SEAD: FROM SUCCESS TO SUCCESSION Author: Bronac Ferran ‘Touching the Edges’

SEAD: FROM SUCCESS TO SUCCESSION

SEAD: FROM SUCCESS TO SUCCESSION
Author: Bronac Ferran
‘Touching the Edges’
In this paper I try to draw together fragmented and often disassociated viewpoints along the fractured lines and boundaries which together form the disparate field of SEAD. I draw on views of respondents from across a spectrum of SEAD related interests who have responded through interview, conversations and written responses to a questionnaire (included as Appendix 1 below) which explored points made within the abstract, also below .
The initial abstract was written by me to stimulate responses at the outset of the SEAD call and references views of important commentators within the art-science-technology axis in the late 1960s.  The consideration  of earlier writing and developments in the art-science-technology-engineering fields is an important part of this process. As the abstract argues, there is – in my view –  a failure to build on and form sufficient cumulative knowledge or wisdom in this sector.  This is reflected in the fact that basic arguments for the importance of combining different disciplines continue to need be made in various scenarios.  As has been recently illustrated by the press/media coverage of comments by James Dyson, Provost of the Royal College of Art  there is a tendency for press and media coverage to feed and feed on  polarised positions, over-simplifying and ignoring more subtle or complex perspectives. This has been a frequent occurrence since Sir Charles P. Snow wrote his two papers for the journal Encounter in 1959 on ‘The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution’ which on examination of source material reflects a far more nuanced position than that often since extrapolated and which has served to underpin journalistic rhetoric on several occasions since about the mutual antipathy of arts and science practices.  But Snow was far from pushing a straightforward arts-v-science line; indeed in his second article he critiqued above all the separation of pure science and scientists from engineering and applied and industrial engagement; ‘Pure scientists and engineers often totally misunderstand each other”Pure scientists have by and large been dim-witted about engineers and applied science”Their instinct”.was to take it for granted that applied science was an occupation for second-rate minds’. He describes how the second world war had served to shift these perceptions in favour of understanding the value of production and  credits the USA and Russia with a much less intense ‘national passion for specialisation’ than that of the UK but his overall message in the text is not that the sciences and the humanities don’t engage with each other but that factors such as politics play a significant role and in his view Western educational policy needs to speedily connect the abstract and the purist with the practical and the applied in order to avoid a growing Communist dominance throughout the world (with the Russian educational system seen by him as much more advantageous from an interdisciplinary perspective).
The value of establishing and recognising a lineage of critical reference (through identification of foundational texts that need to be read directly) to inform current discussions , debates and emerging pedagogical discourse is a key part of the main action identified below.
In establishing this lineage we cannot ignore the vital role played by environmental, social and political factors as part of the context for seminal works. We must also in this context include a dimension rarely mentioned in arts-science discourses today but one which is strongly connected to the lineage of abstraction “” i.e. the dimension of the spiritual or what we might more often today choose to call the ideological or ethical.  The abstract included a very brief reference to Naum Gabo whose views on success expressed in 1969 in Studio International are fascinating ones:
‘There is no indication of success up to now in the bringing together of art and science.  To achieve success the artist must be spiritually at home in the field of science so he can think and feel in the same way as the scientist. A spiritual union, not a technical one, is required’.
The abstract also cites Jonathan Benthall whose perceptive monthly columns in Studio International charted a series of developments from March 1969 into the early 1970s “” in retrospect a formative and deeply significant period. Benthall articulated something which often tends to removed or ignored with respect to inter and transdisciplinary practices “” eg the divergent nature of the processes involved. He wrote of how ‘art and science have common roots in the spirit of man but they are quite distinct activities’ and of ‘how there is no apparent correlation between the status of a given artist and the validity of his scientific assumptions”the discontinuities between science and modern art are as interesting as their interaction’.
Also writing in Studio International in 1969, pioneering and visionary artist Gustav Metzger elucidated a complex position which argued for engagement with technology but from a position of  collusion with specific  scientists who in his view were more advanced in their understanding and critique:
‘whilst more and more scientists are investigating the threats that science and technology pose for society, artists are being led into a “technological kindergarden”, the idea being that the artist can amuse himself and some of the populace with the gadgetry of modern life'”‘the conflict of artist and machine is entering a very critical phase”very often a defeated subject comes as close as possible to that force that has defeated him”.can society afford to let artists have access to technologies “” can it afford not to?…society is desperately in need of information about itself, needs to retain links with the past, demands the disappearance of the barriers between science and arts’.
