Thuistezien 208 — 17.03.2021

Carel Stolker & Johan Simons
Encounters #4

How do the arts and the sciences go together? Are they separate disciplines or are they rather doing the same thing? Is it a good idea to be able to ‘graduate’ in the arts, where theory and creativity meet in the middle? Would this be a possibility for new forms of perception and intuition to arise, and would it perhaps generate more acknowledgement? Carel Stolker is Rector Magnificus of Leiden University and discusses the role of universities in society, where education of students is not the sole function they account for. They also give direction to the norms and values that preside as a protected free zone for research, creativity, critique and forward thinking. Actually this applies for the arts too, even though they differ in method, resources used, and platform. Johan Simons is a theatre and opera director and describes the challenges of the arts within the cultural sector, particularly given the increasing pressure and preconditions put in place by a neoliberal society that emphasises technology and economy. Nevertheless the expectation is entertained that art is free of ideology, tests the limits and asks the big questions. This contradiction could be turned around by an alliance between the arts and the sciences. Student protests have on the one hand shown that a society can’t be organised around efficiency or yield, and on the other it reassures that there is a spirit to change. Where art bases itself mainly on intuition, and science on repeatable definitions, they share the same need for creativity. This flourishes where there is room for chance and play. Which circumstances would be required and ideal for this fruitful promise of collaboration? And which conditions still have to be in place realistically, for the teacher as well as the student, for the artist as well as the public? (this conversation is in Dutch)

Carel Jan Jozef Marie Stolker is a Dutch jurist, who was Rector Magnificus and head of the Executive Board of Leiden University from 2013 to 2021. Hij was professor of private law at the same university from 1996 to 2021, and dean of the faculty of law in Leiden from 2005 to 2011.
Johan Simons is a Dutch theatre and opera director and theatre intendant. He led the theatre groups Hollandia, ZT Hollandia and NTGent. Until 2015 he was the artistic director of the Münchner Kammerspiele. In 2015-2017 he was in charge of the Ruhrtriennale, an art festival in the Ruhr area in Germany.

Text: Yael Keijzer