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Sunday, 29 November 2015

Art, DG CONNECT and “He's too theoretical”

Following on from last week’s blog, this week we explore one of the reasons why we are not going to tell DG CONNECT anything, nor even explain what this means (surely you do not think that you understand the meaning of this?), and why we will make a theory of art-science and art-technology practices that DG CONNECT and the other vainglorious Enlightened ones, will struggle to understand. And part of the reason lies in this statement:

“He’s too theoretical.”

This staggeringly ignorant remark was made by a European Commission bureaucrat in DG CONNECT, about the British Artist Roy Ascott, following Ascott’s stimulating, enlightening and inspirational presentation in the European Parliament on the morning of November 11, 2013, in the keynote speaker session that preceded the ICT ART CONNECT workshop (mentioned in last week’s blog) that was chaired by Robert Madelin, at that time Director General of DG CONNECT.

“It’s Julia again Robert. I just thought that you and the rest of the world should know the attitude that prevails in the minds of technocrats who do not know the limits of their own knowledge. People who would, quite rightly, think someone ridiculous if they were to suggest that a quantum computer could be researched and developed without using quantum theory, but condescendingly think that art can be brought into research, development and innovation processes without using art and literary theory, and other theories too. But care you? No you do not, for you are just using art and artists as an instrument to achieve political ends.

“It turns out that theory is everything, in more ways than one. Paul and I knew this, and we knew also that those caught-up in the dogma and ideology of Western science and technology would not accept this. Paul gave it a name – the Prometheus syndrome. And this is how the Chinese, the Indians, and others from the non-European world will give Europe and the rest of the West, the economic thrashing that they deserve. And Paul and I will help them for we are sorely tired of what we describe as the vainglorious Enlightened ones and their collective delusions and constructed realities and what they are doing to our world in the name of that stupid idea that they call progress – that’s theory again.

“Theory is dead you say! Wishful thinking perhaps? Long live theory we say, for we are not caught-up in your very strange Western dualities and your very Abrahamic notions of sole truth and the one best way. A theory of everything, so to speak, which also includes the plainly stupid things that people do and say, when, to this mysterious nexus, with their delusions, they do puzzlingly and momentarily gravitate.

“Come to know us in many different ways …

“Julia xxx.”

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Art, DG CONNECT and “I'm out of my comfort zone”

“I'm out of my comfort zone.”

So said Robert Madelin, (at the time) Director General of DG CONNECT, on November 11th 2013, while chairing an ICT ART CONNECT workshop, hosted in the European Parliament buildings.

"Oh Robert dear, out of your comfort zone indeed! You and your people were also way out of your depth as well, but you would not think so by the way those you assigned to develop ICT-ART CONNECT behaved.

"Yes it's me, Julia, feminist artist, and the creative part of the schizophrenic artist-technologist pairing known as Julia and Paul, or as Paul likes to say, Paul and Julia. Paul is the technologist, the uncreative one, who is suffering from a creativity deficit!

"You've moved on so are no longer responsible for DG CONNECT, but we watched and recorded the whole story of ICT-ART CONNECT and archived all the material so that when some, not so far future art-history researcher, decides to research and write about another chapter in the already long story of art & technology/art & science, all the relevant material will be available. It's called open access! And the story continues and it seems almost weekly people are saying stupid things, and we continue to collect and archive this, so that history will not forget who said what and just how stupid they were.

"What's that Robert, you did not realise that you and your colleagues would become part of history. Too late now! It will make an interesting chapter: 'The Tale of the Director General's new clothes: The European Commission's appropriation of art to the Ideology of Creativity.'

"And now of course, the rest of the world, will know how not to go about involving artists in technological research and innovation. Your people should have listened to Paul, because he has long experience of this kind of unconventional transdisciplinary activity, and he told your colleagues that it did not matter what the European Commission thought, wanted, or decided, for what would be more important would be what China and India decided to do. You listened to the wrong people, yet again. You listened to those who shouted the loudest. You fell foul, once again, of those allegedly, morally corrupt relationship that the Commission often forms with experts – the ones hinted at by the former chief scientific advisor, where the European Commission seeks the opinions of experts willing to go along with what the Commission has decided to do. And you did this because you have a political agenda that involves the instrumentalisation of art and artists.