This White Paper therefore takes forward the agenda outlined in the initial abstract and seeks to argue for recognition of the complexity and divergence of views and processes within the SEAD spectrum as both a strength and an important factor in constructing a policy framework for the future. The involvement of ‘generous visionaries’who are not all university based or representing insitutions  in formulating the actions suggested below has been an important element in shaping the paper’s direction.
Abstract
Amnesia can dominate when it comes to building new forms of support for art/science/technology research and practice. Despite practical experiments and theoretical analysis stretching back for more than a century, there is often a ‘year zero’ assumption “” a sense of building something entirely new. Structures and systems of support tend to come and go with few if any signs of critical accumulation. This White Paper will reference the lineage behind highly contemporary practices and argue that accessing the critical wisdom of earlier pioneers across arts and science borders is an important part of strengthening the seemingly new. Often these pioneers have had migratory careers, moving between institutions or even countries, which has contributed to a sense of dispersal of knowledge and a lack of integration into formal structures. We should explore some of the challenges involved with drawing together distributed viewpoints, disparate processes and (often) contrasting ideologies. We need to observe a continuum of ‘praxis’ alongside the joy in ‘discontinuity’ perfectly described by Jonathan Benthall when he commented, writing in Studio International in 1969, on how: ‘ discontinuities between science and modern art'”are”.’as interesting as their interactions’. Benthall also wisely pinpointed the value of difference and divergence within SEAD practices. In his view: ‘there is no apparent correlation between the stature of a given artist and the validity of his scientific assumptions’. In 1969, also in Studio International, the great artist-engineer Naum Gabo wrote about how he had seen little success in terms of bringing together the arts and sciences. This leads to a second very important challenge and question for this White Paper which is to ask how might we choose to evaluate success across the breadth of the terrain signified by a framework such as SEAD? Without evaluative processes there can be no methodology for learning and passing on wisdom.  As curricula and reading lists are being formed to underpin emerging Masters courses in ‘art and science’ might the SEAD initiative finally help signpost a stable direction in this productively unstable terrain? Is it feasible to produce a summative assessment of what constitutes success in the interdisciplinary domain and what might this mean for future institutions? How might art and science pioneers now define success? How might the value of preceding events and practitioners be more readily accessed? The SEAD community is invited to contribute to the development of proposals to address some of these fascinating challenges.
Responses
In terms of addressing some of the challenges above and to inform the SEAD policy agenda, articulate responses to the questionnaire included below have been received. These have been vital in shaping the suggested actions also outlined below.
Articulated very strongly has been a desire for a series of interconnected steps to address disappearing histories and embodied narratives in the SEAD domain. The point has been made very strongly ‘that any SEAD initiative should involve active practitioners and not, except for aspects of management perhaps, career academics’ and further, by another respondent, that:
‘This survey and much of the SEAD initiative is academically driven, by the nature of those involved.    There are a few independent practitioners (me), but little representation of other sectors that at times spawn art/science work: the military (DARPA, ONR), corporate initiatives (Xerox PAIR, Interval Research, IBM, Bell Labs, Google) or Lab initiated endeavours.   Each would ask very different, valued evaluative questions’
It is proposed that potentially through this SEAD initiative leadership could be established internationally to build a framework for the identification and online assembling of critical archives and case studies, both at independent/individual and institutional level, to form an inclusive and assessible map of important initiatives both in time and space.
Given the highly diverse nature of the practices involved, as well as the ageing of pioneering artists etc within the field, it is suggested that a peer group should be established to urgently inform the creation of processes and procedures to ensure there is no loss of critically significant context, individual memories and narratives, to build a framework for international co-operation in the field given the highly migratory nature of work and leading practitioners and to activate a programme of work to establish terms of preservation, long-term curation, archiving and criteria for identification of foundational works, texts, activities to inform longer-term educational programmes etc.  Whilst certain archives and collections do exist there is no linking framework or narrative that could help new researchers locate these or find the people who may wish to share their stories, despite the potential for online or networked communication. This may be deeply regretted in future years. As pioneering figures age, mobility generally becomes more challenging. For a field premised on rapid exchange and encounter and on travelling the world to conferences which have acted as core centres of connections the ageing of its pioneers and the emerging of new audiences and students seeking direct connection with precedent works and people, there is a need for a new kind of creative collaboration which the SEAD project can help endorse.  Instead of scattered and individualistic actions, a new form of collaborative networking initiative which enables expression of difference within the field could be activated gathering narratives, case studies and where appropriate source material, before it is too late.
There were many comments on the need for this action:
‘”the lack of history”so many people reinventing wheels”.this has been exacerbated by the recent 30 year domination of post-modern thinking and the anti-historical stance of its more extreme ideologues”..’

