context weblog
an emerging culture observatory
| home | site map | about context |
 > information on arts, science, technology, and their intersections
galaxy view

Artists and Scientists in Times of War

by Roger Malina, rmalina@alum.mit.edu


Some time ago I was contacted by Leonardo co-editor Michele Emmer. Emmer proposed a Leonardo editorial project on Artists and Scientists in Times of War. At that time Michele Found himself under the flight paths of the bombers headed for Kosovo. As a result of Michele’s initiative, Leonardo has published a number of articles by artists and scientists documenting their work as artists or as scientists in ways that seek to grapple with the continuing conflicts in our world. Contributions have come from members of the Leonardo network, from Columbia to Los Angeles, from Italy To Russia.

Today, I am writing this from my office in Marseille and overhead I hear the bombers readying for action and warships are steaming for the mediterranean. Marseille is a port city and has been for 2600 years at least. This city has witnessed the warriors of innumerable cultures pass through, from Hannibal’s elephants to the Third Reich’s enforcers, from the Crusaders to Napoleon, from Roman centurions to Arab stallions. Now Americans and their allies in a new War for minds and hearts, for bodies and resources.

I am the American Director of a french astrophysics laboratory. Last week we held our three minutes of silence and like many of you I felt emotionally reassured by the spontaneous outpouring of support and the cry “ We are all Americans”, echoing the rallying cry of “We are all Berliners” at the peak of the cold war. Today I feel less sure of the reassurance. Are we all Americans ? or is this the wrong kind of categorization? I have no doubt the phrase “We are all Romans” was heard two millennia ago on these very streets of Marseille. And only fifty years ago, my father Frank Malina, founder of Leonardo, was one of the founding staff of UNESCO = a generation dedicated to building world organisations that would prevent the occurrence of a new world war. At that time “ We were all Europeans”.

The week of the atrocities in New York and Washington, we were meeting here in Marseille with American Colleagues discussing our dreams to build a new space telescope that would study supernovae, the largest of cosmic explosions, in order to understand the very forces that structure our Universe. Nervously , we joked that the same telescopes we were imagining to unravel the mysteries of the newly discovered repulsive force ( ironically called Dark Energy) could also be pointed down at the earth and had sufficient resolution and sensitivity to track warm bodies moving around the surface of the earth.

We live in a highly linked system which has particular vulnerabilities. The crimes in NY and Washington resulted in thousands of victims and tens of thousands of displaced people. This is far less than the human loss in flooding in Bangladesh or earthquakes in Turkey or China in recent years. Yet the attack triggered almost instant global reaction. The largest industry on the planet, the tourist industry, has seen a factor of several drop in business. Already lay offs and increased unemployment numbers in the 100,000 in the US alone within one week of the event. We live in a highly linked World; The same internet that promotes diversity of opinion and of analysis, can also show global oscillations that manifest themselves as group think and group instabilities.

Whether in the bunkers of Camp David or the new arab quarters of Marseille, each one of us is forced to analyse, try to understand and decide what is appropriate response. And in a highly linked network, a well mobilized minority of the world population can lead to large scale system response. And as we all, know inaction, lurking or listening in the network, is also part of the system behavior that will determine the course of future outcomes.

Since the attacks, the Leonardo editors, like all of you, have been in touch making sure that each is well , and bringing friendship to those who have experienced deep loss in the attacks. We thank all those who have contacted us and the Leonardo community, and send our support to all those hurt and displaced.

Now the Leonardo network must decide an appropriate course of action. Michele Emmer is preparing a new editorial updating the Role of Artists and Scientists in Times of War project. The Leonardo publications and projects belong to the Leonardo community. We are open to your ideas and thoughts on how we can all contribute to a saner and safer World, that respects the rights and dignity of every person.

Roger Malina, rmalina@alum.mit.edu
as part of the project=
< Art and War: The Role of Artists and Scientists in Times of War >

reposted by permission of Leonardo Electronic Almanac (LEA)
september 23, 2001


http://straddle3.net/context/ > | home | site map | about context |
 > information on arts, science, technology, and their intersections