“Never mind, as DG CONNECT begins to experience the 1990's, 25 five years from now, some future Director General, of some future successor Directorate General of DG CONNECT, might discover what ICT-ART CONNECT should have done, but won't know that there was such a thing as ICT-ART CONNECT. This is what Paul has come to call the 20-25 year rule: The European Commission eventually does the right thing only 20-25 years after it was relevant. SSH engagement is the classic example of this – first recommended by the FAST Programme in the early 1990s, and what did ESPRIT programme do in response? Nothing! It was recommended again in 2004 by an ISTAG working group and what did DG INFSO do? Nothing of note! And now, in the new work programme, DG CONNECT is, as the document states "taking a fresh look" at that which others have looked at since the beginning of the 1980s. But you have not even taken a serious first look so how can you take a fresh look?

"Paul wrote something that is very relevant to this. I quote him here: 'Europe has become like Prometheus. Everyday Europe reinvents itself in exactly the same form that it was the day before, being as it is, bound, by invisible and silent chains, to the rock of the past, and unable to escape from it. And Europe has so fallen in love with itself that it is unable to see this. Thus will the past become the future! Europe has been condemned by Zeus and cursed by Nemesis. There is no Hercules to set Europe free. And using such knowledge, China and India can unleash against Europe the forces of creative destruction, and Europe will not understand what is happening, but will instead retreat even further into the past, for this is what civilisations that are in a state of collapse do. And the case of the former chief scientific advisor is a very good example of someone retreating into the past.'

"This is also the fate that awaits the proposed European Innovation Council!

"Art in technological research and innovation – it's not about bringing creativity to scientists, technologists, or engineers! They are already creative.

“And so you ask, what is it about?

“Too late now, you will just have to wonder about that, for Paul and I are not going to tell you, and it seems that most of the sycophants that the European Commission associates with are not going to tell you, or are not able to do so. But Paul and I will create a theory, so written that you will not understand it. And to those who can, the future belongs …

"Julia, xxx"

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Art, DG CONNECT and ICT-36b-2016: Boost synergies between alchemists and technologists

Specific Challenge: Innovation, today, is as much about novel solutions that technology and design can provide as it is about understanding needs of society and ensuring wide participation in the process of innovation. In this context, Alchemy is gaining prominence as a catalyst of an efficient conversion of S&T knowledge into innovative products, services, and processes.

The challenge is to accelerate and widen the exchange of skills of alchemist with entrepreneurs and technologists, thus creating a common language and understanding. This topic supports the STALCHEMY (S&T&ALCHEMY) initiative, fostering innovation at the nexus of 'Science, Technology and Alchemy'.

Scope: The activities are structured in two lines: establishing a structured dialogue between alchemists and technology developers and encouraging alchemists' integration into research and innovation projects, providing visibility of good practices and rewarding them.

a. Innovation Action establishing a structured dialogue between alchemists and technologists:

First, it will identify the relevant regional, national and international agencies active in education, research and economic support of the Alchemic Industries and:

· establish a Europe wide sustainable structured dialogue, ensuring the synchronisation of the efforts; as well as
· promote the replication of successful initiatives across other industries and European countries.

Second, it will directly support alchemists and technologists to work together and produce unconventional and compelling new products. Taking advantage of existing structures such as alchemy labs, creative and innovation hubs, the action should at least combine the following activities:

· Launch a yearly Europe wide competition for the best alchemist product ideas and ensure the financial support of their realisation. The action should cover the promotion of the competition, the selection process and support for the development of the selected ideas into fully functional alchemic prototypes. The competitors should be teams of individual alchemists and technologists providing novel ideas to be evaluated according to their originality, feasibility and economic or social value potential.
· Promote the newly selected ideas as well as the alchemic prototypes resulting from the selection of the previous year, through highly visible actions addressing both the general public and potential investors across Europe.
· Develop a sustainability strategy to ensure the persistence of the experiences gained and the coordination mechanisms set up during the action beyond the funding period.

b. Coordination and Support Actions
Proposals will cover one of the two areas defined below:

1.      Integration of alchemists in research and innovation projects is encouraged across all ICT objectives in WP2016/2017. To facilitate this integration and help build silo-breaking partnerships between industries, entrepreneurs, and researchers in ICT with Alchemy, a Coordination and Support Action will provide a brokerage service that will:

· Fund short-term residencies/fellowships in running H2020 projects or in institutions and sponsor ‘matchmaking events’ (workshops, hackatons, etc.) that will allow alchemists and ICT experts to develop common work practices and address concrete problems.
· Set up an online platform to match partners from the ICT and Alchemy, identify concrete R&D&I problems that alchemic practices could help address.
· Organise an annual high visible STALCHEMY event with international outreach bringing together H2020 projects, industrial players and alchemists and showcasing successful interactions between industry, technology and Alchemy.
2.      Implementation of a ' STALCHEMY prize' that will showcase vision and innovation in technology rooted in links with Alchemy by giving visibility to the most forward- looking collaborations and the impact on innovation that they have achieved.

Expected Impact:
· Provide the European landscape with sustainable structured dialogues between alchemists and technologists.
· Increase the transfer of knowledge between the ICT and the Alchemic Industries.
· Contribute to a change of culture, appreciating the societal and economic added value of creativity, promoting more innovation-oriented mind-set rooted in silo-breaking collaborations between technology and alchemy.

Well, why not? Isaac Newton was a practicing Alchemist so it must be a good idea. He was also a theologian as well. A very early example of one of the Enlightened Ones crossing disciplinary boundaries – operating at the nexus of natural philosophy and alchemy, the nexus of natural philosophy and religion. Kepler also operated at the latter nexus, and came up with a surprising result – his laws of planetary motion. Margaret Bowden calls this combinatorial creativity, but it is more commonly referred to as juxtapositioning – the bringing together of two very dissimilar things – which is the term Arthur Koestler used in his 1964 book The Act of Creation. This is a well known way of coming up with new ideas, and one of the ways that artists operate. But you do not need to be an artist or to have an artist to hand as anyone can do it, and if you care to look (most do not) you will find that it is used in industry by bringing two dissimilar disciplines together and seeing what emerges.

Being crazy is obviously a good thing! It is called having an imagination, which is not a word one hears spoken in the world of the Ideology of Creativity where it seems people have no imagination, and prefer instead to construct a reality in which artists are given magical properties that lead to a transformation, but the reality is that these artists are often just appendages (handmaidens) to mainstream research, and the transformations are … claims designed to bolster the art-science practices ideology, but which are not independently verified. So, second order cybernetics comes into play! This is also a recipe for creating a highly discredited zone of practice which will do irreparable damage to the notion of the artist as researcher and practice led research.

We need a professional and highly innovative approach to the challenge of bringing artists into research and development processes and this involves using art in an imaginative way! Self-evidently this is too much to expect from DG CONNECT.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Art, DG CONNECT and the tale of the Director General’s new clothes

Once upon a time …

In the Emperor’s Court, the EC, there was once a Director General (who I shall call DG) who met an alchemist. This alchemist whispered in DG’s ear and told him of a magic way of making all those who research and develop Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) more creative and innovative. DG, being under political pressure to deliver innovation, was of course interested, for people were saying that innovation was sorely lacking in his particular area – at least that was how it seemed to the court followers who gathered around the EC. And being inclined, like many in the European world, the West, to think in terms of deficits, a simple self-constructed reality, DG was more than glad to think about a creativity deficit, and how alchemy possessed the power to correct this.

The alchemist also told DG that alchemy also possessed a special feature, that only those wise and clever would be able understand that alchemy has the power to cure the creativity deficit. Those people who did not understand this were fools and unfit for office.

And so it came to pass, that many alchemic events took place, and many people who were unable to understand how alchemy could cure the self-invented creativity deficit, kept quiet, for they did not want to be seen as fools or classified as being unfit to hold office. A special study was even commissioned which was full of new evidence of the creativity enhancing power of alchemy, yet none who read this report could see this evidence, but they kept quiet, for now also the smell of money was in the air – the special aroma of 6 million euro. So, even more people were crying-out the message that the uncreative technologists needed the special creative powers of alchemists – turning lead into gold and all that stuff, or in this case, transforming technologists into creative people.