‘The Histories as written are full of gaps, missing works, missing archives and nothing is fully connected'”.

‘A full historical study is needed that looks closely at the informal connections and influences with as much attention as is paid to the formal ones’.

‘Sympathetic social historians’  should be involved to help build the missing narrative.

‘If it were up to me, I’d organise a seminar/workshop/salon and invite the attendees I think most exciting, eccentric and knowledgeable in the field. The ambience of such events is very important to open people’s imagination and memory. And I would ask them some of the questions you are exploring here”. then publish the results’.

‘Maybe we edit a book “” curate sections, multiple authors, but the organisation of the book is key to talking about the parts of the story that are currently less well contextualised or have been forgotten’.

‘there is a pressing need for such an international network in this area with agreed standards for archiving, preservation and shared criteria of evaluation. A standard of tagging, access and preservation has to be agreed and implemented’

‘I would suggest that key players in the field such as Roger Malina, Ernest Edmonds, Roy Ascott (& others) could identify a group of key people to develop a programme that not only produces documentation of key events, people and influences but also promotes the dissemination of best practice. It would be important to include people from history (social and cultural) and ethnography as well as artists, scientists etc.’.
The obstacle to this action was eloquently described by one respondent as follows:
”    ‘The atomisation of archives, the lack of a general network and the loss of platforms for works that are technically obsolete.  Basically a spectacular failure of institutions to maintain seminal works in the field.   The variation in state funding has meant that this is still a patchy and piecemeal effort. To date no educational institution has taken a proper lead apart from Donau-Universtat Krems’.
Other obstacles or opportunities include:
”    the difficulty of integrating the variegated practices of individuals who may work outside situations of scholarship in academic sense and yet who have important source material, are living case studies and have much knowledge and skill to share.
”    ‘The political and economic systems and ecological conditions within which SEAD work takes place, determines the nature and consequences of the outcomes.   Not to consider this is not to be doing good art or science.    Though difficult, the need for research currently is less important than doing and setting example for work in the convergent arts/sciences, across cultures and social sectors’.
The proposed key Action is summarised as follows:
”    ‘Cultural institutions, pioneering individuals and universities must form an alliance to look at the most effective tools for archiving, documentation, study and fostering of new cross disciplinary approaches beyond the silos.  The biggest deficit is consistent funding”an open source, micro funded initiative by all interested parties may now be the way forward. The pioneering work of individuals, businesses/companies and foundations which may not fit easily into the academic domain should be acknowledged and included within this process and where possible making available source material within an integrated archival framework should be prioritised so that vital contextual factors are also taken into account’.
The stakeholders who would be involved in the development and implementation of this action include:
Artists, scientists, technologists, museums, archives, libraries, publishers, policy makers, academics in interdisciplinary fields, social theorists and cultural historians, history of science and technology institutions, art schools, students, doctoral researchers, further and higher educational establishments; higher education and research funding interests in US and rest of world who should agree a series of parallel priorities to make sure the mapping/oral history/visualising the leading activities exercise is inter/transnational as befits the nature of this disparate and dispersed practice.
The SEAD project could provide a lead internationally working closely with the Leonardo network which already connects many of the key stakeholders and has a reputation for non-biassed, non-hierarchical approaches to the issues under consideration.
In the course of identifying this key priority for action, a number of other fascinating comments and observations were made which are worth sharing here:
”    ‘Make a prominent network of where to find stuff to make things out of and where to live and work cheaply to make things.  Like a Craig’s List for SEAD practitioners’.
”    ‘In spite of the “success” of the purely scientific experiment, the hybrid “succession” of art/science creativity evokes little outside recognition or inside exchange.  The SEAD initiative can finally help signpost a stable direction in this productively unstable terrain. It is feasible to produce a summative assessment of what constitutes success in the interdisciplinary domain and what might this mean for future institutions”.
