The artists-in-labs program (AIL) has a long history of bringing together artists from various disciplines with scientists from diverse research institutions. These cross-border and transdisciplinary collaborations are intended to engage opportunities that expand contemporary knowledges and artistic production. The residencies often have a significant influence on the practices of the artists by contributing to PhD research, expanding networks that trigger new constellations, and encouraging collaborative ways of working. Our interview series Spaces of Difference: Discussing Art, Science and the In-Between, wanted to take a closer look at just that; Specifically, by approaching the topics of artistic practice as research, perspectives on cross-fertilization, dealing with language differences across disciplines, what it means to be in a collaboration and concluding with ideal elements for successful transdisciplinary collaborations.
Christina Della Giustina is an artist and lecturer in Fine Arts at the University of the Arts in Utrecht, NL. Her academic background includes Philosophy, Art History and Linguistics from the University of Zurich and a Fine Arts and Political Theory focus from Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, NL. Her work revolves around decoding, recoding and encoding data into context-specific and site-sensitive works along with sound, video, light, performance, composition, drawing and writing.
Christina is currently concluding a PhD in Practice-Based Art at Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, in London. Her PhD will also be bringing a close to her ongoing series you are variations, which manifested in 2011 during the artists-in-labs Residency at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL).
Christina’s elements for successful collaborations: (46:56)
1. Togetherness: the ability to present a project as (artist and scientist) collaborators to the public together
2. Time: extended amounts of time allow for a deeper understanding of one another’s processes and ways of thinking.
My interview with Christina Della Giustina focuses on the concept of a third factor that emerges from collaborations between the arts and sciences. She describes this factor as being situated within a power of difference. This concept emerges while discussing the use of diverse forms of languages. She describes that “translation actually induces the difference or shows that there is a difference. […] What I do is different than what scientists do. If we translate how you understand me and how I understand you, it is not based on the same. […] So the conversation between the scientist and the artist is not about trying to come to the same but to actually tap into that power of difference.” (17:21|17:45 )
Within this third state also exists a hybridity or a cross fertilization. In response to her practice as situated in a cross-fertilization, Christina describes that she perceives her transdisciplinary artistic practice as a practice in movement. (19:12|19:38)
She experiences this movement as something that fills in gaps and moves along borders and within these spaces exist “very fragile and very delicate place of not-knowing. Because in the gap between one language and another, there’s a space of a nothing. […] This not-knowing needs courage to be able to take the risk and to go into this.” (19:12|20:53)
As artists engage in transdisciplinary collaborations, artistic research is an unavoidable topic. Christina understands the relationship between the ways in which artists and scientists produce knowledge, in the sense that “[…] a research question is not answered but is transformed into another research question. […] That’s the model and in that sense it is very similar to art. […] Scientific and artistic practices are generative practices that generate itself and new challenges.” (30:29|30:38)
Within our discussion about what transdisciplinary processes uncover, she refers to the idea of exposing the mythology that exists between artists and scientists: “These mythologies fall away but then there is something gained as well. One thing gets lost, this is the mythology of each other but what is gained, and I say this super simply, […] is that the split we have between nature and culture is disappearing because they have to learn something about culture and I have to learn something about nature." (39:33|41:38)