“If science is here to provide us with data, offer its predictions, and point to possible solutions, however complex or abstract they may be, art is the one that either relaxes or sharpens the situation, providing a lifeline or tightening the noose around the neck.”
Text by Ljiljana Ilić
For eight years, since 2016, the art+science program has materialized as an annual event of the Center for the Promotion of Science, in various exhibition spaces, through diverse themes and numerous collaborations between artists and scientists. Dobrivoje Lale Erić, the inspirer and coordinator of this program, shared with us the story of the history of the Center’s art+science direction, with the fundamental concept involving the exploration of the potential of an interdisciplinary approach to important scientific and social issues.
“From the very beginning of the Center’s work, it was clear that we needed to enrich and enliven science with the perspectives and practices of creators from other worlds. Given its influential and decisive role in today’s world, we had to open it up from less obvious, alternative angles and viewpoints. Although we have always engaged artists as designers and illustrators of our programs and activities, we intuitionally felt that there were deeper and more comprehensive meanings and values that could provide a different view of science or, even better, the application and use of scientific knowledge in entirely original, sobering, and inspirational ways,” explains Lale Erić. “When our colleagues from Ars Electronica in Linz invited us and gave us the opportunity to participate in our first art+science project, the European Network for Digital Arts and Sciences, it was actually the decisive moment and framework to embark on such an experiment, to see what we can do and, in general, what is feasible in our environment.”
Thanks to this project, Ars Electronica and all the other organizations with which the Center for the Promotion of Science collaborated at that time – among the partners were the three largest scientific institutions in Europe, CERN, the European Space Agency, and the South European Observatory – organized the first art+science programs in 2015, which were transformed into an annual art+science manifestation from 2016, and from the end of 2021, into a year-round activity of the Center.
“It is a program to which we are extremely attached in a professional and emotional sense, a framework that we develop through a large number of European projects and collaborations, and ultimately, a program that is formally recognized through the National Smart Specialization Strategy as a unique activity for which the CPN is responsible for implementation,” says Erić.
As science is both the starting point and the goal for CPN, a large number of scientists from various disciplines and expertise are involved in art+science programs, open to collaborations and simultaneously brave enough to venture into less certain waters and currents rarely explored in our country.
As Lale Erić explains, this represents the biggest difference compared to the significant majority of partners with whom we are in similar actions because they almost invariably start from art or some classical cultural milieu, into which they then involve science and scientists. "For us, it was somewhat challenging to establish that initial contact with artists, to map existing actors and inspire young creators, as well as to create our special space, both physically and conceptually, where both sides would feel comfortable, while simultaneously preserving the values, virtues, and possibilities they offer. I would say that we have really succeeded in that, that space is definitely conquered, and we continue to develop and upgrade it."
The themes, phenomena, and approaches addressed by the art+science program fundamentally and unreservedly communicate with the current social environment and circumstances that we, as individuals and as part of the global human community, face daily. "If science is here to provide us with data, offer its predictions, and point to possible solutions, however complex or abstract they may be, art is the one that either relaxes or sharpens the situation, providing a lifeline or tightening the noose around the neck. This alternative view, perspective, the intersection of all our realities, helps us engage both the brain and emotions to accept the environment in which we find ourselves and, hopefully, identify possible exits from the labyrinth in which we are trapped. Our 'Climate Capsule' is a perfect example and indicator of an artistic-scientific experiment of incredible potential and energy felt wherever and in whatever format it is exhibited," concludes Lale Erić.