”    “As a result of rapid changes in technology, many major works made even 10 years ago can no longer be shown or are disappearing without a trace.  If this situation is not addressed, we face losing an artform that is a central part of our post-industrial digital culture.  To date, systematic global preservation and documentation campaigns do not exist.  Many important online documentation and research projects are also disappearing from the web. As they falter, we risk losing their valuable material forever. Contemporary scientific research relies on access to shared data.  The same is true of the Arts and Humanities, which lack a concerted international policy for sustainability and support of the digital heritage, such as exists partly in the natural sciences’ “” excerpt from http://www.mediaarthistory.org “” quoted by one respondent.
”    ‘I am increasingly uncomfortable that practising artists who do not have advanced academic degrees are not having access to high-level (university) collaboration”.there is also a danger that things are becoming narrowed and codified, thereby discouraging the kind of research and experimentation that produces “happy surprises””I would emphasize the value of working with others “whose processes are disparate and who have vastly different ideologies”‘.
Invited to comment on whether evaluative and assessment criteria exist or should exist within the field of SEAD, responses diverged greatly.  Some felt that such a question was impossible to answer and others wished to avoid having to codify disparate and individualistic actions.  This represents an overall wariness about stabilising (or perhaps academising) the fundamentally unstable whilst at the same time there are increasingly tangible desires among pioneering figures for further continuity and legacy to ensure important things are not forgotten.
One respondent said: ‘generalizable guidelines could be one of the outcomes from the NSEAD/XSEAD/SEAD activities’ and that current criteria tended to be ‘a smattering of borrowed methods from the art world or the science world. A SEAD activity generally has to satisfy both criteria to be considered successful but it usually only partially satisfies them’.
Similarly this respondent thought that ‘a shortcoming of good texts and shortfall in understanding of good pedagogical practice was a considerable hindrance’ and that ‘the new map’ could be effective in addressing this constraint and that ‘ the XSEAD website was an important activity and a SEAD k-12 initiative would be welcome’ in possible creation (through assemblage) of a new ‘canon’.
Another respondent stated:
”    ‘the criteria need to be better formed for generalizable use.  They must be formed bottom-up, by researchers, for example but then taken up and endorsed by professional bodies'”..’see UTS’s CCS PhD programme and the approach it exemplies. “note the importance of the multiple-inut/multiple-output view of collaborative work and, hence, the inappropriateness of a single narrow evaluation approach’.
”    In terms of evaluating success and its relationship to succession, one respondent addressed this clearly: ‘My experience is that it takes many years for new ideas to take hold but I believe success can be measured by how far an approach becomes so entrenched in practice.  When I began in the early 1990s, inter-disciplinary collaborative approaches were unusual and the use of new technology in the arts was only just developing a larger constituency as a result of the arrival of desktop computing.  Nowadays collaborative work in the digital arts is considered the norm and the technology is all-pervasive””However, the quality factor remains unresolved largely because evaluating the processes and outcomes has been left largely to chance”..’.  She went on to say: ‘There is no simple way of defining success in relation to the size and scope.  Often the really important projects do not appear to be significant at the time but are later recognised for their seminal value (e.g. Cybernetic Serendipity).
Another respondent said:
”    ‘I would say that success in the field of SEAD would be when science, engineering, art and design start to work together in the creation of a new world where every little corner, every little moment and every little act in our everyday life is poetically transformed.  Only when we have reached that point we could call the SEAD field a success’.
And another sought to define success on a number of levels based on personal and professional experience:
‘Going beyond experiment, to achieve transcendent great works in the arts and socially benefitting breakthrough work in the sciences, through collaboration.
Personal success: being asked (contracted) by others, to do good large works that grew and took on their own life; or realizing difficult, self-determined projects that that took on a life and economy (planning new towns; implementing the first rural Internet PoP; getting great audience response to a new media-theater composition; successfully engaging w/ NASA on a series of art/science projects from 1975-80s.)’
Such brief stories have the power of lived reality and underpin the core position of this White Paper that pioneering figures are best placed to write the living history of SEAD.
Obstacles
‘The atomisation of archives, the lack of a general network and the loss of platforms for works that are technically obsolete.  Basically a spectacular failure of institutions to maintain seminal works in the field.   The variation in state funding has meant that this is still a patchy and piecemeal effort’.

