Arts and creativity in stimulating innovation and technologies with a human touch

The know-how on sustainability that Finnish society, educational system, and industries have been long excelling in, is something that the world is eagerly willing to learn from the Nordic communities. 
E-textile sample by Emmi Pouta
Textile designer Emmi Pouta is exploring ways of interacting with technology through the soft materials around us. Photo: Laurianne Bixhain.

The past months of the Finnish Presidency in the EU turned the eyes of politicians, media and citizens of other countries on Finland. In the midst of Brexit deal discussions, and at the time of ministerial meetings in Brussels, the seminar Sustainable Transformations, co-organized by Aalto University and STARTS initiative of the European Commission, explored sustainability idea through the themes of art, technology and creativity. STARTS initiative works under Horizon 2020 project of the European Commission, focusing on the contribution of art to innovation: social, technological, ecological and business.

The seminar, that took place in BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, invited to reflect on what could be a possible alliance between art and technology today, and what being creative could mean at the time of unprecedented societal change? 

Technology-assisted creativity

Professor Pia Fricker from Aalto University in her keynote mentioned the need for critical thinking regarding the diversity and arbitrariness of digital media and rapidly evolving smart-city technology. Fricker, who teaches Computational Methodologies in Landscape Architecture and Urbanism in Aalto, said that we should think a lot more about building own tools to create new solutions. 

The following talk by Koray Tahiroğlu from Aalto MediaLab addressed how advanced artificial intelligence features already shape and transform our relationship with the world, creating a sense of interacting with ‘something other than me’. Tahiroğlu, founder and head of the SOPI (Sound and Physical Interaction) research group in Aalto, is exploring the possibilities of music-making with artificial intelligence. 

Laura Beloff's keynote
“Four Keywords for Creative Approaches”: Laura Beloff’s talk presented artistic interventions crossing the boundaries of art, science and technology. Photo: Laurianne Bixhain.

Laura Beloff, Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and the head of Visual Culture, Curating and Contemporary Art Master’s programme (ViCCA) at Aalto, focused in her speech on the role of artist in society: “With all of the today’s challenges it is extremely important that artists are actively involved in the societal questions in collaboration with other fields and disciplines”, said Beloff. “It is very obvious that complex problems cannot be solved successfully with one perspective but require multiple disciplines and perspectives. This means that there needs to be an increase in the collaboration and sharing of knowledge between the arts and the sciences". 

Beatrice de Gelder, leader of MindSpaces, a research project supported by STARTS, gave a keynote in the seminar explaining her vision of collaboration between artists, scientists and technologists. De Gelder gave examples of pilot use cases that were developed in MindSpaces thanks to synergy between professionals; such projects aimed at creating inspiring workplaces and outdoor spaces. De Gelder is professor at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and director of the Brain and Emotion Lab.

Claire Williams. Photo: Laurianne Bixhain.
Artist Claire Williams giving a workshop introduction. Photo: Laurianne Bixhain.

Workshop on wearable technology constructed future scenarios

The public session was followed by an afternoon workshop for specialists, where participants could test the limits of their imagination, creating future wearables. The workshop was conceptualized and led by Belgian artist Claire Williams, together with coder Ann Peeters, and researcher from Learning Environments Group in Aalto University, Eva Durall.

The event concluded with a panel discussion, where Aalto University was represented by Marjo Kauppinen (Professor in the Department of Computer Science in Aalto University), Emmi Pouta (textile designer and doctoral researcher between Aalto University’s School of Art, Design and Architecture and the School of Electrical Engineering) and Matthew C. Wilson (artist in residence at the Schools of Chemical Engineering and Science at Aalto University). 

Transdisciplinary approach in research and practice, promoted in Aalto University, allows to look at topical challenges and face unpredictable situations in a co-creative, empathetic, imaginative and novel manner. 

Laura Beloff, who has previously worked with STARTS, explains how humanistic transdisciplinary approach could help to close gaps between different modes of thinking: "Art has an inherent communication channel with the public and has often represented and reflected the existing world and society. But, from my perspective, interesting art of today is the kind that actively constructs the world and proposes scenarios for the future. Art is able to generate questions that need to be asked in today’s world and it is able to propose radical approaches that may not be ‘allowed’ within other disciplines".

Programme of Sustainable Transformations seminar (in the past)

Interested in transdisciplinarity and creativity? Join the next U-Create seminar on Creativity that will take place on November 29 from 10:00 until 15:00 in Maarintie 8, Espoo, Finland.

Registration for U-Create 2019 

Sustainable Transformations seminar
Sustainable Transformations seminar at BOZAR. Photo: Laurianne Bixhain

U-Create Seminar on Creativity 2019

The 2019 U-Create Seminar examines the significance and future of creativity across society, industry and academia.

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U Create Seminar on Creativity 2019
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