Arts, Sciences and Society

Program designed and coordinated by Professor Emilie Sitzia, director of the Arts, Sciences and Society program

At the intersection of arts, sciences and social sciences, this program focuses on the ways in which they together clarify, respond to, and anticipate societal challenges as well as activate audiences. Rejecting an instrumental approach to art, this program starts from the assumption that artists just as scientists produce knowledge. Focusing on creation, transmission and impact, the program adresses three core issues that are associated with seminars, conference cycles, workshops, exhibitions and events that are open to Aix Marseille University’s Institute for Advanced Study (IMERA) residents, the Aix-Marseille University’s (AMU) community as well as to a broader public interested in the dynamics between arts, sciences and society. It seeks to foster innovation, collaboration and citizen participation.

1. sensory modes of knowledge creation

Scientific data has never been so readily available in the history of mankind, yet the social unrest triggered by the pandemic vaccination programme, the ongoing violence against women’s rights or the lack of action around climate change show more than ever our failure to communicate large scale scientific and artistic debates. We fail to understand data from various specialised fields, to make ‘sense’ of it and to engage with it in a meaningful way. There are two aspects of sensory knowledge production that can contribute to fighting this disconnect: mediation and creation.

First, sensory knowledge creation can trigger a more impactful mediation of societal and artistic issues and scientific data. Data sensorialisation improves its communication to the general public and goes against domain specificity, facilitating interdisciplinary collaborations. It helps engage a broader public and trigger action. Second, using the senses to create new bodies of knowledge allows new perspectives and points of view to emerge. Collaborations in (artistic) research and innovation allow for the creation of new (sensory) knowledge.

Under this line, research projects can take many shapes: artists exploring climate change, biologists wanting to create and communicate their data in sensory ways, collaborations between laboratories and artists to build new bodies of knowledge regarding robots or Artificial Intelligence (AI) among others.

2. multimodal forms of cultural transmission 

This line of research focuses on multimodal forms of cultural transmission and their impact. It focuses, more particularly, on the hybridization phenomena such as the crossings between sound, text, image, performance, performing arts, exhibitions, etc.

Under this line, research projects can look at material as varied as sound/visual installations, multimodal performances, illustration, museum displays, experimental word/image writing and other hybrid forms of cultural production. The projects should engage with societal issues and scientific approaches in their analysis (history, sociology, communication studies, museum studies, neurology or psychology, to name a few).

3. relational experiences and strategies of public engagement

Citizen sciences and participatory practices are considered as essential tools of public engagement and citizen mobilization. However, such relational practices raise issues of which negotiating authority, multiple voices representation, layered identities, they also question concepts such as that of expertise or diversity.

This line of research has a particular focus on our democratic (cultural) institutions. The projects should engage with societal issues and scientific approaches from critical museology, post-colonial studies, feminist studies, sociology, psychology, etc. They should question and explore forms of public engagement and their impact on society.

This program is open to artists and (social) scientists at any stage of their career. A specific IMERA/Mucem chair is part of this program.

For more information, please contact Emilie Sitzia, program director: