University of Sussex
Briggs, Edward.pdf (68.27 MB)

The Birmingham screwdriver is a golden hammer: developing strategies for performing scientific objects

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posted on 2023-06-10, 01:51 authored by Edward Briggs
The demonstration of science is a complex activity that can offer more than a passive one way transmission of specialist knowledge from experts to a non specialist audience. Artists can play an active role in creating 'matters of fact' and at the same time inform the cultural conditions which put these matters of fact into context. In examining some current art/science collaborations between performance art and physics the project identifies some problems relating to a pre-occupation with veracity and authenticity, technological fetishism and issues to do with the representation of data. An in depth study of prominent art duo Semiconductor offers insights into the difficulties and opportunities encountered in this work, particularly in the context of the artist in residence in the science institution. My own three month residency at the British Geological Society's Space Geodesy Facility in Herstmonceux provided an opportunity to engage with these issues first hand. Through the creation of a body of practical work, the project explores strategies for performing scientific objects. Through the application of a heuristic here called 'the Birmingham Screwdriver' several forms of creative resistance (Norman 2013) are identified and put to use. I examine the hypothesis that the 'wrong tool' is an essential and inevitable characteristic of knowledge exchange, whether between an expert and a lay audience, experts from different fields or between research institutions and the wider cultural context in which they take place. Using the artist in science as an analogy for art practice being involved in other research institutions and as a model of conducting research applicable to more general circumstances I aim to contribute to understandings of an 'artistic epistemology' (Schwab 2015).


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University of Sussex

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