The difficulty of integrating the variegated practices of individuals who may work outside situations of scholarship in academic sense and yet who have important source material, are living case studies and have much knowledge and skill to share.

Lack of clear leadership in a distributed interdisciplinary domain.

Over-reliance on informal networks and over-stretched projects to carry responsibility for future retrieval.

The ageing of the pioneering activities and artists/scientists in this field globally.

Lack of preservation strategies and a general approach to letting things go without due acknowledgement, adequate documentation or collected understanding of the factors underlying the production of early works.
Action
”    ‘Cultural institutions, pioneering individuals and universities must form an alliance to look at the most effective tools for archiving, documentation, study and fostering of new cross disciplinary approaches beyond the silos.  The biggest deficit is consistent funding”an open source, micro funded initiative by all interested parties may now be the way forward. The pioneering work of individuals, businesses/companies and foundations which may not fit easily into the academic domain should be acknowledged and included within this process and where possible making available source material within an integrated archival framework should be prioritised so that vital contextual factors are also taken into account’.
The stakeholders who would be involved in the development and implementation of this action are:
Artists, scientists, technologists, commercial interests, labs, foundations and trusts, museums, archives, libraries, publishers, policy makers, academics in interdisciplinary fields, social theorists and cultural historians, history of science and technology institutions, art schools, students, doctoral researchers, further and higher educational establishments; higher education and research funding interests in US and rest of world (who would be encouraged to set parallel priorities for research funding given the dispersal of leading practitioners and centres of activities throughout the world).

See Appendix 1 “” for Questionnaire
See Appendix 2 Case study/response to Questionnaire by pioneering artist, Janet Saad-Cook, to whom sincere thanks are extended by me.
I would also like to thank the following whose words have informed this White Paper: Jonathan Benthall, Paul Brown, Sheldon Brown , Linda Candy, Meroe Candy, Ernest Edmonds, Paul Glinkowski, Kathelin Gray, Richard Lowenberg, Gustav Metzger, Martin Reiser, Sonya Rapoport, Janet Saad-Cook, Alejandro Tamayo.

