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The social contract between science and society is breaking down and needs reestablishing; if science continues to be carried out the way it has since the Second World War, it is unlikely that we will have the scientific knowledge, or the public support needed to navigate the years ahead. Second fundamental cultural changes must accompany the policy changes in order to build a new societal consensus, and the accompanying mythologies, that will allow the needed transitions. The arts, as all other forms of human activity, must be contributors to the new cultural vision of a different kind of techno-scientific society. Currently artistic interactions with science and technology are "homeopathic"; they need to become systemic. I discuss how the arts can contribute to  necesssary changes in technoscience in the area of climate change


There is now a scientific consensus that the effects of human activity are important influences on planetary climate and ecological change. Political opinion has evolved and, at various levels of government, mitigating policies and plans are being implemented. I believe that these positive developments give us a false sense of reassurance.


Planetary climate and regional ecologies develop within complex, interacting, non linear networks of agency. The scientific models, and the data motivating them, have only recently become available. The scientific understanding itself is fragmentary; many important feedback loops are not yet understood or included. It is likely that natural short term variability will overwhelm longer term trends for some periods or regions. Many effects not yet currently identified will prove to be important. We are at the beginning of the sciences of climate modeling.


The earth has never been in sustained long periods of climate stability, and major climate change episodes like ice ages have been important contributing factors to the long history of human migration, and indeed of evolution of life forms. The challenge of anthropogenic climate change is that it is occurring on time scales short compared to the ability of societies to adapt easily.


Public policy requires simple prescriptions. A certain attitude exists that what is required is governmental funding at one end, and climate change will be controlled within fifty years. Sequester enough carbon dioxide, change the light bulbs, develop alternative energy sources and all will be well.


Yet public awareness of climate change, masks awareness of other systemic problems that need to be addressed on the same time scales. Human population growth continues to add to the various "loads' on planetary ecologies, accelerating the extinction of species; yet reducing the human population seems unthinkable faced with demographic evolution and the need to renew work forces. Other pollutants (such as nitrogen from fertilizers) contribute additional factors driving environmental change independent of carbon dioxide. Clean and drinking water supplies will be increasingly inadequate even if the climate and population stabilized. Natural disasters (volcanoes, meteorite impact, solar variability) also inject important additional changes. The uneven distribution of knowledge and wealth will continue to create the conditions for social instability, important factors in the endemic nature of conflict and wars. These underlying problems of culture will prevent the widespread introduction of necessary social change.


Maintaining a sustainable context for human development is not only a political, scientific, technical or funding problem. In is fundamentally a cultural problem that requires reorienting human development and the built environment; artists have an important role to play not only in creating new cultural contexts, but also changing the way that science is done.


Ask not What Science Can do for Art


In this essay I want to articulate two points. First, the social contract between science and society is breaking down and needs reestablishing; if science continues to be carried out the way it has since the Second World War, it is unlikely that we will have the scientific knowledge, or the public support needed to navigate the years ahead. Second fundamental cultural changes must accompany the policy changes in order to build a new societal consensus, and the accompanying mythologies, that will allow the needed transitions. The arts, as all other forms of human activity, must be contributors to the new cultural vision of a different kind of techno-scientific society. Currently artistic interactions with science and technology are "homeopathic"; they need to become systemic.


Roy Ascott has forcefully argued that we should "Ask not what the sciences can do for the arts, ask what the arts can do for the sciences".  1 Traditionally it is assumed that a key problem is inadequate scientific literacy of government officials and the public at large. Here, with Ascott, I want to argue that the problem also is with the content and methods of science; we must rethink the way that science is carried out and how it is organized within our societies.


