On Social Sensibility Research and Development and Work/Live
An Introduction by Alessandro Rolandi and Zhao Tianji
Social Sensibility Research and Development (SSR&D) is a department created for artist Alessandro Rolandi in Bernard Controls, a French company producing actuators for nuclear valves, with its Beijing branch located in a factory near the south 5th ring.
What is the Social Sensibility? After five years working on it, with it and for it, I still don’t know. This term was chosen together with the CEO of Bernard Controls Guillaume Bernard in 2011. We continue to resist specific models and definitions, hoping it will exist as a form of its own in order to stay active and alive.
Art is not the purpose, but a side effect that can influence the sensibility of those who are exposed to it. Social Sensibility attempts to extend this side effect to a broader audience, and to transform the relationship between art and people in creating an active and shared space. This is done by inviting artists to interact with people in working environments on a long-term base and in an informal way. By bringing art practice in direct contact with daily and working life, the aim is to inspire an audience of art users, instead of art viewers, whereas artists are challenged through this firsthand participatory experience. Economically speaking, Social Sensibility proposes the emergence of a parallel model to the existing one, in which artists would be supported financially not for the production of objects, but for their involvement with experimental and daring ideas, in the reality of society and working environments.
Social Sensibility engages with two socially driven forces: a transformative one and one that belongs to the realm of vigilance. The first one employs creativity, communication, critical thinking and art as a vehicle to give birth to a new organic social dynamic. The second one resists alienation, short-circuits hardwired behavior, and supports diversity, mutual respect and collective interaction as premises to awaken the social imagination for a foreseeable change.
The key moment is this physical encounter between artists and people, in which the rules of engagement are invented and negotiated all the time. In a tangible and relational space, this small and humble moment is very fragile but extremely precious, and it possesses unlimited potentialities. From this undisclosed territory of becoming, an intuition emerges and gradually takes the form of a quest into the nature of free will.