Til bevillingsoversigt

A Nameless Science: Art, Expertise, and Infrastructure

Carlsbergfondets internationaliseringsstipendier

What

Scientific experts play an increasingly important role in governing our social world. However, they are undergirded by vast technoscientific infrastructures which tend to be far more subtle and invisible. Today these infrastructures are engrained within almost all aspects of daily, social, and ecological lives. Increasingly, these infrastructures have reached the attention of artists. In this project, I therefore turn to art practices, primarily based in the West from the late 1990s to the present, to understand how key technoscientific infrastructures have been explored and publicly contested in alternative art infrastructures: in public labs and the amateur employment of biotechnologies, the construction of an anti-cancer database and toolkit, forensic investigations into satellite imagery and biometrics, and the invention of self-organized universities.

Why

The aim of the project is to develop a theoretical terminology to describe how artists have delved into into the material and operating devices behind the public values of science and its authorities, which govern much of daily and social life. It also examines how their art came to manifest changed conditions of artistic production, knowledge, and expertise, engaging in alternative forms of infrastructures and “counter-institutions” seeking to democratize knowledge as a common concern. By examining how aesthetic modes of knowing developed, we confront the crucial question of who has access to and agency over knowledge.

How

Combining art historical research with intellectual history and science and technology studies occupied with the social and political nature of science, the project is interdisciplinary in essence and ambition. This choice is in part a consequence of the empirical material: the work of artists who negotiate a line between the artistic and non-artistic, the aesthetic and scientific. Thus, the project will be divided into four case studies: (1) public labs and bioengineering projects, (2) self-organized health and care initiatives, (3) forensic and juridical investigations, and (4) self-organized universities.

SSR

We live in an age characterized by a vast contestation of knowledge authorities. Scientific issues—from epidemiology to climate science, economics to biotechnology—are at the center of much public dispute. How and what it means that science, expertise, and its infrastructure “govern our lives” is a highly intricate and conflictual topic. It is my modest hope that this project can contribute to this discussion by qualifying and bringing in scholarly perspectives on the politicization and distribution of knowledge and expertise often ignored in the public debate. By asking what artists think about scientific expertise and its hidden infrastructural sites, and how art on the other hand engages in new modes of knowing, my ambition is less to delineate stable positions and clear answers than to trace and discuss changed historical conditions of knowledge production, and how we might make it a more democratic concern. In my opinion, the ethos of the humanities lies in the responsibility to bring social and cultural issues out of their often muddy and “obvious” everyday context, asking what cultural phenomena such as scientific and artistic expertise actually mean, where they come from, and, ultimately, how they might be thought differently.