Over time, numerous events have given the public the opportunity to meet researchers, artists and creators so as to discover their work and share their thoughts and ideas. On January 26th 2017, the Institut Français takes this debating culture one step further by linking all these Nuit des Idées (Night of Ideas) on the same day, or rather the same night, organised by Embassies all around the world.
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is coordinating these events worldwide and will also open the doors of its famous Quai d’Orsay to debaters from all domains for a night long session of discussions on the same date.
The French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) invites you to a debate on “Art for Art’s Sake and Science for Science’s Sake. Must they always serve a purpose?” This event will take place at the Market Theatre Photo Workshop with four speakers: Ismail Mahomed, CEO of the Market Theatre Foundation, Lawrence Lemaoana, artist and lecturer at UNISA, Sarah Wild, science journalist, and Cynthia Kros, historian and heritage specialist, under the guidance of Michelle Constant as moderator.
There have always been questions regarding the place of art and science in society, and their so-called “utility” in the social, political and economic spheres. What space can be given for research before the imperative to produce something economically worthwhile? What is the function of art? Should art produce something? Can science be unbiased?
The long-debated concept of art for art’s sake is also applicable to science, whether fundamental or applied research. Théophile Gautier, French artist of the nineteenth century and theoretician of the concept of art for art’s sake, applied two conditions to it: the artist refusing to engage society and beauty as the sole end of art. If we transpose this to science, can researchers be truly distanced from society and can research be considered only for the ‘beauty of the gesture’, that is to say the sole progress of knowledge?
In the South African context, this would seem an unusual approach with regard to its academic history: research often maintains a close relationship with civil society and sometimes political agendas. Thus, this context has fostered a research system supporting the improvement and transformation of society. It may be successful but it can also compromise the autonomy of researchers. The same can sometimes be said for certain artworks where the message can be seen taking precedence over the aesthetic value.
Nevertheless, can the idea of art for art’s sake be sustained, can research be truly fundamental: is the ideal of a non-referential writing, artistic work or research possible?
By bringing together speakers from different horizons in both the scientific and art worlds, we will discuss these issues that crisscross both domains.
Date: Thursday, 26 January 2017
Venue: The Market Theatre Photo Workshop, 138 Lillian Ngoyi street, opposite the Market Theatre. Safe parking at Newtown Junction mall.