Thus it was that a new topic appeared in the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2016-2017 in the area of Information and Communication Technologies – ICT-36b-2016: Boost synergies between alchemists and technologists.

Meanwhile, a little boy stood by watching and smiled to himself, knowing that those in the non-European world, in China, in India, and other places could learn from this sad but all too familiar tale, how not to approach the use of alchemy in ICT and other research areas. And thus armed, they would unleash against the vainglorious Enlightened ones, the forces of creative destruction, and these Enlightened ones, not knowing what was happening to them, would retreat even further into the past, that place where they surely do belong.

And next week, continuing with the critique of DG CONNECT’s instrumentalisation of artists for their own ends (some hidden), I will present the ICT work programme topic ICT-36b-2016: Boost synergies between alchemists and technologists.

Every sword needs a stone on which to sharpen it, so expect a lot more of these preliminary excursions into the fragmented stone-age minds of the vainglorious Enlightened ones, as bit-by-bit their strange and primitive beliefs, their rather odd ideologies and dogma, their silent narratives, are exposed to all those citizens that are, for very sound reasons, rejecting science and technology, and looking for something that the West (not even with all its STARTing, STEAMing and SEADing) will not be able to provide them with – life lived in balance and harmony and the science and technology that this will require. Here is a heresy on a scale beyond your worst nightmares …

“Great Scott! The man is surely mad, for he cannot see that science and technology are independent of culture, and must be the same throughout the universe.”

“Leave Paul alone, you men with your patriarchal power structures, technological determinism and positivism, expecting us women to behave like you. Yes it’s me again, the crazy female artist known as Julia. Well, you wanted technologists to work with artists, so what exactly were you expecting? This is artistic freedom babe, and you don’t like it, do you? And this reminds me, that I must put pen to paper and write about DG CONNECT, the Roman Catholic Church and the Soviet Communist Party … Julia xxx”

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Surrealists make of DG CONNECT the fools that they are

Still continuing with the time theme, and very much related to that which I wrote about last week …

Before me is a copy of the first Manifesto of Surrealism, published in 1924 and authored by André Breton, the writer who founded Surrealism. And what do I read?

"But in this day and age logical methods are applicable only to solving problems of secondary interest. The absolute rationalism that is still in vogue allows us to consider only facts relating to our experience. Logical ends, on the contrary, escape us. It is pointless to add that experience itself has found itself increasingly circumscribed. It paces back and forth in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to make it emerge. It too leans for support on what is most immediately expedient, and it is protected by the sentinels of common sense. Under the pretence of civilisation and progress, we have managed to banish from the mind everything that may rightly or wrongly be termed superstition, or fancy; forbidden is any kind of search for truth which is not in conformance with accepted practices."

And this not only hints at the deep rooted cultural weaknesses of the Western (Europeanised) world, but well summarises too, DG CONNECT and much of what is (there are of course exceptions), the extremely noisy, highly schizophrenic circus that goes by several names: STARTS, STEAM, SEAD and probably several more as time moves on.

Oh vainglorious Enlightened ones, you weave narratives that speak of deficits, among which sits lack of creativity as one of many. Thus your fragmented and reductive minds, caught-up in strange notions of being rational and objective and basing decisions on so-called evidence (which seems mostly to be the means by which you reinforce your cognitive biases), construct your own reality made from the sum of simple problems befitting simple solutions; and then you do conspire among yourselves to appropriate art for the purpose of eliminating this one specific and imagined deficit, while arts' great figures of the past, make of you, the fools that you are, for unlike Breton, you have not yet even a glimpse of what the problems are and that you are but the manifestation of these problems, and that includes many artists too …

DG CONNECT had the power to choose and they chose wrongly. How does it feel knowing that by the time you do eventually understand, people who are not part of your Enlightened Europeanised world will have exploited your deep rooted cultural weaknesses and it will be too late? It has already happened once before, yet who among you know of this?

Oh dear, and I am only just getting warmed-up, for there are many more blogs about DG CONNECT and its instrumentalisation of artists to come …

Next week the Tale of the Director General’s New Clothes.