Zone-art: the first art-science collaboration in the Zones Ateliers network

“The academic article is not the only format for writing theory. You can theorise with a camera, a paintbrush, a score, etc. (…) a theory cannot be reduced to a series of linguistic statements; it is a construction, a mode of perception” (Leibovicit Pihet 2011).

The initiative for this first scientist-artist residency arose from a collective reflection on the methods of ‘science-society’ dialogue in a workshop of Group 3 ‘Transdisciplinarity’ of the CNRS workshop zone network. The starting point was the difficulty scientists have in reaching out to society, despite the robustness of the knowledge they produce.

This residency, which took place at the Hub Créativité of the Ecole des Mines Alès on 11 and 12 December 2023, was a first step towards questioning research practices on socio-ecosystems, with a view to a wider deployment of research-creation approaches, between and within the Zones Ateliers. The initial challenge was to move away from conventional methods, to “do things differently”, to imagine new ways of “touching” society in the face of current ecological challenges.

The residency had a strong pedagogical dimension, with the aim of questioning the allants and visions of each discipline, by encouraging doing and telling through experiments and exchanges. The format of the residency, in which 23 participants, artists and/or scientists, were immersed in the same place and together, was conducive to inter-knowledge and co-learning between artists and scientists around socio-ecosystems.

Artists and scientists have understood that their differences in status influence their level of commitment to building joint projects. However, diversity is not just between artists and scientists, because there are also many different ways of being a scientist, an artist, and also simply of being human. Preconceptions were deconstructed – “my work as an artist is research for me” – so that we could understand that in the end there are many things that link us, in particular the desire and ability to be creative, the desire to re-enchant the world, to work together to do our bit, and thus contribute to the common good. We also agreed on the importance and place of sensitivity in having a greater social impact, but also on the need for a more personal way of reconnecting with oneself in order to do science more consciously. Research-creation is a journey, not an end in itself, a journey where we need to walk together, treading the same ground and meeting local people and leaders together. In the end, these two days were a breath of fresh air, a form of slow science on methods at the interface between science, the arts and society, with a view to transforming the dynamics that threaten the planet’s habitability.

The organising team:

Sylvia Becerra, CNRS research fellow, sociologist at the Géosciences environnement Toulouse laboratory (Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées), member of the ZATU and GT3 of the “transdisciplinarity” workshop zone network. She was also a photojournalist in a previous life!

Juliette Cerceau, lecturer at IMT Mines Alès, member of the ZABR and GT3 of the Réseau des Zones Ateliers “Transdisciplinarité”, researcher on the interfaces between humans and ecosystems, between local knowledge and scientific expertise, between SHS and SVT, between…

Juliette Mariel, post-doctoral researcher at the UMR SENS (CIRAD) and co-leader of a research-film creation project on the role of sensitive knowledge in the management of cultivated plants in Madagascar; president of the Non-Conference association, which organises events at the science-society interface on the relationship between the arts and sciences in a context of socio-ecological emergencies; illustrator.

Charlotte Mariel, PRAG lecturer in visual arts at the Université Paris-Est Créteil; doctoral student in digital arts at the Lisaa (Littérature, Savoirs et Arts, Université Gustave Eiffel, Cité Descartes); member of the Non-Conference association and organiser of arts-sciences events.

Isabelle Elizéon, independent researcher in art-science, research-creation and transdisciplinarity. Playwright and visual artist. A member of ZABrI – ZA Brest Iroise, CIRET and the TRAS art-science network, she coordinates and runs the TranSborder platform.

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