A specialist in European affairs and the management of cultural institutions, Lucía García began her professional career as a broker and risk analyst in Paris and London. She then returned to Madrid, where she was the coordinator of International Fashion Week and, later, the marketing director of ARCO, Madrid’s International Contemporary Art Fair. In 2006, a year before it officially opened, she joined the LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial in Gijón, to work closely with the founding director and set up the project as general coordinator and head of public programmes. She later took over as managing director and general secretary, positions she held until this year. Recently, following an open merit-based selection process, she was appointed general director of the iMAL (Interactive Media Art Laboratory) in Brussels.
We have traditionally associated science and technology with objectivity, analytical function, and reproducibility. We perceive them as particularly focused on the way things happen. At the same time, we think of art as a paradigm of subjectivity, associated with emotions, the search for questions and approaches to the answers. Lucía García believes that the convergence of all these characteristics in a complex web of different disciplines could lead us to new and particularly effective ways of addressing our current challenges. She isn’t referring to scientists and artists simply coming together to work with each other on a study and try collaborating on some projects. Nor does she think we should expect art to provide understandable, perhaps more aesthetic, perspectives on science and technology, because knowledge transmitted in this way is superficial. The gaps between artistic and scientific thought will only disappear if we integrate the two. One example of the integration she seeks is the way that Leonardo Da Vinci, perhaps the first person to practice this polymorphous discipline made up of hybrid expressions, explored scientific questions through art.
Art can play a key role in this three-element equation; especially in terms of the democratisation of knowledge, as well as its humanisation. However, from our guest’s the point of view, the main goal of these practices should be the creation of a source of inspiration and open-mindedness that sparks curiosity and stimulates creativity, imagination and critical thinking. She argues that if we ever achieve these results, we will be able to safely say that forging connections among the various actors in the web of art, science and technology is beneficial to human societies.
García is currently part of the assessment committee of S+T+ARTS, a programme launched a few years ago by the European Commission with the aim of creating truly hybrid contexts involving a wide variety of individuals from academic, cultural and industrial institutions and organisations. She admits that making these connections a reality is a challenge, but in any case, she is convinced that it’s a good idea to at least try.
The cultural scene in Brussels is extremely active. Immersed in this frenzy, the iMAL team is working on developing an action plan for the future. The organisation was founded over 20 years ago. Its first director, Yves Bernard, who had led Magic Media, played a key role in this project even before the creation of iMAL. Founded by a group of digital artists and engineers who felt the need for a space for experimentation where they could share knowledge and practices, it is, above all, a project run by the community itself. Its legal structure is that of an association in which the artists form part of the general assembly.
We’re interviewing Lucía García in the fablab laboratory, a paradigm of maker culture and the space in which most experimentation activities take place, though iMal also has residency and projection spaces. Experimentation and residencies are key elements of the action plan for the coming years, which will increase the number of research projects and production residencies, with the aim of offering the local community a workspace with a global scope. Hence, the presence of iMAL in various European projects. One of these is a large network of media art platforms. Another focuses on extended reality, that is, the convergence of immersive realities, such as virtual reality or augmented reality.
The iMAL project, however, is more ambitious and substantial. They are now planning a major annual event, a camp focused on the creation and provision of tools and resources that artists can use in creative processes. Despite these difficult times, in the midst of a pandemic, once all these projects see the light of day, iMAL will be ready to share all kinds of resources.
Regarding the social meaning of uncertainty, a topic that concludes each of the interviews in this series, García believes that cultural actors are uniquely well-positioned to propose new narratives that move us away from the fear of the unknown. It is necessary to explore ways of forging new frameworks that allow us to accept uncertainty without fear of the future. iMAL, located in Molenbeeck-Saint-Jean, one of the most disadvantaged communes in Brussels, has been working to create research spaces not just for creators. Rather, it has expanded its goals to reach the most vulnerable populations, for example, groups of elderly people who experiment with the technological resources at the fablab.
The idea is to fill in the gaps that we humans create when our fears haunt us. This act of filling in the gaps should lead us to regain a sense of belonging to a community, and indeed, community spaces for sharing and exploring which provide us with the means to face our fears from more grounded positions. Uncertainty has always been among us and always will be. We cannot escape it, but we can put our fears aside and be part of communities that make us feel that they are also part of us.
We should always be aware that fear is the worst guide when it comes to facing challenges.