"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious — the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science." — Albert Einstein
The words 'art and science', 'sci-art', and 'the intersection of science and art' are often to be heard in arts circles right now. Revolving around the interplay between artistic and scientific interpretations of ideas, art and science collaborations are very much on the rise. However, the bond between art and science is far from new; the boundaries between art and science are - and always have been - porous and diaphanous. Both science and art use imagination and creativity to develop ideas and explore the world. Both are questioning, inventive disciplines. Art and science collaborations are seen as new because we have come to perceive the arts and sciences as enclosed and separate. But if this hasn’t always been the case… how did the idea of a barrier between them come about?
Science and Art have a long and illustrious shared heritage. It’s not just the heritage of scientific illustration (important though that is). Nor is it solely about the beauty of scientific images that have fascinated humanity. We’re talking about genuine fluidity between art and science. At certain points in history, there has existed a kind of “universal polymathy”* – art and science worked together, were learned together, and a good education consisted of both arts, humanities and sciences. The great and the good were just as likely to be seen at a talk about the latest developments in science, as at a fashionable art gallery. That’s not to say there was never friction. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, famous for writing Faust, was also a keen natural scientist. On the difficulty of incorporating poetry in scientific treatises, he lamented that both scientists and poets were forgetting“that science had developed from poetry, and they failed to take into consideration that a swing of the pendulum might beneficially reunite they two, at higher level and to mutual advantage.”
However, at some point in the 20th century, much firmer walls were erected around art and science in the minds of many. The pendulum seemed to stop swinging at all. There are many reasons behind this; widening participation in education, and an increasing pace of change and discovery, in some ways necessitated compartmentalisation. The perception of science searching for answers, and art seeking new questions, each in their separate ways, became embedded. Today, the increasing specialisation of both fields means each develops a language of its own; these exclusive and specialised languages can exclude other disiplines, and the wider public. The current trend for science-art public engagement projects has partly arisen to try and address the resulting communication problem.
So is the current trend for shared explorations at the intersection of art and science a swing of Goethe’s pendulum? Science and art undoubtedly go about addressing life’s questions in different ways, but is the movement for tackling these questions together a long term reunion in the public psyche? Perhaps it is too early to say. What is certain is that art and science are each seeking through the other to re-engage with society, and address issues of communication. The idea that this is a productive approach has gained huge momentum in the past 10 years and shows no sign of slowing.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at this. The intersection of art and science is wonder; and our wondering minds can’t be contained for long. Art and Science can't be kept separated. They've been secretly holding hands the whole time. We’ve seen their relationship since Da Vinci and Goethe, through CH Waddington to Vik Muniz, and beyond. Today, the impact of this new flowering of the art-science relationship is wide-ranging. From Greg Dunn's neuroscience studies www.gregadunn.com/category/mic…
, to Mia Ando's bioluminescent 'Obon' miyaando.com/?page_id=1669
, to Masao Kinoshita's exaggerated anatomy www.juxtapoz.com/current/alien…
, you'll find amazing cocktails of the artistic and the scientific everywhere you look. So here’s a selection from the intersection of art and science here on dA, and links to artworks, groups and collectives. You can also find more at the dA scientist-artists group.
*V&A essay on Art and Science; - www.vam.ac.uk/content/journals…
Symbiartic – a great SciAm blog on the intersection of Art and Science: blogs.scientificamerican.com/s…
The Art & Science Journal: www.artandsciencejournal.com/
At the Interface – PLOS blog: blogs.plos.org/attheinterface/
The Beautiful Brain; thebeautifulbrain.com/
AXNS collective: axnscollective.org/
Art and technology member organization - www.asci.org/
GV Art; www.gvart.co.uk/
Imagining Science collaboration; imaginingscienceart.blogspot.c…
The Arts Catalyst: www.artscatalyst.org/
And to end on a humorous note - here's a little sciart fun, enjoy!