For a Fund Aesthetics and Sustainability | FAeS
Get out of the Echo Chambers - Call for Complicity!
Adrienne Goehler and Manuel Rivera
and 208 voices from art, science and the in-between
Contemplation about the change in our livelihoods due to the dramatic warming of the climate cannot remain without consequences - even less so manifold dynamic of crises are currently coming to a dramatic head due to Corona. We no longer have time for mere side by side instead of togetherness of knowledge and action. We no longer have time to merely ask the question whether art incorporates the ecological crisis into its reality. It is time that we answer it – through new forms of artistic-scientific intervention and cooperation.
It is high time to enable cultural institutions to contribute towards tackling the climate crisis by managing energy and resources appropriately. To this end, the 'Green Culture' concept proposes to establish and fund a service pool in the coming legislative period.
An ecologically viable cultural production, presentation, and distribution also requires a sustainable change in current project funding practices. This is because the conventional product and output orientation causes not only unecological production methods but also results in the squandering of artistic energy and financial resources. Many funding institutions explicitly exclude the resumption of artistic projects; they function according to the jus primae noctis "right to the first night", i.e. according to the fiction of being presented with something completely new, contemporary, and unprecedented with every application. Thus, all that is left of comprehensive and time-consuming artistic projects, after a short presentation period, is the documentation. After that, a new application has to be invented immediately to ensure financial survival. That means: wear-and-tear, energy bound in self-orbit. This is familiar from capitalist overproduction with its throwaway, wear-and-tear logic. Thus, the artistic experiments in question can only unfold their social impact to a very limited extent. But the social impact is what we urgently need right now.
We need a practice of re-enactment, recontextualization, and more durable formats including communicative embedding. This would indirectly contribute to the fact that 'free' artists do not have to live at subsistence level in a highly competitive climate. We need the possibility for continuous, interdisciplinary research and action, beyond the boundaries of our previous artistic contexts and spaces. For the comprehensive transformation of our unsustainable way of life we need artistic, scientific, and activist knowledge. For this, we need to leave both the silo of art | culture and that of science, which stand disconnected next to the other departmental silos, and think bigger in terms of cultural politics.
This requires different funding and structures. At present, in Germany neither the two largest public foundations for the Arts and for Environment - nor most private foundations allow for a systematic interdisciplinary orientation that transcends different forms of thought. Nowhere are the creative, path-breaking and space-opening impulses of art and science linked on an equal footing in research. Nowhere the abilities of the arts and sciences and their specific means to advance the existential socio-ecological transformation of our society are put in a common focus.
Society, which must articulate and change its attitude to life in order to be sustainable, cannot do so without the arts and sciences. Thinking in transitions, temporary arrangements, models, and projects can be learned from them; both spheres also share the desire not to be satisfied with the familiar and to seek contradiction. A culture that integrates both can very generally mean an individual will to change that connects with others in order to test, combine, and reject new questions, solutions, and paths. It is about preserving and visualizing, about the conscious shaping of life, about human beings and their active engagement with their own nature and with the nature surrounding them.
For a Fund Aesthetics and Sustainability | FAeS
Aesthetics means expanding perception and cognition through body and soul experiences. It is about strengthening the imagination, about supporting the speculative, about generating analogies; about "unsystematic openness" for a "mesh of ideas of wholeness", as Beuys' expanded concept of art can be understood, or as Alexander von Humboldt put it: "he who does not love nature, cannot explore it".
A FAeS is intended to open up another space and broaden the artistic radius of action.
A space to unfold for those who do not understand freedom as freedom from any kind of utility, usefulness and social resonance, but seek freedom to engage in the huge social task of transformation, to cooperate and to have time for it.
The FAeS has to grant other time periods than available in ad-hoc projects in order to be able to integrate different forms of experimentation in such a way that what comes out is not less but more than what each discipline can achieve on its own. How can we link art and science in the sense of artistic research in such a way that they do not lose their own standards and instead establish and perpetuate new ones? How can the movement of doubting, questioning, and experimenting impact the public sphere in such a manner that it connects with what civil society is attempting and pursuing in terms of change to form new models?
