In both art and science now, the matter of consciousness is high on the agenda.Science is trying hard to explain consciousness, with distinctly limited success. It seems to pose the most intractable of problems. For the artist, consciousness is more to be explored than to be explained, more to be transformed than understood,more to be re-framed than reported. As for conscious experience in itself, there is nothing we know more closely than our inner sense of being, and there is nothing we can experience with less comprehension than the conscious states of another. It may be that only the profound empathy of mutual attraction, “love” if you will, can break this barrier, but neither reductionist science nor the postmodern aesthetic could possibly countenance such an assertion.
Fortunately there are signs that science is becoming more subjective and postmodern pessimism is on the wain. There is no doubt that both scientists and artists are curious about the ways that advanced technology can aid in the exploration of mind. And advanced technology itself is calling into question our definitions of what it is to be human and what might constitute an artificial consciousness in the emergent forms of artificial life.
I have recently introduced the term technoetics into my vocabulary because I believe we need to recognize that technology plus mind, tech-noetics, not only enables us to explore consciousness more thoroughly but may lead to distinctly new forms of consciousness, new qualities of mind, new forms of cognition and perception. It is my contention that not only has the moment arrived in western art for the artist to recognize the primacy of consciousness as both the context and content of art, and the object and subject of study, but that the very provenance of art in the twentieth century leads, through its psychic, spiritual and conceptual aspirations, towards this technoetic condition.
- Roy Ascott, UK, is director of the Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts (CAiiA), University of Wales College, Newport. Formerly: Dean of the San Francisco Art Institute and the Professor for Communications Theory at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna. Since 1980 he has created many global networking projects (Museum of Modern Art, Paris, the Venice Biennale, Ars Electronica Linz, V2 Holland). He has published over 100 texts, translated into many languages. He lectures, advises and contributes to numerous festivals, juries, journals, media centres and universities throughout Europe, North and South America, Australia and Japan. Ascott has worked with the shamanic Kuikuru indians of Mato Grosso, Brazil in May,1997. He convened the 1st International CAiiA Research Conference: “Consciousness Reframed: Art and Consciousness in the Post-Biological Era”, July 1997. Reference: Stiles, K. & P. Selz, 1996. Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, Berkeley: University of California Press. Lovejoy, M.1996, Postmodern Currents: Art and Artists in the Age of Electronic Media (2nd Edition). New York: Random House. Popper, F. 1994. Art of the Electronic Age London:Thames & Hudson. Shanken, E. 1996. Technology and Intuition: A Love Story?
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