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Art, Science and Norms: How Interdisciplinary Art Can Inspire Behavioral Change

Last April 16th, I gave a talk at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, together with some of the other artists in the residency. I’m writing about some highlights for those who missed it.

I often talk about being part of the different worlds of art, science, and design, and when I was younger, I used to think deeply about their definitions. What was “art”? What was “science”? What was “design”? One can slide down a very long rabbit hole.

But nowadays, I find it more relevant to use all of these skills and knowledge to address environmental and social concerns of society.

I talked briefly about some of my projects in The Apocalypse Project. This year is its 5th year, hurray!

In the years of doing art about climate change, I sometimes see some art projects as a way to curb the disturbances that prevent systems from running smoothly.

I’ve also had lots of opportunities to think about making and distributing this thing we call “art”.Then I segued into why I was beginning a new body of work, Wild Science. It was because the discussions we have around sustainability have changed over the years. Since I started The Apocalypse Project, the world went from wondering what is climate change to fighting climate change denial to finally starting to address the broken systems that got us to where we are today.

Here in my residency in Vienna, there are two general things I have been doing. The first is finding artistic responses to historical knowledge in the context of our post-truth, filter bubbled era.

For example, looking at the Globe Museum, while it may seem old and stuffy, I find it to be extremely important especially since we live in a world where some people still believe the world is flat. I loved looking at the old globes—essentially old models of what we thought the world was like and thus, what our place in it was—and am thinking of the other arbitrary lines and divisions we have made.

Another thing I’ve been obsessing about in Vienna is their cake culture. I love cake, and there is cake in all the other places I’ve lived in, but here in Vienna they do cake very differently. From the well-trained servers to the logos that declare the confectioner to have baked for emperors past, it has become a symbol of something that no longer exists—the old dynasty—and still we consume it.

I’m currently looking at the power dynamics of cake. How does it go from an exclusively imperial institution to something that commoners and tourists can now partake in? There are 360,000 Sacher tortes that are made each year and 1/3 are shipped overseas. That’s a lot of demand for chocolate cake that is kinda dry.

I talked about what i think art can give—a set of alternative norms to counteract the present norms in society. I believe that art can change mindsets and behaviors if we can do it convincingly enough.

I ended with one of my favorite quotes: “Beware of artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore the most dangerous.” So my fellow artists, let’s go out there and be a menace.

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