Peter Weibel: Methods in Art and Science

»banquet_nodes and networks«

»banquet_nodes and networks« is an example for the current paradigm shift in curating contemporary art. The time of surfing on a hedonistic wave seems to be over. Works of art addressing science, technology and society are becoming more and more relevant. Traditional art after 1945 obscured the relationship between art and science, and only the media arts maintained a dialog and contact with the sciences, because they themselves were based on technology.

Artists are attracted to the methods of science, because they sense their structural similarity to the methods of art. The methods of art are different from the methods of science, but are still methods. Art and science should be compared on the basis of the different methodologies and their parallels and differences. Science is not influenced on the level of production by art, but on the level of methods. Because any time that science develops a tendency for its methods to become too authoritarian, become too dogmatic, science turns to art and to the methodology of art, which is a plurality of methods. The methods of science are characterized by doctrines, by enforced methodology. Art lives on the tolerance of methods, on the diversity of methods. The success of Ramon y Cajal in discovering the true nature of the neural nets is not only due to the method of Camillo Golgi, who articulated a wrong theory about the dynamics of the neural nets. The success has also to do with Cajal’s artistic virtuosity in drawing. Cajal is an example of the mutual influences of art and science of a higher order.

In his book from 1984 »Science as Art«, Pau K. Feyerabend tried to show the mechanisms of the social construction of science which are comparable to the mechanisms of the social construction of art. A community of institutions and individuals (artists, critics, curators, collectors, galleries, museums) creates a social consensus about what art is. Likewise a community of institutions and individuals agrees consensually what science is. From time to time there are individuals who challenge the consensus and propose a change of paradigms. In his books »Laboratory Life« (1979) and »Science in Action« (1987), Bruno Latour shows that our idea of modernity is based on a strict distinction between natural and social instances. But he shows that the distinction between culture and nature , between society and natural sciences is not totally clear. How much social instances helped to construct nature and how much have the natural sciences and their ideas of nature constructed culture and society? He claims that in reality there is an exchange between society and nature and art and natural sciences, which has created hybrids. The transfer of social categories on the construction of nature through modern natural sciences has also transformed our society. The transfer of natural categories on the construction of culture through modern society has transformed and defined our ideas of society and culture. There is a mutual transfer going on between society and culture, nature and natural sciences, between culture and natural sciences. There is no objective nature any more, separated from social construction. Art and science meet and converge in the method of social construction. Art as social construction and science as social construction converge in the postmodern field. Just as the banquet_nodes and network exhibition shows, and Manuel Castells explained in »The Rise of the Network Society« (1996), volume one in his trilogy »The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture«, our technological devices are social constructions too, and Internet doesn’t make any exception.