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Art, Science & The Politics of Technologies: Event in Brussels

BOZAR Brussels.

The symposium at BOZAR, the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels took place on September 14th marking the opening day of the BOZAR Lab, a space for art, new media and technology for anyone to meet and reflect on innovations at the intersection of different disciplines. The lab is a unique space for research into the links between art, society and technology. Wisp presented during a panel discussion on “Collaborative practice in the 21st Century,” which was opened by Ars Electronica’s artistic director, Gerfried Stocker, and featured the artists Anna Dumitriu, Pinar Yoldas and Haseeb Ahmed, all of whose works were exhibited in the FEAT (Future Emerging Art and Technology) exhibition. Each of the panelists presented their approach to design and art practices that challenges them to leave their comfort zone, and participate in research tackling diverse problems from carbon capture to stigmatised female sexuality.

While art projects were at the centre of the discussion — gaining credits for their power to make science more accessible for different audiences — Wisp stands out specifically through the approach to turn a research project into a reality. Much of the project was inspired by elements of speculative design, and in that way it is very hopeful, open, and honest. It shows that there is a future for women outside of gender norms and conventional societal standards. What Wisp has done is develop a product that addresses many societal issues of what it means to be a woman. Our main focus is to de-stigmatise female sexuality, and have a different type of conversation. The commercialisation of our idea allows us to reach the general public outside of institutions and tackle an issue in the real world.

Panel discussion on "Collaborative Practice in the 21st Century."

The politics of technologies.

Every technology is political in one way or the other. It has the potential to challenge current beliefs and move beyond what we accept as normal or think possible. By applying new technologies to existing issues we can go as far as to rearrange our mental models and social norms, creating new standards for the future. It is conversations at events such as Inter/sections and the BOZAR Lab symposium that build the basis for a framework for ethical innovation, respecting society but making room for exploration and improvement.

The collaboration of scientists, technologists, artists and designers is promising to solve issues we haven’t found a solution for yet. To do so, it is important to take projects out of the laboratory into the popular or targeted discourse — either by entering the market or exhibiting the work through channels that influence culture and society. New technologies as well as art are political in the sense that they have the power to rearrange social systems, norms and conversations. They challenge what we believe to be possible and true helping to imagine and create better futures. Technology is ready to be repurposed for social impact, to take initiative for machine activism.

Wisp is operating within this exciting space of intersection of disciplines. Having started as a design research project at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College in London, the approach was to build a technological device to help women to have better intimate experiences by recreating a foreplay experience. At the same time, the project challenges people to think about the why, and initiate a conversation on this taboo topic of female sexuality. Wisp has the potential to reach a broad audience, and to achieve the goal of helping women to reconnect to their body and facilitate an open conversation about intimacy.

Interdisciplinary collaborations are important for problem solving and innovation. Initiatives and grants such as WEAR Sustain (a project supporting the development of sustainable wearable technology in Europe received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme) are necessary to facilitate such collaborations, build networks, and provide infrastructures to make collaboration and innovation happen to ultimately to provide citizens with the benefits of the new found solutions.

Lattice Disruption by Pinar Yoldas.

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