René Stettler is a cultural researcher with many years of international experience. He is the founder of the New Gallery Lucerne (1987) and the Swiss Biennial on Science, Technics and Aesthetics (1994). Both institutions are supported by the City and the Canton of Lucerne, the Swiss National Science Foundation, and private donors. Major topics such as Brain–Mind–Culture (1995), Liquid Visions (1997), Frontier Communication: Human Beings, Apes, Whales, Electronic Networks (1999), The Enigma of Consciousness (2001), Consciousness and Teleportation (2005), Consciousness and Quantumcomputers (2007), and The Large, the Small and the Human Mind (2010 and 2012) have been discussed at the Swiss Biennial by internationally acclaimed speakers such as the British mathematician Roger Penrose, the Austrian quantum physicist Anton Zeilinger and the German chaos theorist Otto E. Rössler. Together with Otto E. Rösser Stettler co-authored Interventionen: Vertikale und horizontale Grenzüberschreitung (1997) and is the editor of various publications, e.g. Zu einer neuen Quantenphysik des Bewusstseins. Gespräche an den Grenzen der Erkenntnis(2009) with Roy Ascott, Ulrike Gabriel, Ernst von Glasersfeld, Stuart Hameroff, Eduardo Luna, Josef Mitterer, Roger Penrose, Otto E. Rössler, Peter Weibel, and Anton Zeilinger. In 2003, he received the Swiss Art Award for his work as an intermediary between science and art. In the same year, he was also awarded a prize from the Canton and the City of Lucerne for his crosscultural and transdisciplinary projects. Stettler received his Ph.D. for the thesis The Politics of Post-Industrial Cultural Knowledge Work from the University of Plymouth, UK (2011).
My dissertation conducts in-depth inquiries into the practices, nature and theory of post-industrial cultural work, and the humanities- and arts-based civic dialogues which cultural work promotes. Given the broad neglect of utopian thinking in the mainstream of critical social science and in an attempt to sketch out a vision of an alternative future, the aim of this thesis in positing a different status for cultural work in the “politics of the present” is to outline an “epistemology” for post-industrial cultural work, and to reflect upon the outlook for sustainable, (self-)reflexive and ecological cultural work practices, and their function as a catalyst for civic dialogue and cultural change. As an intellectual and academic inquiry, the study is associated with the cultural aspects of society, and an ethical and socio-epistemological viewpoint/perspective for cultural work and public dialogue.
Interests and Teachings
My interests include the theory of post-industrial cultural work, the signification, interests and aims embodied in cultural production touching on issues of cultural and scientific learning, alternative modes of governance of science and technology, the spatialisation and dissemination of knowledge, cultural workplace identity, knowledge politics, cultural policy, and the biopolitical production of knowledge.
My areas of interest are in the sociology of knowledge and a new form of knowledge work for the humanities and the arts, (self-)reflexivity and non-knowledge, second-order approaches into cultural work practice, and the socio-epistemological-political responsibility of cultural work in the face of industrial society’s logic of accumulation, market rationality and instrumentalism.
My thesis and current work has been most influenced by the work of Michel Foucault and Bruno Latour, but more recently I have undertaken critical readings of contemporary thinkers such as Ulrich Beck, Hardt and Negri, and Doreen Massey, and of contemporary social and political thought on neoliberalism, globalization, and cosmopolitanism. In the past 10 years, I have supervised and examined many bachelor and master theses at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Lucerne, Switzerland. In 1994 I founded the Swiss Biennial on Science, Technics and Aesthetics.
In my seminars I address the growing public concern about issues to do with scientific research and technological innovation, globalisation, environment, social accountability, and procreation. To cultivate the students’ ability to critically reflect cultural, scientific and technological developments has not been an easy task. A key issue of my methodology in teaching is the cultivation of dialogues and transdisciplinary research ideas in order to support creative processes and channel them into arts and design thinking. With these seminars I touch on a wide range of subjects—industrial and cultural ethics; the construction of systems that mix politics, science, technology, and nature; the rethinking of the definition and constitution of modernity; the recognition of the connections between nature and culture—between our Western culture and others. I believe that perspectives fusing ideas and solutions are increasingly important. Not only because it is possible to recognize contemporary problems of rationality, reflexivity and transdisciplinarity more directly, but also in order to cultivate our awareness of a broader, fairer, and finer sense of possibility.
With the Artists-in-Labs-Project of the Zurich University of the Arts conducted between 2003 and 2005, we have encouraged education, innovative processes and new methods of knowledge production blending the disciplines of art and science. This project was the first of its kind in Switzerland. It included Swiss Science Labs in a wide range of disciplines such as bio-chemistry, bio-technology, solar energy, the computational and information sciences, electron microscopy, micro-electronics, artificial intelligence research, ecological risk research, micro robotics, nano technology, physics and the environmental sciences. The artists came from the working fields of conceptual art, computer animation, documentary film, human computer interface (HCI) research, living sculpture, performance art, robotic theatre, sound and video art, as well as wearable computing.
Texts and Essays
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