[ISEA2011] Panel: Anna Du­mitriu (moderator) – The Institute of Unnecessary Research

Panel Statement

Chair Per­son: Anna Du­mitriu
Pre­sen­ters: Alex May, Bet­tina Schülke, Luke Robert Mason & Gor­dana No­vakovic

Ein­stein said:  “If we knew what it was we were doing it would be called re­search, would it?”

This panel out­lines “The In­sti­tute of Un­nec­es­sary Re­search” and pre­sents a new par­a­digm in the way artists are en­gag­ing with the world through trans­dis­ci­pli­nary prac­tices. It brings to­gether art, sci­ence and phi­los­o­phy by cre­at­ing par­tic­i­pa­tory au­di­ence ex­pe­ri­ences, per­for­mances and in­stal­la­tions. Some­times hu­mor­ous and some­times grotesque, our work pushes bound­aries and crit­i­cally ques­tions the means of knowl­edge pro­duc­tion in the 21st Cen­tury. Artists are in­no­va­tors, if a new piece of tech­nol­ogy or a new medium, be­comes avail­able; artists want to try it, to ex­per­i­ment with it- from mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy to ro­bot­ics; from tis­sue cul­ture to neu­ro­science. Some artists take on the role of a sci­en­tist in al­most a per­for­ma­tive way and some sci­en­tists be­come artists them­selves. Phi­los­o­phy and ethics is al­ways at its core and the work un­packs the in­stru­men­tal­iza­tion of sci­ence and art for com­mer­cial and po­lit­i­cal ends. Forms of “con­nec­tive aes­thet­ics” (Gab­lik) are used to en­gage au­di­ences in par­tic­i­pa­tory ex­pe­ri­ences that ex­tend and gen­er­ate new out­comes through ex­hi­bi­tions and events going be­yond sim­ple in­ter­ac­tiv­ity, throw­ing au­thor­ship into ques­tion, as mem­bers of the au­di­ence are in­spired to be­come Un­nec­es­sary Re­searchers in their own rights. The In­sti­tute of Un­nec­es­sary Re­search is a hub for re­searchers and artists work­ing ex­per­i­men­tally and deeply en­gaged with their spe­cific re­search areas. We pre­sent our re­search through per­for­ma­tive and ex­pe­ri­en­tial meth­ods, en­gag­ing the pub­lic and new au­di­ences in our ideas. The name “The In­sti­tute of Un­nec­es­sary Re­search” is, in many ways, con­fronta­tional. It raises the ques­tion what is nec­es­sary re­search? Un­nec­es­sary does not imply point­less, it often means going be­yond the nor­mal (in the Kuhn­ian sense of ‘nor­mal sci­ence’) and cross­ing bound­aries, ask­ing where do we draw the line with what we study or with what can be stud­ied? Un­nec­es­sary Re­search en­cour­ages ec­cen­tric, ob­ses­sive, cre­ative work­ing prac­tices and is an an­ti­dote to the stran­gle­hold placed on re­search by cen­tral gov­ern­ment and the gate­keep­ers of acad­e­mia.

  • Anna Du­mitriu’s work blurs the bound­aries be­tween art and sci­ence. Her in­stal­la­tions, in­ter­ven­tions and per­for­mances use a range of dig­i­tal, bi­o­log­i­cal and tra­di­tional media in­clud­ing live bac­te­ria, in­ter­ac­tive media and tex­tiles. Her work has a strong in­ter­na­tional ex­hi­bi­tion pro­file and is held in sev­eral major pub­lic col­lec­tions, in­clud­ing the Sci­ence Mu­seum in Lon­don. She was a mem­ber of the e-Mo­bi­LArt pro­ject (the EU funded Eu­ro­pean Mo­bile Lab for In­ter­ac­tive Art) and Artist in Res­i­dence at The Cen­tre for Com­pu­ta­tional Neu­ro­science and Ro­bot­ics at Sus­sex Uni­ver­sity. She is known for her work as di­rec­tor of  “The In­sti­tute of Un­nec­es­sary Re­search”, a group of artists and sci­en­tists whose work crosses dis­ci­pli­nary bound­aries and cri­tiques con­tem­po­rary re­search prac­tice. She is cur­rently work­ing on a Well­come Trust funded art pro­ject en­ti­tled “Com­mu­ni­cat­ing Bac­te­ria”, col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Adap­tive Sys­tems Re­search Group at The Uni­ver­sity of Hert­ford­shire (fo­cussing on so­cial ro­bot­ics) and has re­cently com­menced her role as Lev­er­hulme Trust artist in res­i­dence on the Mod­ernising Med­ical Mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy pro­ject at The Uni­ver­sity of Ox­ford, UK.