle arts sciences technologie qui s’inscrit dans le réseau national TRAS.