The artists in the Ecomedia exhibitions are part of a world wide movement that is beginning to ask these questions by changing our awareness of what is important around us.  For the past centuries we can associate art with such changes in perception. Such a list would include Petrarque and Mont Ventoux, Da Vinci and his studies of water and landscape, Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School, Cezanne and the Impressionists, Smithson and the land artists, the new biological artists such as Jeremijenko, Simbiotica or Menendez or Kac. The role of artists in scientific expeditions, such as the voyage of the Beagle, has also been important in the past. Yet rarely are artists involved in scientific expeditions today. The involvement of artists in the new research agendas in Antarctica is indicative of new openings. We do not yet know how today's' "landscape" artists dealing with ecology and climate change will develop new kinds of art-making, but in the process they must find ways of changing science and science's connections to society at large. They must work from within the scientific establishment and change the relationship of science making to society.

The Leonardo Network was created forty years ago by a group of artists and scientists led by rocket engineer and kinetic artist Frank Malina.2 Leonardo has promoted the work of artists involved in science and technology, documenting their work and its study, and helping organize projects that promote art, science, technology collaboration. To date, through the Leonardo Book Series and Journals at MIT Press, Leonardo has documented the work of over 6000 artists, scientists, researchers and scholars that advocate new ways of cross connecting the artistic and scientific cultures. The group of founders, survivors of World War II, were marked by a profound optimism that through the spread of techno scientific culture, the international challenges ahead could be faced. This attitude was captured by the "two cultures' debate of the 1950s articulated most visibly by C.P.Snow.


In large part this optimism has proven to have been misplaced. Advances in scientific knowledge have contributed to major developments in medicine, technological devices and systems, agriculture and almost all fields of human activity and aspirations. These developments have indeed allowed a much larger population to be sustained than would otherwise have been the case, and many diseases can be controlled. Yet this has occurred in a context of incessant human conflict, genocides, uneven distribution of wealth, and more recently of revival of various religious fundamentalisms. In a sense the project of the "Enlightenment" is incomplete, and probably cannot be completed was envisaged fifty years ago.


The arguments in this essay are a contribution to the project called "Lovely Weather" which has been established between the Leonardo art-science organization and the Kilkenny Art Center in Ireland.3 This project will be developing a number of activities including exhibits and workshops around the topic of art and climate change. A call for papers has been recently issued for texts to be published in the Journal Leonardo. The Editorial Committee for Lovely Weather includes Andrea Polli, John Cunningham, Ramon Guardans, Janine Randerson, Annick Bureaud and Julien Knebush. Leonardo has partnered with a number of individuals and organizations in developing the YASMIN network of artists and scientists around the Mediterranean region, with discussion around the impact of climate change and how artists and scientists engage with these issues. 4


In November 2007 in Prague, the Leonardo Organisation co sponsored a conference called Mutamorphosis: Challenging Arts and Sciences.5 The line of argument was focused on the work of artists and scientists in extreme and hostile environments. The conference explored how some artists and scientists  push to geographical and climatic extremes, to outer space or under the oceans, testing the limits of our definitions of life, or the limits of cognition. In a rapidly changing environment, new strategies can sometimes be found by exploring these areas that test current understanding. New intuitions and vocabularies and frameworks of description must be developed. Both artists and scientists have roles to play in such work.


As part of this rethinking, Leonardo has also helped set up a network of organizations that fund and place artists in science and research environments. Called Artsactive, this network currently includes a dozen organizations and a number of researchers and scholars interested in understanding these new developments.6 Artsactive currently includes the Art in Labs project in Switzerland, Dissonancias in Spain, Art and Genomics in Holland, Montalvo in USA, Synapse in Australia, Blue Sky Residencies in the United Kingdom,the Camargo Foundation in France. These programs built upon the experience of previous art in scientific research contexts such as the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, the Xerox Parc Artist in Residence Program, E.A.T, Interval Research or ICC in Japan. They seek to re imagine what a new kind of "Bauhaus' vision might be in the new context; the times are different and new responses are needed. To date there have been perhaps no more than 1000 art-science projects have not only led to artistic creation but also resulted in a substantial contribution to a scientific research outcome. The vision is to develop an ecology of programs where each year perhaps 50,000 such projects take place.