The aim of FAeS is
_ to overcome the mere segment promotion and corresponding pillarization of knowledge
_ to create a space of possibility for the interaction between the activist knowledge of
sustainability initiatives and scientific and artistic approaches
_ to allow time for joint project-based multidisciplinary research;
to encourage projects
_ in which different forms of knowledge meet
_ that have a supra-regional-national, at best even an international impact
_ which have an innovative effect within art and/or science
_ which by subject and structure are designed for sustainability by pointing beyond
themselves as models
_ which enable a holistic perspective on socio-ecological problems, in that they broaden the
context of the respective 'problem' and thus 'reframe' the status quo;
_ that are co-creative in nature with the potential to break down silos of thought and action
_ that transform general problem descriptions into existential ones and vice versa
_ that encourage the participants to rethink their artistic and scientific practice, including the
nature of their respective research.
Since the turn of the millennium, the great need of many artists to deal with the big questions of sustainability, with research time and in cooperation with the sustainability sciences, has been unmistakable. Since then, this need has become even more noticeable. For the past ten years, a large number of exhibitions, films, biennials, and plays worldwide have explicitly addressed aspects of the eco-disaster, and every world climate conference now has an integrated cultural program. However, apart from individual projects, the increased interest is still barely matched by reliable formats and lasting opportunities. Rather, the current funding criteria of political programs and foundations in Germany prevent the aesthetic dimension of sustainable thinking, living and economizing.
We therefore need other, more sustainable, overarching forms of funding in order to exploit the potential of art and culture to move society forward with new ideas. This is because the respective actors practically never meet on an equal footing as researchers due to the completely different time frames of their respective activities. "Science in the age of its refinancing" (Uta von Winterfeld) and the universities with their increasing third-party funding and accelerated courses of study provide neither the space nor the horizon for this.
Research grants in the arts are still extremely rare, poorly financed, and usually limited to three months (Corona time: six months); in science, this is the minimum time needed to formulate just the question for a three-year research project. Because of their different time horizons, art, science and social activist knowledge practically never meet on an equal footing as researchers.
It is precisely this sensitive gap that the FAeS wants to help close, with the aim of taking joint action. For, in sustainability and environmental policy, we are faced with the question as to why so little individual and collective action results from all the findings?
'Experimental' institutions of transformative research with basic funding, like the 'Research Institute for Sustainability | RIFS', can lead the way to a certain extent, but not in the necessary range, time and repose needed for the challenging and demanding art-science collaborations.
From the social science side, one can make the assumption that when the arts are included in research, the physical-existential dimension of the particular research question will play a greater role. Action (alternatives) and agents in the social world under investigation would become more presentable, more tangible; action itself is thus more probable. Therefore, the FAeS should be connected to a transformative institute with socially- oriented consulting dealing with problems at the interfaces of science and politics.
Ideally, therefore, the funds for the FAeS would not come from the culture department alone, but rather from the environment, culture, science and research departments on a proportional basis.
The desideratum of a stronger cooperation between art and science in coping with social challenges does not only follow from the challenges themselves - keyword environment - and from the interests and aspirations of the artists. It also follows from the need to integrate and promote perspectives that have so far been underrepresented in science and research.
Artistic Practice after Corona
The Corona crisis is already changing artistic practices and formats, as well as funding needs and livelihoods. This will continue. Artists and the arts will need all the social legitimacy and visibility they can get. The FAeS can contribute to this by bringing together the experiences of the sciences, the arts, and socio-political movements, so that they mutually reinforce each other and have a broad impact on society.
We need a co-existence, not a juxtaposition, of different forms of knowledge. And an
open debate about whether a high-cost country like ours, which is evidently poor in natural resources and rich only in the resource of creativity, can afford to forego the skills and assets of artists in dealing with sustainabilitiy as the challenge of the century, or to keep them predominantly at, or below, subsistence level.