Hybrid arts

Hybrid arts is a contemporary art movement in which artists work with frontier areas of science and emerging technologies. Artists work with fields such as biology, robotics, physical sciences, experimental interface technologies (such as speech, gesture, face recognition), artificial intelligence, and information visualization. They address the research in many ways such as undertaking new research agendas, visualizing results in new ways, or critiquing the social implications of the research. The worldwide community has developed new kinds of art festivals, information sources, organizations, and university programs to explore these new arts.

The “Hybrid Art” category is dedicated specifically to today’s hybrid and transdisciplinary projects and approaches to media art. Primary emphasis is on the process of fusing different media and genres into new forms of artistic expression as well as the act of transcending the boundaries between art and research, art and social/political activism, art and pop culture.

Hybrid Art also mostly transdisciplinary and deal with art, and combine different genres. Hybrid Art happened in parallel to evolution of scientific methodologies and media, inherently interdisciplinary and the same is true for art making so the overlap can be quite natural and creative. Hybrid Art relationto scientice naturally evolve into projects in which we together explore philosophical ideas in action through collaboration.

The tools of Hybrid Art are change according to what we want discover or influences the other in an evolutionary way. Hybrid artists exploring new areas of expression and reflect the current state of collective mind that is endlessly in shift and moving from one extreme to the next. Hybrid Art trends in any field that extend out into everything from the food we eat, the water we drink, the animals we live with to the fuel and other power issues are increasingly reflected in the work produced. Whether artists decide to specifically address these and other related social and political issues specifically is not so important as every single expression is mirroring the current topics and at the base is a product of the current global situation.

Hybrid art resides in between, around, above and below what is generally accepted as “culture” and usually is experimental and exploring new ideas that require collaboration with other disciplines. Many times it is not even considered art by the established art world because hybridity does not subscribe the usual, established categories or definitions. Ultimately, one could say that this is contemporary art in process and as soon as it is defined it changes to something else. Often this kind of work is ahead of its’ time and thus neglected and misunderstood so many great ideas disappear or are experienced by too few to make it significant. Current extreme global times are reflected in artistic explorations that go beyond computer technologies and into the heart of scientific laboratories where change is accelerating at a furious pace. And, because conventional methodologies in research cannot be applied to recent discoveries, scientists are being more and more open to working with artists. So hybrid arts becomes even more complex to explain and perhaps even more confusing for those that want clear straightforward answers.

Many artists are responding to the central role scientific and technological research plays in contemporary culture. They are going beyond merely using technological tools and gadgets (e.g. computers) in their work to engage deeply with the processes of research. They are creating revolutionary art at the frontiers of scientific research. They see art as an independent zone of research that pursues areas of science and research ignored by mainstream academic disciplines. They are developing technologies that would be rejected by the marketplace but are nonetheless culturally critical. They are pursuing inquiries that are seen as too controversial, too wacky, too improbable, too speculative for regular science and technology. Their theoretical orientation ranges from celebration of human curiosity to critique of science’s arrogance. They enter into the processes in research at all stages: setting research agendas, development of research processes, visualization, interpretations of findings, and education of the public.

There has been some confusion over the last years of what to call this kind of art that crosses so many disciplines. It is descended from computer and internet art but reaches out to cover many new disciplines. Ars Electronica, which is considered one of leading world organizations concerned with experimental arts, decided three years ago to create a new category to encompass these kinds of arts. Every year they host an international competition for artists working in these experimental fields. They decided to use the name ‘Hybrid Arts’. The worldwide community of artists, theorists, and journalists interested in this art are increasingly using this term. Here is a quote from their web site that offers their definition and a preliminary list of kinds of art covered.

The “Hybrid Art” category is dedicated specifically to today’s hybrid and transdisciplinary projects and approaches to media art. Primary emphasis is on the process of fusing different media and genres into new forms of artistic expression as well as the act of transcending the boundaries between art and research, art and social/political activism, art and pop culture. Jurors will be looking very closely at how dynamically the submitted work defies classification in a single one of the Prix categories of long standing.