APPENDIX 1
QUESTIONNAIRE
Questions to be addressed within submissions:
Please identify your own position within the SEAD axis: are you a practitioner, a theorist, an academic, or a combination of these?
What would you describe as your ‘home’ discipline?
How many years have you been working with field now known as SEAD?
How do you define success within your own practice?
How would you define success within the field of SEAD?
If asked to nominate three successful projects or initiatives which you have encountered in your experience within SEAD what would they be?  Feel free to mention more than three.
Please say in which case why these seem to you to have been more successful than other projects?
Do you feel confident in generalising about what success means or might mean in this field?
Do you believe there are evaluative and assessment criteria already existing in the areas of SEAD?
Who would you look to for guidance in this area?
If you do not feel these criteria exist in any generalizable way: do you feel they should and if so who should be responsible for formation of these guidelines?
Could you identify leading places within the SEAD map?
Could you identify leading texts “” indispensable reading for any student of SEAD history or lineage?
What do you think are the main problems facing anyone trying to study SEAD developments within research and educational institutions?
Do you know of any interesting or important developments within education in your country or elsewhere which might be regarded as contributing to building an academic infrastructure for SEAD related activities?
Can you think of ways in which some of the gaps in terms of infrastructure may be filled or addressed?
What (new) layers of infrastructure could or should be introduced to build stronger or more successful SEAD initiatives?
Can you name or describe some case studies of pioneering figures who best represent for you good practice in relation to SEAD?
Why are these significant?
Is there a missing narrative?  How might this best be written and shared?
Whose responsibility might be it to be to build stronger layers of infrastructure in terms of succession “” ie memory and lineage?
Please feel free to add any other comments, self-related or related to others”
APPENDIX TWO
RESPONSE TO QUESTIONNAIRE FROM JANET SAAD-COOK  (copyright Janet Saad-Cook 2012)
Janet Saad-Cook, November 5, 2012                         Notes for Bronac Ferran SEAD White Paper
As an artist and a theorist, I have been working in what is now known as the SEAD field for more than thirty years, beginning in 1980. My discipline as an artist is sculpture, but I use the term only as a convenience within the context of this paper because I create “situations” in which my art is experienced through the interaction of the sun with the earth.
Thirty two years ago I invented a new way to create art by fusing sunlight, time, reflection and motion, and I call this Sun Drawing. To experience Sun Drawings is to see brilliant, shimmering images of light soar across walls, evolving and dissolving as the sun makes its daily sweep of the earth. The changing images evoke a calming sense of connection to the natural world and to the silent rhythms of the earth and sky, marking the hours, the days, and the seasons.
As a theorist, I am interested in connections I find between the shape of light and the shape of the movement of time when measured with sunlight. I began examining these connections in the 1980’s, along with my research at prehistoric sun marking sites in the American Southwest, particularly in studying certain petroglyphs that mark sites as sacred sun marking places. This is an area I would like to work on in collaboration with a scientist and/or a Cosmologist.  I gave a seminar on this topic to the astronomers at MIT’s Haystack Observatory in 2008.
Success for me:  What I feel makes my art successful is that people experience my art on a deep level without needing to understand the complexities of astronomy, optics and physics behind it. They are moved by the simplicity of what is happening, the sun and earth working together creating light coherencies that are moving in harmony with time. Some ask themselves why they never thought to do this because it seems so simple; my hope is that they will then ask themselves what else exists in their lives that has such beauty and resonance but is so simple they are not seeing it” my hope is that they are then moved to see their lives in new ways. (Please see Anecdote 1)
Within the field of SEAD, I define success as having the respect and support of people I respect. It does not always mean being able to realize ones creative vision. (Please see Anecdote 2)
Regarding successful projects within SEAD, my Sun Drawing at Boston University’s Photonics Center is the most successful of ones I have completed. On a technical level, we broke new ground in the following way:  we designed an optical system that not only brings sunlight sixty-five feet down into the atrium and onto the Sun Drawing instrument, but also configured the system so that the sunlight moves in harmony with the earth’s rotation. (Traditional heliostats keep the sunlight static.) The astronomer who collaborated with me is on the faculty at Boston University, and he designs optical instruments. The special aspect of this project is that we were able to program the sunlight to “move,” which then enabled me to “choreograph” the sunlight, i.e. have the sunlight move across the reflective elements in specific ways.  It is also the most
Janet Saad-Cook
successful because this is the Sun Drawing I refer to in Anecdote 1, and because it has been used for educational and research purposes by Boston University since it was completed in 1997.
Two additional projects were designed but not built that I feel are in this category of a successful SEAD project. One was a concept design I was asked to submit for the Nice Observatory, France (1996). The other was a concept design I was asked to submit for a national memorial in Beirut, Lebanon (2006). The Beirut design is based on a transparent sundial concept I have been experimenting with since 1989.
The Nice Observatory project involved a subterranean chamber with crystalline light sources rising from the earth to admit sunlight below to activate Sun Drawing instruments. In addition to astronomers at the observatory, my team included an architectural firm in Paris and an architectural engineering firm in London. The most unique part of this project is that it was to be sited in alignment with one of the Nice Observatory’s historic astronomical instruments called Le Petite Meridien, and I incorporated an event of light that would pass from the subterranean chamber to the Meridien instrument at midday, as the sun crossed the local meridian. This project received funding but was never allowed to be built.
For the national memorial in Beirut, my architect/collaborator and I designed a complex of transparent walls memorializing all who died in the 15 year war. It was to be a 30 feet high by 50 feet wide transparent sundial composed of optically coated glass walls inscribed with the names of the dead. When touched by sunlight, the walls were designed to send forth brilliant shafts of light and color across the grounds of the memorial, moving and shifting with changing sunlight, carrying the names of the dead within the patterns of light, as part of marking time and the seasons.  The science (astronomy) of this project would be a unique challenge for the scientists working on it, due to the transparency factor of the sundial/calendar.
