Paul Dujardin: “We need interdisciplinary teams”

In this interview, the artistic director of the Centre for Fine Arts (BOZAR) discusses the artist’s role in this day and age, notes that art also emerges beyond the confines of picture frames, and points out how important it is for disciplines to interconnect.

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The 2017 STARTS Prize is awarded by the European Commission to artists, scientists and engineers including teams, collectives and private enterprises that intentionally focus their creative efforts on collaboration at the nexus of science, technology and art. This year’s winners receive prizemoney of €20,000 and will be prominently featured at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, the BOZAR Electronic Arts Festival in Brussels and the Waag Society in Amsterdam. The deadline for entries to the competition to select the recipients is March 13, 2017. We recently spoke with Paul Dujardin, artistic director of the Centre for Fine Arts (BOZAR), about the interplay of science, technology and art.

What’s your understanding of the collaboration between science, technology and arts?

Paul Dujardin: As the director of the Centre for Fine Arts I look at this collaborative practice from the perspective of the artist. Artists are the critical antennae of our society. (A saying by Ezra Pound). They can steer research in different disciplines in more humane directions. But on the other hand they also have to be critical towards scientific and technological developments. Take for example BIG DATA… it’s a technology that can be used in positive and negative ways. It can be used to make a city smarter, but it can also be used to influence elections. I heard about artificial systems that automatically send fake news to people. In order to be critical, artists should understand ‘technology’ and its impact on society, therefore the STARTS programme is interesting.

What do these fields – science, technology and arts – have in common nowadays?

Paul Dujardin: Industrialists, artists and researchers all share a responsibility for our society. We are confronted with many global problems, ecological, societal, economic that interact with each other. And in order to find solutions, we need interdisciplinary teams. Taking on our ecological problems for example is not only a technological or scientific endeavour, it’s also important to make people conscious about the impact of their personal actions. Philosophers for example have to convince people that they are not living in the center of the universe, but that they are important actors in a global ecological system. Alexander von Humboldt in the beginning of the 19th century already warned people of the impact of their actions in Latin America.

BOZAR

BOZAR Center for Fine Arts, Credit: Yannick Sas

The BOZAR Center for Fine Arts in Belgium has already presented a selection of the prize winners and projects of the STARTS Prize 2016. How did the visitors react?

Paul Dujardin: The visitors have indeed seen the first results of the STARTS Prize. They are used to see artworks, and not the results of collaborations between artists and researchers. Most of these visitors have a rather conservative view on the role of artists in our society. And they expect images that refer to art history. Of course, they are used to decode the intellectual or emotional message the artists want to bring and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s still the essence of art. But the STARTS Prize is completely different, it shows digital projects that lead to social innovation, wearables, fashion mock-ups, technological experiments, apps….. We immediately understood that we have to inform the people much more about the goal of the STARTS Programme and that we have to foresee intermediary guides that personally explain the presentations to the visitors.  The guides of BOZAR will be trained to start basic discussions with the visitors on the different roles artists can play in our contemporary society.

What kind of tip would you like to give the entrants of the 2017 STARTS Prize?

Paul Dujardin: I think each project should accentuate the advantage of the collaboration for the different partners. I think that some projects can result in an innovative artwork that uses technological or scientific developments in an unexpected way. In that case we need to pay attention to the artistic excellence of the artwork and its critical component. But the result can also be an industrial application. We may not forget that in the end the STARTS Prize is an initiative from DG Connect and that its main goal is to stimulate innovation in the industry, using the creativity of artists. Somewhere between those two opposing lines, lies the value of STARTS. Between criticality and innovation, between arts and applied design, between art historical factors and global concerns. It’s ambiguous, but this is really the beauty of the STARTS programme and it’s here that STARTS makes the difference with some many other programs from the past such as E.A.T. of C.A.V.S.

For more information about the STARTS Prize and how you can submit your project, please visit starts-prize.aec.at!

dujradinPaul Dujardin is CEO and artistic director of the Centre for Fine Arts (BOZAR) in Brussels since 2002. Under his direction the Centre has turned into an internationally recognised, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary arts center, offering a wide range of events, from concerts, to exhibitions, cinema, literature, theatre, dance performances or debates and workshops for its audiences. From 1992 to 2002 Paul was the CEO of the Société Philharmonique de Bruxelles, prior to which he was, among others, in charge of the annual festival “Ars Musica” dedicated to contemporary music. He studied arts history and archaeology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB) and detains a Master’s Degree in Management Sciences from the Vlaamse Ekonomische Hogeschool (VLEKHO).

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 732019. This publication (communication) reflects the views only of the author, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.