Lecturer in: 2010
Gaston Meskens is hyper-reflexive artist, philosopher out of sheer necessity and suspicious scientist. Although he has master degrees in theoretical physics (orientation quantum physics, theory of relativity and cosmology) and nuclear physics from the University of Ghent (Belgium), he nowadays works as artist, philosopher and writer.
He is founder of the Institute of Idle Curiosity for Elements of Seduction, an assemblage of conceptual, virtual and physical settings that represents the total body of his work. The research programme of this Institute is concerned with the way human beings deal with uncertainty while being and interacting in the world. The programme could initially be seen as critical theory in the way it aspires to formulate a critique against conventionalism, authority and populism and their reliance on strategically mediated or created 'false atmospheres of trust' in the natural-social and socio-political sphere, but it essentially wants to go beyond critical analysis as such. The aim is to explore alternative 'ideological' interaction modes that go beyond traditional confirmative patterns of social cohesion that are said to deliver security and recognition as proclaimed conditions for the construction of human individual and collective 'identities'. These confirmative patterns, however, serve oppressive and/or complacent structures of power and, at the same time, relieve the individual from the challenge to nurture an idle curiosity 'at the peripheries of social cohesion'.
The fundamental output of the research is the construction of two ideologies of 'better dealing with uncertainty' that are questioned again in terms of performativity and normative grounds on a higher level of inquiry. Starting from a radical split between the natural-social and the socio-political sphere, they are 'proposed' as ideological lifeworlds by way of meaningful media; that is: visuals (all but not blurred by physical environments, text and sound) for the natural-social and text and speech acts (all but not blurred by physical environments and images) for the socio-political.
The work in the first track – created under the heteronym Rosaly Games - develops on fictional stories that 'voluntarily happen at the periphery of social cohesion’, and represents a world constituted of affexual personages depicted in 'episodes of solitary action', characteristic decors and environments, and the communities that spontaneously emerge and dissolve on that periphery. In this first and 'initial' lifeworld of the Society of Idle Curiosity for Elements of Seduction, people live their life through a joint agreement to accept ambiguity in natural-social interactions, and this on the basis of a mutual reluctance to ask clarity related to intentional meaning. In practice, 'suggesting' this lifeworld results in an expanding 'diorama of story stills', build up of photos, prints, paintings, decor installations, sound&vision scapes, screenplays and documentary photo books.
The second working track starts from a critical inquiry of the contemporary socio-political mediation of the issues of technological risk, economic inequity, cultural formation and political authority. Building on this inquiry, the Institute develops a 'normative ethics for a deliberate socio-political society'. In the proposed second alternative lifeworld, politics is done on the basis of the human right of inclusion and a pragmatic awareness for the usability of facts, ideas, opinion and mandates, or thus by a joint agreement to stimulate and enable reflexivity and to create transparency in socio-political interactions on the basis of a mutual right to ask clarity related to intentional meaning. In practice, Gaston Meskens established the research initiative The Academia to interact with researchers and civil society representatives on themes such as sustainable development, climate change, radiological risk and nuclear non-proliferation. This philosophical activism brings him to various environments all over the world, from rural community meetings over research labs, university lecture rooms and parliament commissions to the boardrooms and corridors of political and corporate power. Among others, principal interaction networks of The Academia are those in and around the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre.
Both tracks join again in the work done by The Arts Institute, where the two ideological lifeworlds, (previously produced by the Departments 'Tragic Realist Fiction', 'idle-city-else' and 'The Academia') are questioned in their turn. The Dept of Critical Theory of The Arts Institute is concerned with the (im)possibility of form when it comes to constructing and proposing ('communicating') both ideologies. Propositions are considered as metamorphoses of knowledge, and the challenge is, the Arts Institute claims, to incorporate the awareness of these (im)possibilities into the work itself. In the same spirit, the Arts Institute inquires the (im)possibility of agency and the implications for the meaning and role of fundamental actors such as 'the artist', 'the philosopher', 'the activist', 'the scientist' and 'the politician'. Through the departments of 'The Happening Hotel', 'The Gallery' and 'The Mono Theatre', the Arts Institute subsequently interacts with the outside world on these matters by liberating this critical inquiry again in the form of 'pure interacting', 'pure showing' and 'pure speaking'…
"… my art is about what is between the atmosphere and the argument. It is as much about the possibility of the poetic as about the poetical of the possible in the natural-social and socio-political sphere, taking into account that any proposition of the possible starts from a reflection on the impossible. It is about why art and science have nothing to do with each other; about metamorphoses of knowledge, accepting the unknowable and the transversal of human interactions. It is about the human necessity to create false atmospheres of trust and about the danger of misusing them, and thus as much about the human right to remain in ambiguous silence as about the human right to intellectual development. It is about environments of peripheral melancholy in the natural-social and about environments for enabling reflexivity and enforcing transparency in the socio-political. My images are 'windows of opportunities', severely but compassionately questioned by a deliberate self-created conceptual space around them. My texts and philosophical activism performances aim to create intelligible discourse spaces at the mercy of (all but not defensive) scepticism. Finally, my work is thus inevitably also about the ways and means to represent propositions and about the inherent (im)possibilities of form and agency in this respect. This deliberate final act of contextualisation - in the sense of a hyper-reflexive and thus melancholic-ironic dethroning of the own rhetoric - is why the whole endeavour is art in the end, and not politics or science …"
For an overview of the different departments and their respective work output, visit the Institute of Idle Curiosity for Elements of Seduction through www.theartsinstitute.org (front entrance) or via www.rosalygames.com (backside entrance).