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Knowing through empirical science is objective, disembodied, mechanistic and technological. Progress and development are ‘underlying mechanisms’, ‘genetic code’ and ‘engineered organisms’ (Lowe in Chance, I. (ed) 2002:21). The response to ecological degradation is concerned "stewardship" (Naveh, Zev, 2000) and economic sustainability. Knowing how but not always why (Bridgstock, Martin, et al. (eds) 1998:83, Sheldrake, 1993:62).

Unknowing1 is engaged with the subtle and ethereal. The indeterminate, chaos theory, cosmic dark matter and universal resonance fields are contentious hypothesis for the imperceptible (Sheldrake, 1993). Alternatives to progress and development are "reanimation" (Sheldrake, 1993) and "earth honouring" (Lawlor, 1990). The appropriate response to ecological degradation is "reenchantment" (Gablik, 1991, Sheldrake, 1993) and environmental sustainability. Honouring Unknowing is spirituality (Neumaier, 1994).

Contemporary life is being challenged with the threat of inevitability. This is reflected in the arts and sciences generally. The ultimatum is environment, economics and ethics. The most disturbing voice is that of science.

WARNING We the undersigned, senior members of the world's scientific community, hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.2

For three centuries science was objectivity, the disembodied gaze, inanimate and mechanistic biology (Sheldrake, 1993). Science is now revealing the inevitability of human species extinction, unless there is deep dynamic change. The challenge is sustainability, a parallelism to economics and ecology.

Through the extraordinary artifice of human centred3 creative technology, industrial society has constructed worlds based on semblance of the real (Gablik, 1991:19, Carlson 2000:46). This creates the perception that the natural environment is a background from which we are autonomous and removed (Carlson, 2000:34, Sheldrake, 1993:44). It also allows the denial of unfolding ecological crisis by offering alternative worlds in which perceptions are complacent. To meet the challenge proposed by science, contemporary life must be defined in part by an ecological paradigm.

The emergence of the ‘creative industries’4 in the United Kingdom, Australia and America places emphasis on the value of contemporary life in terms of intellectual property and niche markets in a global networked economy. There is also an ecological necessity for change highlighted as a tension between social responsibility5 and economic responsibility. This tension between economics and social fields, is evident in the challenges to contemporary art practice (Cunningham and Hartley, 2001:3) , though it is not discipline specific6. Publicly funded subsidies and heroic individualism (characteristic of both art practice and academic science) are being contested (Gablik, 1991:68, Sheldrake, 1993:42). These are new questions being put to modernist practices and are internal and external cultural resistance and pressures. To meet the challenge of an economic agenda contemporary practice must harness social trends and niche market opportunities.

Life is being distended through human centred economic and Earth centred ecological sustainability. To meet the combined challenges of economics and ecology requires the unique adaptability of contemporary practice and a willingness to operate in multidisciplinary interrelationships7.

Russell Milledge April 2002

1 "There will always remain a cloud of unknowing between us and the origins and foundations of our existence we want to know. So the best thing we can get in our process of knowing, is unknowing." (Neumaier. 1994:86)
2 World Scientists' Warning to Humanity, the Union of Concerned Scientists, (1993).
3 Anthropocentricism (The Concise Macquarie Dictionary, 1982:561) regarding man [sic] as the central fact of the universe. 2. Assuming man [sic] to be the final aim and end of the universe. 3. Viewing and interpreting everything in terms of human experience and values.
4 See The Creative Industries Task Force, Mapping Document (2001:3) available:
5 Scott McQuire (in Brown,H. et al. Eds, 2001:213) recognises the tension when contemporary art is assimilated into the economic agenda of the ‘creative industries’ as it "becomes clearer that current economic orthodoxy is problematic in social outcomes and a disaster for the environment"
6 e.g. Land-use conflicts (O’Looney, John. 1995:175), science research & development (Lowe in Bridgstock, Martin, et al. (eds) 1998:182), arts funding (Cunningham and Hartley, 2001:3)
7 Charles Landry (2000:139) outlines how "in the urban context creativity and innovation need to be seen as an holistic, integrated process covering…economic, political, cultural, environmental and social-multiple inventiveness" and develops a description of the creative sustainable city where environmentalism is a key distinctiveness.


Bridgstock, Martin, et al. (Eds) (1998) Science, Technology and Society, Cambridge University Press.

Carlson, Allen (2000) Aesthetics and the Environment: The Appreciation of Nature, Art and Architecture, London and New York: Routledge.

Chance, Ian Ed. (2002) 2002 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: conVerge: where art and science meet, Melbourne: Thames and Hudson.

Caves, Richard E. (2000) "Buffs, Buzz and Educated Tastes", Creative Industries: Contracts Between Art and Commerce, Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press. pp. 189-200 (cited: Queensland University of Technology 2002, KKB018 Creative Industries Readings).

Creative Industries Task Force, Mapping Document [Online], (2001). Available [Accessed 06 April, 2002].

Cunningham, Stuart and Hartley, John (2001) "Creative Industries: From Blue Poles to Fat Pipes". Paper presented to Australia Academy of the Humanities, National Summit on the Humanities and Social Sciences, National Museum Australia, Canberra, 26-27 July. (cited: Queensland University of Technology 2002, KKB018 Creative Industries Readings).

Gablik, Suzi, (1991) The Re-enchantment of Art, New York: Thames and Hudson.

Howkins, John (2001). "The Core Creative Industries", The Creative Economy: How People Make Money from Ideas, London: Penguin, pp.82-117. (cited: Queensland University of Technology 2002, KKB018 Creative Industries Readings).

Landry, Charles (2000) "The Creative Milieu", The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators, London: Earthscan (cited: Queensland University of Technology 2002, KKB018 Creative Industries Readings).

Lawlor, Robert, (1990). Earth Honouring: The New Male Sexuality, Vermont: Millenium Books.

McQuire, Scott (2001) "When Is Art IT?" in Brown, H, ET al. (Eds) Politics of a Digital Present: Fiberculture Reader, Melbourne: Fibreculture Publications (cited: Queensland University of Technology 2002, KKB018 Creative Industries Readings).

Miles, Jack (2000) Global Requiem: The Apocalyptic Moment in Religion, Science, and Art. In Cross Currents: Association for Religion and Intellectual Life, Issue: Fall, 2000.

Naveh, Zev (2000) The Total Human Ecosystem: Integrating Ecology and Economics, in BioScience Online: American Institute of Biological Science, Issue: April, 2000.

Neumaier, Otto, (1994). (after Meister Eckhart, Nicholas of Cusa, St.John of the Cross). (cited: Bill Viola: Video Installations and Video Tapes in the Salzburger Kunstverein, Kunstlerhaus, August 11 – October 2, 1994. p 86).

Noble, Michael. (2002) Fibreculture Digest, Vol 1 #397:Re:Meme No.?, Retrieved 06 April, 2002, from

Oakes, Baile Ed. (1995) Sculpting the Environment, London: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

O'Looney, John. (1995). Economic Development and Environmental Control, Quorum

Schafer, Murray R. (1994). The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and Tuning of the World, Vermont: Destiny Books

Sheldrake, Rupert (1993) The Rebirth of Nature: New Science and the Revival of Animism, London and Sydney: Rider.

World Scientists' Warning to Humanity , Union of Concerned Scientists. [Online], (1993). Available [Accessed 01 April, 2002].

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