Human beings are very badly designed to understand the world they live in. Our sensory apparatus evolved to be able to detect the minimal information needed to find our food supplies, mate and have children. Yet we now know that the energy flows in the place we live are largely undetectable by us. We are blind to most forms of light; it has taken us millennia to develop radio, x ray, infrared detectors needed to see the world outside the narrow range that our eyes can see. Indeed we suspect that the majority of the universe is made of a different kind of matter from us, or dark matter as the astronomers call it.


We live typically seventy years with up to a height of 2 meters. It is no accident then that phenomena that take centuries to develop have only been recently studied; good climate data exists only for the last century. We have tended to study objects on the same scale as us; quantum physics developed only a century ago and the nano sciences even more recently. We still do not have functioning gravity wave detectors to detect waves in the structure of space on the scale of kilometers. Like Leonardo Da Vinci we tend to take the measure of man as our defining relationship to the world around us.


If we truly want to understand ecological networks and climate systems, we have to inhabit other 'scales' and develop new kinds of senses. We have to become aware of invisible dynamics at work to which our unaided senses are oblivious. Some artists choose to work through the various kinds of sensors and other interfaces to make explicit these new landscapes; others choose to access the large, and growing databases about the world around us, but to make the content of these databases apprehensible and sensible. We forget that the way we structure thought, language and metaphors themselves, spring from our sensory experience with the world around us. By developing new senses and inhabiting new scales, inevitably our way of thinking, our languages and metaphors will change. Both artists and scientists are needed to explore these new territories and make them apprehendable.


One recent ongoing work that I think encapsulates one of new ways of imaging ecological art in the future is the work of sound artist David Dunn and complexity researcher James Crutchfield.7 David Dunn is a sound artist who has been involved in recording of natural sounds as part of his sound art practice. He became interested in the question of whether trees made any sound as they were growing and also the sounds emitted by insects such as the bark beetle. Many of these sounds are in the ultrasound range, and his work with Crutchfield now indicates that there may be important mechanisms that lead to drought stressed trees emitting ultrasounds that attract the beetle, accelerating the destruction of the forest. Understanding the impact on forest ecologies will require the exploration and understanding of many mechanisms not yet identified. This kind of art-science collaboration has led not only to motivating new scientific research but also new sound art works of a striking originality. Such work is of a new type of Leonardo.


Most people on this planet have never met a scientist. UNESCO statistics for the period 1996-2004 reveal that in developed countries such as the USA and Europe there are 3500-5000 scientific and technicians per million inhabitants.8 In less developed countries like Pakistan there are no more than 500 per million inhabitants. And even in developed countries, scientists are concentrated in large cities, so that in smaller cities the number of scientists per million inhabitants is no more than that in the capitals of less developed countries.


Science is carried out in guarded semi monastic environments with insignificant contact or dialogue with either the political or public spheres. Many scientists decry declining student enrollment in the sciences and call for more "education outreach" thrown from the top of tower of the laboratory. Few programs really engage the doing of science with the society in which science is not embedded, nor allow such engagement 'through the front door. To complete the "Enlightenment" project, a new intimacy between science and society is needed. Artists can be one of the vectors for this mutation.


The way that western science is currently carried out was largely imposed by government and military leaders following the end of World War II and derived from the strategic importance attached to advanced technologies, the investments in biological and agricultural sciences have tended to follow the same patterns (witness the human genome project organizational approach).


The concentration of scientists in large university research labs and industrial R and D laboratories is due to a number of reasons. Productive scientific research environments require a "critical mass" of resources in expertise in close proximity, hence government and industrial strategy has to been to create clusters of high density research environments.  Small more isolated research laboratories are seen to be less productive, driving for the re-concentration where possible. This need for physical proximity of course drove, during the late middle ages,  the creation of the universities for access to libraries and teachers. The concentration of science in large clusters also of course allows for more centralized control, and in the case of research with military or commercial outcomes, allows for easier control of intellectual property.