This category is open to all types of current works in any form:

Autonomic Installations and Artworks
Autonomous Sculptures
Performance and Stageprojects
Media architectures
Media based Interventions in public spaces
Mechatronics / Kinetics / Robotics
Location-based and geospatial storytelling
Multi-user environments
Annotation software tools
Artificial Life
Transgenic Art
Software Art, Generative Art

Many new support systems have evolved to nurture, show, and interpret this kind of art. New educational programs have been developed. Books have been written.

Sample of the research fields addressed in hybrid arts:
-Genetics, Bioengineering, stem cells, proteomics
-Art and Biology of Living Systems: microorganisms, plants, animals, ecology
-Human Biology: the body, bionics, body manipulation, brain & body processes, body imaging, and medicine
-Physical Sciences: particle physics, atomic energy, geology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, space science, nanotechnology, materials science
-Kinetics, Electronics, Robotics: physical computing, ubiquitous computing, mixed reality
-Alternative Interfaces: motion, gesture, touch, facial expression, speech, wearable computing, 3-d sound, and VR -Code: algorithms, software art, genetic art, A-life, artificial intelligence
-Information Systems: databases, surveillance, RFID/barcodes, synthetic cinema, information visualization
Telecommunications: telephone, radio, telepresence, web art, mobiles, locative media

Festivals, shows, conferences related to hybrid arts:
Since much of the art does not fit into historical categories such as painting or sculpture, many museums and art festivals did not show the work. Curators who were interested created new kinds of festivals, competitions, museums and shows to present the work. Examples include Ars Electronica (note especially Interactive and Hybrid priz competitions. ISEA (International symposium of Electronic Arts), V2 – DEAF (Dutch Electronic Arts Festival), VIDA – Art & Artificial Life International Competition. Ars Electronica offers a festival each year that addresses transdisciplinary themes.Both artists and scientists are invited to speak at the conferences. Recent exhibitions focused on themes such as New Sex, Simplicity and Privacy.

Organizations, information sources, art/science collaboration support, educational programs:
The hybrid arts community also established organizations and information sources to promote, disseminate, and interpret these new art activities. There are hundreds of such organizations of which a few examples are offered here. The external links show where to get more information. The Journal Leonardo published by MIT Press has a 40-year history of ‘promoting and documenting work at the intersection of the arts, sciences, and technology, and… encouraging and stimulating collaboration between artists, scientists, and technologists.’ The organization also has web sites, abstract services, and collaborates with other organizations in presenting conferences. The website We Make Money Not Art does an amazing job of covering media/research conferences, interviewing artist/researchers, and finding interesting developments in and out of the arts in fields ranging from activism and biology to surveillance and wearables.

Other organizations offer public events and facilitate the process of artists collaborating with researchers. For example, The Arts Catalyst in the UK seeks to ‘extend the practice of artists engaging with scientific processes, facilities and technologies in order to reveal and illuminate the social, political and cultural contexts that brought them into being’ through public symposia, exhibitions, and commissions. SymbioticA in Australia is an ‘artistic laboratory dedicated to the research, learning and critique of life sciences.’ It ‘provides an opportunity for researchers to pursue curiosity-based explorations free of the demands and constraints associated with the current culture of scientific research.’ The arts lab is sponsored by the medicine department of a university. Other examples include the Art and Genomics Centre(NL), the LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial (ES) and Artists in Labs (CH) program.

New forms of educational programs are being established at universities around the world. Students are expected to master topics in art, media, and research disciplines. For example, the U of Washington’s DXArts program offers a ‘creative research convergence zone for intrepid artists and scholars’ who seek to reach out beyond the arts. The Conceptual/Information Arts (CIA) is the “experimental program within the Art Department at San Francisco State University dedicated to preparing artists and media experimentors to work at the cutting edge of science and technology”. Courses cover topics such as art & biology, robotics, locative media, and physical computing.