Success in SEAD field:  I do not feel confident in generalizing about what success means or might mean in the SEAD field. And I suspect the evaluative and assessment criteria that already exist are ones I may not agree with because I feel the SEAD field is becoming increasingly codified. The danger in this is that it can stifle the spirit of art, sacrificing it to science, technology, academia, etc. My own measure of success is the human response to my art. It is tempting to become enchanted with process, technology, materials, research, etc., but the challenge is to transcend all of these to create art. When I learn about some contemporary SEAD projects the feeling I have is that science, technology and academics take over, and that is problematic. People respond to my art at deep, non-cognitive, levels as they recognize they are experiencing the harmony of natural forces. In many instances they become curious enough to
Janet Saad-Cook
want to understand the science, technology, etc., behind it. But it is not the technology that draws them into the experience; it is the experience that draws them to the technology. This would be my criteria for success. (Please see Anecdote 3)
Who would I look to for guidance in this area? Roger Malina is for sure someone I look to, and the publication Leonardo. I also very much support the work of the ArtsCatalyst group in London, under Nicola Triscott.
Regarding criteria in areas of SEAD, I very much believe they should be put forth for some of the following reasons:  I am increasingly uncomfortable with scientists, technology experts, etc., presenting themselves as artists, and being accepted as such without regard to the quality of what they produce as “art.” On the other hand, artists who use science, etc., or who collaborate with scientists, are not accepted as scientists, nor is the work they do considered significant to science. The Jonathan Benthall quote in your abstract references this, in a way, when he says, “there is no apparent correlation between the stature of a given artist and the validity of his scientific assumptions.” In some of his writings this year, Roger Malina has also commented about this unequal “valuation.”
I am also increasingly uncomfortable that practicing artists who do not have advanced academic degrees are not having access to high-level (university) collaboration. I do not know who should be responsible for formation of guidelines at the moment because this field is so unwieldy. But I do object to the over-emphasis on academia and technology because I believe we run the danger of keeping out some of the best artists. I suggest that more practicing artists be consulted to help create guidelines in this field, which at the moment it seems overloaded with science, technology and academia.
These are among the main problems I feel are facing anyone trying to study SEAD developments within research and educational institutions. There is also a danger that things are becoming narrowed and codified, thereby discouraging the kind of research and experimentation that produces “happy surprises.” I suggest opening higher institutions to practicing artists who do not necessarily have advanced degrees so that scientists, etc. have the opportunity to collaborate with them. I would emphasize the value of working with others (to quote you) “whose processes are disparate and who have vastly different ideologies.” (Please see Anecdote 4)
Pioneering efforts in SEAD field:  I would cite The Exploratorium (US), ArtsCatalyst (UK), the Univ. of California Berkeley, Lawrence Hall of Science (US), Leonardo (publication). All are significant because they began years ago (especially Leonardo and The Exploratorium) and
Janet Saad-Cook
continue moving SEAD forward, each in their own way, and they keep abreast of new discoveries, methodologies, technologies, etc.
Whose responsibility to build strong layers of infrastructure”i.e. memory and lineage? The easy answer would be art historians, curators, archival journals, etc., but I am not sure these are as appropriate today as they were in the last century”I do not have an answer”
Personal summary notes :  The main support for my art from the very beginning came from the worlds of science, business and technology, and not from the fine art community.  In the realm of science, specifically Astronomy, I felt my work was very much appreciated and respected. They understood what I was doing, were fascinated with the process, and were always generous with information so that I could better understand my process. They loved the Sun Drawing instruments and often joked that they looked like “defective lenses” until you put them in the sunlight and saw amazing effects.
Corporations I approached were extremely generous in supplying me with materials, specifically Ford Motor Company’s Architectural Glass Division, Dupont, who gave me significant quantities of costly space-age materials with which to experiment, particularly a gold industrial thin plastic film used to line space craft and space suits, and the Mearl Corp. (no longer in business), who were pioneers in developing industrial thin plastic light interference material and allowed me access to their research labs so that I could understand the science behind light interference films. A number of optical coating companies were generous in providing services for my early experiments. I eventually applied for and was granted a broad patent by the US Office of Patents and Trademarks.
Regarding the fine art world, in the 1980’s I was being told by fine art museum curators that what I was doing was science, not art.  Commercial art galleries found my art “difficult to market,” and would ask questions such as “What is it I am selling to the collector? Is it the image reflected onto the wall or is it the Sun Drawing instrument that causes the image? Which is the art?” I am not critical of them because there was not yet a “language” for SEAD art. Today, it’s very different and an example of how much things have changed can be illustrated by a quote in the New York Times on Friday (Nov. 2):  “Art dealers are scrambling to make space to show all kinds of sculpture related to architecture.”
As a woman (and an artist) in this realm of SEAD, I was often subjected to the belief I could not possibly understand the science and technology I was working with, a view that would not have surprised Jonathan Benthall. Such an example would be that when I spoke about the astronomy involved with my process, the person might correct me by saying “OH, don’t you mean astrology?” Hopefully such attitudes are rare today.
Janet Saad-Cook
Sources of Inspiration
Researching new materials, experimenting with technologies, e.g seeing a shard of glass at an optical coating company and learning about beam splitters. My creative process travels along parallel lines of information gathering and my need to understand the technical behind my experiments so that I make intuitive leaps “feeling the vision”and later fill in the steps to get there to understand the underpinnings of the process in technical or scholarly ways.
Researching the cycle of the sun, creating a sun calendar on my studio floor that began in 1982 and ended in 1996, watching the sun’s return throughout each solar cycle. Beginning the sun calendar preceeded study of ancient sun marking sites, which then brings together the intuitive with the “technical”, i.e. astronomy of the site.
Creating Sun Drawings on ancient sites, connecting my art with the ancients’ and feeling connected through the sun’s cycle, the same endless cycle they experienced, removing barriers of time, touching the sky together.