The development of the internet, and modern transportation systems, have of course undermined some of this rational, and industrial and universities now are able to establish more distributed research centers, witness the development of new research and development clusters from Bangalore, India to Dublin, Ireland. Perhaps over the next fifty years we will see new patterns of organization of scientific research, supported by new mechanisms of "distance learning". Experiments in tele-medecine in India are indicative new patterns that are developing; if these mechanisms proliferate, they would contribute to the new intimacy.  There is a large growing largely untapped population of retired scientists and engineers that could, in a manner distributed throughout society, inject their knowledge and interests through new collaboration structures. Such new distributed, internet connected, structures may enable a more frequent contact between scientists and society, helping not only make available scientific knowledge more broadly but also redirecting the content and methodology of science.

As argued above, the numerous problems that must be resolved to permit "sustainability' requires a cultural re contextualizing of science. A number of issues arise. One is that the "data' about ones own environment must be accessible and understandable, and in a sense "owned" by each person. Too often we rely access on various "authorities , and local knowledge is weakened. To motivate cultural change, scientific knowledge must be locally grounded even if globally articulated. The many artists' projects which access large scientific database and resituating them in a local cultural context are important mechanisms for progressive "ownership" of such data. The San Francisco Exploratorium has recently developed an "invisible dynamics" project, many of whose art-science works involving accessing existing, but invisible, databases about the world around us.9


Perhaps we will see the emergence of significant "amateur science' with millions of people outside scientific laboratories contributing to the development of the dense knowledge we will need to change the cultural context to attain sustainable development. A number of interesting examples are indicative of possible directions. The well known SETI project, SET@HOME, a search for signals from extraterrestrial intelligence, demonstrated that the personal interest millions  of individuals could lead to the networked computing of unparalleled power.10 This approach has been adopted in a number of scientific projects through the Berkeley Open Infrastructure Network Computing consortium (BOINC).11 Individuals from around the world can lend their home computers to massive scientific projects in over 20 areas from biology to astronomy, from mathematics and medicine. In some projects interested individuals have been able to make personal contributions to new scientific discoveries.


The Climate Prediction net, part of the BOINC consortium, is the largest experiment seeking to produce climate prediction for the 21st century. Individuals can contribute their unused computer time to help the computations, and in return can download outputs of the modeling and explore the various predicted effects. Help is provided so that other researchers or interested individuals can analyze and visualize the data in more depth. Perhaps we will see millions of artists and others contributing to the science needed to mitigate climate change.

The next fifty years will require fundamental cultural re orientation of the way that our techno scientific societies function. New strategies are needed to create a new intimacy between science and society. Not only do we need artists to appropriate current science and technology for cultural purposes, but we need to provoke mechanisms so that art-science interaction can contribute to new ways of organizing science, and changing the content and methodology of science. This will not be achieved if art-science-technology interaction is not systemic and widespread. We need artists working in science and R and D contexts, and we need scientists working more extensively within social and cultural contexts outside of the laboratory. Such intimate contact can contribute to innovation, to economic development and to the cultural changes needed to both complete a new kind of "enlightenment" project and a transition to a sustainable, and more just, society.


1 Roy Ascott on YASMIN discussion list February 19, 2006: (Accessed Augst 10, 2007)

2 Leonardo On Line (2007): (accessed August 10, 2007)

3 Julien Knebusch, Art and Climate Change, Observatoire Leonardo des Arts et technosciences (2007): (accessed August 10, 2007)

4 YASMIN, Your Art Science Mediterranean Network (2007): (Accessed August 10,2007)

5 Mutamorphosis: Challenging Arts and Sciences (2007): (accessed August 10, 2007)

6 International Network of Artist's Programs in Science and Industry Research Labs (2007): (Accessed August 10, 2007)

7  David Dunn, James Crutchfield, Insects, Trees, and Climate:

The Bioacoustic Ecology of Deforestation and

Entomogenic Climate Change (2006): (Accessed August 10, 2007)

8 Science and Technology in the OIC Member States (2007): (Accessed Aug 10, 2007)

9 Invisible Dynamics (2007): (accessed Aug 10, 2007)

10 SETI@HOME (2007): (Accessed August 10, 2007)

11 Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC): (2007) (Accessed Aug 10, 2007)