Article categories: Scientific Serendipity
March 16th, 2010

I began my working career in the unusual context of a special inter-disciplinary think tank charged with exploring possible telecommunication futures. This team comprised electrical engineers, economists, psychologists and sociologists.

The daily process of looking at technology developments from many different perspectives was an eye opening experience. It taught me that creativity and innovation are nurtured by thinking outside the box-like frameworks of disciplinary specialisation and received wisdom. It taught me the about the value of creative collaborations. Regrettably, back then in 1975, no one thought to include an artist as a member of the core team. Commissioning an artist to illustrate the team’s thinking was an afterthought.

No longer. The Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) and the New Media Board of the Australia Council have been assiduous in promoting an ongoing dialogue and engagement between artists, technologists and scientists. The residency program documented in this publication has given rise to a series of novel experiences of interactive learning and discovery.

The human mind works in mysterious ways to produce new insights and to generate new knowledge. This is the serendipity of intelligence and discovery. Somewhere at the heart of the matter is the making of unexpected connections and novel linkages.

Exploring, pushing back the frontiers of an unmapped continent, fuelled the imagination of Australia’s European colonists. Now indigenous people like Brett Leavy (Queensland) are taking us on a journey of cyber dreaming, making connections between the world’s oldest traditions and the world’s newest technologies. Now art and science collaborations push back the frontiers of knowledge and understanding. To coin Peter Seller’s wonderful phrase, these collaborations ‘open windows into realities under construction’

This exploration of new frontiers is an important undertaking when one lives in a global knowledge economy. This is a political economy in which intellectual capital and human skills are the natural resources for wealth creation and greater quality of life. Art and science collaborations enlarge and extend the value of our investment in research and development, which builds the national stock of intellectual capital.

Australian artists are at the forefront of an international push to develop ‘clusters‘ and collaborative research and development opportunities. ANAT assists these processes through its programs and initiatives, such as the Synapse art and science database (supported by the New Media Arts Board). By crating tangible resources and by highlighting serendipitous outcomes we can encourage increased investment in cultural and scientific knowledge exchange.

Terry Cutler
Principal, Culter & Company; former Chairman Australia Council

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