Art. Science. Pigs Wings.

A compelling argument advocating the dissolution of boundaries separating art and science was expressed by Oron Catts in an interview with Piibe Piirma. Catts insists that artists should not merely provide clever visualisations of scientific data and theories. He, for example, both practices and promotes the inclusion of artists within the laboratory where he participates in research and analysis. But he also issues a warning against artists working with ‘wet’ technologies if they are not sufficiently informed. What follows is a summary of the interview as described by Piirma who conducted in 2013. She begins by repeating a question she posed.

– What is the role of artists participating in fields that they actually don’t have a clue about? Can we deal with complex disciplines without the relevant education or prior in-depth studies?

Oron Catts thought that of course we must be specialists – i.e. artists must do a lot of homework before setting foot in a lab to start working. But above all, artists must remain artists, just like scientists must remain scientists. Any kind of strange spontaneous hybrid forms is not credible … And we must not forget that there is another form who are engineers capable of creating almost anything without any remorse!

Oron Catts is concerned about the future, despite the very vivid sense of imagination of a creative person. He has been cited much in the art world as someone who raises significant questions related to bioethics. This means if engineering takes over all developments only for the goal of profit, we will be facing a big problem – we may have functioning artificial organs but we cannot grasp their role in the bigger context of life. Questions that we are posing now are much more complex than 10 years ago.

Catts Zurr Pig Wings 2011

If cellular biologists assert that they are capable of artificially producing the smallest particles of life, we as artists must be able to think along with them with regard to what benefit this entails in a cultural and broader human context. A genetic mapping program as it is operating in Estonia, for example, is not really sustainable. An impressive work will be done to map our population fragment on the genetic level but without seeing the broader context. Our body is not only home to our own cells, a large part of life is attributable to bacteria and various other micro-organisms and it no longer depends on the human system but instead the environment and correct decisions made with respect to the surroundings that we are capable of making on a regional and political level.

In conclusion – if a pig were able to fly, several issues important to humanity would be resolved! Thus, the art project by Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr (The Pig Wings) manifests evidence that allows us to dream with increasing audacity and shows that poetic questions and their interpretations may have more important roles in the chaos of the intersections between disciplines than we dare to estimate right now. Naturally, a flying pig will not resolve our future concerns but it is excellent that a holistic worldview is resonating more and more in the developments of our culture and science. To what extent we dare to participate in dreaming by risking to be labelled insane in the modern world is another question entirely. (Catts, Piirma 2013)