The crisis of representation is frequently invoked in relation to politics, while it is in fact general and global; it impacts scientific fields — researchers struggling to renew their questions and methods — and it is an extension of this crisis that has been troubling, for more than two centuries now, the world of art, in its quest for political relevance and renewed links with the social sciences.
Our difficulties in representing what we are and what we are to become, as well as the dire importance of being able to do so, have been particularly highlighted by the environmental crisis. Debates over the causes and extent of climate change, and hence over whether radical changes in lifestyle are required, have been generated by a multiplicity of ways of reading (political, economic, social, etc.) that are unduly compartmentalized. Decision making thus comes up against our collective incapacity to represent these challenges in a way that is at once precise, sensitive, sensible, and shared.

If we want to find a solution to this triple crisis of representation, to meet today’s challenges, to compose a common world, and to rekindle what has always been the great ambition of politics — to create a liveable and shared public space — we must collaborate more profoundly, learn from one another, and move forward together.

Hence the project of creating at Sciences Po an original and, to date, unique program that re-establishes the links between disciplines. We seek to invent a new way of working in which artistic practices play an essential role, on a par with academic research methods, in the joint analysis of a social issue, focused on one objective: making a political decision.

SPEAP thus aims to contribute to the public debate and to research on the modes of representation of the most pressing contemporary issues, and thereby to the revival of the great political questions: In what kind of a world do we want to live? Which version of the world and the global is preferable? How do we represent and simulate the various alternatives?

We are also convinced that putting artists and academic researchers to work together, over the course of an entire year, on a concrete and real-world project, in constant contact with the best the world has to offer in these respective domains, cannot but promote outstanding future careers.

This is the double ambition of SPEAP.

Bruno Latour
Vice-President for Research at Sciences Po
Director of SPEAP (Sciences Po – Experimentation in Art and Politics)

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