Experimenting on the experiment

(Initially published on http://rijksakademie.tumblr.com/)

‘I think that with each new fellow, the Art and Science fellowship is a pilot version, that’s how I see it anyway.’

Science and art: two fields of studies so multifaceted and so far apart, that there must be a positive effect in narrowing down some similarities. In the Science Fellowship, the Rijksakademie offers an artist the possibility to discover this. At the moment it is up to Kianoosh Motallebi (GB/NL 1982)to find a constructive form for his version of the fellowship.

For Kianoosh, marrying together art and science is not so much about creating art as science, but more about introducing a new way of understanding to his art practice. So how does that work? Looking at his Reality has a name, which was presented during RijksakademieOPEN studios, you see one form of understanding that fascinates Kianoosh. The work is an adaptation of a YouTube clip that shows Professor in physics John Ellis explaining what the Higgs boson or ‘God particle’ is.

With a science fellow choosing this clip, you might expect that if there is any understanding to be done, it will surely be concerning this startling particle. But there is more subtlety to it than that, fortunately. For the thing that is taken from the way Professor Ellis explains the particle, that he clearly understands very well, is the ‘hand language’ that goes with it. It’s something we all do. When you feel that something can be even more clear than the words you explain it with, you start gesturing with your hands. And apparently, even the clever professor needs his hands to tell the story of the Higgs boson. For Kianoosh, just the hands might have sufficed to put across the abstract notion of what this fundamental particle is.

Kianoosh Motallebi, Reality has a name (2012)

So it’s not the scientific data that he’s interested in. His interest lies with the innately human urge to come closer to an understanding of the world around you, an instinct almost. The difference between the will to understand a complex system and the point of actually understanding it, is something Kianoosh experienced at a young age. ‘I remember very clearly when I first learned how to count. I was very young and I remember that at a certain point, I just understood. It wasn’t that I could explain what I understood, but I just got it.’ Understanding takes time. There is a moment in between hearing a metaphor illustrating an idea and the actual understanding of that metaphor and, thus, the idea. That important moment is shared by science and art. ‘I think my work very often deals with the question of how we collect knowledge. When does an object become something else?’ Artworks have the potential to address that moment in between what the work is supposed to do and what the work is. This can be recognized in how Kianoosh chooses to interpret the fellowship.

Kianoosh Motallebi, Where is your God now? (2012)

‘It’s the fact that the fellowship focuses on science, and therefore by name invites to explore its identity, that made me want to do it.’ And what the fellowship at the Rijksakademie facilitates very well, is an investigation of the influence science has on his own practice. ‘I think that with each new fellow, the Art and Science fellowship is a pilot version, that’s how I see it anyway. And I hope it stays that way.’ The fact that he needs to invent how this fellowship functions for him, suits Kianoosh. He started off by looking at the notion of time used at scientific institutions. Whether they are astronomical observatories, observing the edges of the observable universe or scientists like Professor Ellis, looking at the deepest and tiniest inner core of matter, the amount of time a project runs for is immense compared to that of an art project. An artwork or exhibition can be successful for a couple of months, with maybe a year or two of planning prior to that, scientists speak of decades of research and thousands of light-years of matter that can be explored. A massive amount of time invested in coming closer to an understanding. If Kianoosh would be able to use the Science Fellowship to point towards a way of showing people how some of this timeframe can be applied to art, it would be a very interesting result.

Text by Rogier Brom.

Photo’s courtesy of Kianoosh Motalebbi.

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