Janet Saad-Cook
Anecdotes
Anecdote 1:  In 1997 I created a Sun Drawing for the 7th floor atrium of the Boston University Photonics Center. Although it is the most technically complex one I created to date, it was here that I found out how little the science, technology, or complexity matters because what is important is the impact on the human spirit.  One day, a building maintenance person saw me looking at another work of art in the Photonics Center collection located on the first floor of the building. He did not know I was the artist who created the Sun Drawing upstairs. He told me if I wanted to see something truly beautiful I should go upstairs to the 7th floor because when the sun shines, a picture of light appears on the walls. He placed his hands on his heart and said he did not know how it happens but it fills him with happiness every day that he sees it. This is without exception the moment I have felt most successful as an artist.
Anecdote 2:  This measure of success became increasingly clear to me during the 1980’s and 1990’s when I envisioned creating a monumental scale Sun Drawing at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array near Socorro, New Mexico. I secured permissions from the appropriate government and science entities to build the project, which was to become part of the Very Large Array Observatory. The project included all the disciplines of SEAD” art, architecture, science, engineering, and commercial construction. I established a non-profit organization, The Sun Foundation, to raise money to build the project. Roger Malina was one of the original board members.
Despite out best efforts over a period of twelve years, we were not able to raise enough money to build the project. Yet during these years, I received significant support from sources I hold in high regard, specifically from the fields of science and technology. I did not receive support from traditional or commercial fine arts organizations, an issue I discuss in more detail elsewhere. Supportive groups were institutions such as the Smithsonian Institution, the Exploratorium, The Catholic University of American Dept. of Physics, plus three years of one-person museum exhibits under the auspices of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, the Leonardo Prize, and a nomination for the MacArthur Genius Grant, to name a few from that time. I was invited regularly to give lectures to scientists at places such as MIT, the American Astronomical Society, The Santa Fe Institute, VLA, the Royal Institution of Great Britain, among others, as well as universities throughout the US. I also presented invited papers at the International Astronomical Union (IAU), Commission on the History of Astronomy, in New Delhi, India (1985), and in Baltimore, MD (1988). These invitations were the result of research I have done at prehistoric sun marking sites in the American Southwest, and my studies of the 18th century architectural-scale astronomical instruments of Jai Singh in India. I consider all of these activities successes within the SEAD field.
Anecdote 3:  In 1979 I visited the Holography Museum in the Soho area of New York City, and I saw something deeply stirring in the large holograms on exhibit.  At the same time, I intuitively felt there must be a way to create phenomena of light without all the paraphernalia.  Even though this experience predated my work with sunlight, I left the museum with the certainty that someday I would create forms of light without all the extraneous technology.
Anecdote 4:  I personally experienced this in the academic year (1985-86) I spent as the first (and only) Artist in Residence at The Catholic University of America, Dept. of Physics. The university has an important glass research laboratory as part of the Dept. of Physics. The university learned about my art and the experiments I was conducting with glass, and invited me to do collaborative research with them. The reason this was such a rich, successful collaboration was because our processes were so different. I work intuitively as an artist, experimenting, trying anything and everything until I find what I want; the Physicists I worked with approached their work from the opposite direction, i.e. they set up the theory and then worked to prove it. We learned a great deal from each other. I was especially excited, working with the senior research scientist, because he taught me scientific methods of record keeping for each step of my process in shaping glass. These notes and journals became (and still are) extremely important to me. What they learned from me is that there are some things that are not “measurable”, and therefore not replicable.

Janet Saad-Cook, November 5, 2012
http://www.janetsaadcook.com

 

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