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.
Yvonne Weber is an artist currently working at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, specifically with the CRYOS Laboratory. Having studied Process and Product Design in Interactive Systems at the University of the Arts Berlin (UdK), she now focuses on the exploration of the interface between science and art. As an artist in residence in 2010 at the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) in Davos, she was introduced to scientific research processes and the collaborative potentials of working at the intersection of art and science.
As the Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences addresses critical questions on snow accumulation and melt in extreme environments such as Antarctica, the Arctic and the high mountains worldwide, Yvonne engages with this research by utilizing numeric modeling as part of artistic practice. Her interest is situated in the process and transition of data, through data modeling, into physical reality, as well as the role of art within this context to produce representative images of this data.
Yvonne’s elements for successful collaborations: (40:55)
1. Person to Person: the wish to work together and the ability to provide a fruitful contribute to the other persons process or project.
During my interview with Yvonne, her reflections on the relationship between art and science maintain an awareness on the political dimensions within this intersection. As an artists working within a scientific institution, she is confronted by the challenges of navigating the art system and the science system. In this way, she describes the value shift and perceived credibility of an artist’s work when exhibiting in art institution and compared to a science institution. (18:40| 20:50)
The ability for a successful intersection between these two institutions depends on factors such as funding but also an knowledgeability of value from both sides. Yvonne approaches this topic when reflecting on the future of this intersection. She says: “For me, the question is how to develop this intersection and so are there just spontaneous open calls that say, “oh yeah, it would be nice if we took an artist with us to the Antarctic and they could help us carry our boxes. But, how can this common work look like [...].” (18:40| 18:47)
For her, the concern is how these collaborations are functioning and the value within the research that the artists and scientists do.
As Yvonne works with Numerical Modeling and the production images out of data, she sees the role of artwork and the artists who are in communication with scientists as having the ability reflect science from various perspectives. She describes that “art always stimulates a dialogue and I think that in the science community it is important to talk about what they do from a different side and perspective. I think that the artist acts like a catalyzer who then reflect on what is happening and what science is doing."(8:13|8:50)
The basis of communication rests on finding a common ground or learning one another’s language. And so, this approach to a shared language can also be looked at from a methodological perspective. From her experiences in collaborating with scientists, Yvonne has found that “we will never really speak the same language but we can use the same methods [...] if we work on the same themes or use similar methods or the same data we have a common ground to start these dialogues.” (10:25|11:14)
For her it is also the concept or process of the experiment, that revels similarities between the arts and sciences. “What we can take with us is that we don't research to get a certain result but that it’s the process that is interesting because things can happen that we wouldn't have come to otherwise if we hadn't researched. In my case, this research is based on images that develop into a language […].” (13:59|15:48)