“Art + Science = Magic (Or Not?)” in Art Practical


In her brief introduction to the special “Art, Science, & Wonder” issue of Art Practical (7.2, October 30, 2015), Selene Foster notes,

“It can be argued that every discipline carries with it the potential for great wonder, but the arts and sciences scream the value of not-knowing from the rooftops, and I believe this is the reason that they have been considered kin almost as long as civilization itself.”

“The value of not-knowing,” indeed. While there are many significant differences between art and science, both are, as I write in my contribution to special issue, “realms of the question.”

“Contrary to the caricature of the scientist as the white-coated statistician ready to provide any and all answers, science is like a matryoshka doll, a series of questions nested within questions. The same is true of exemplary art, philosophy, and religion: any answer arrived at is merely a stage for another question.”

Despite my championing the burgeoning popular interest in “the art-science meme,” I used the invitation to contribute to the issue as an opportunity to play something of a contrarian, clarifying what is and isn”t valuable about the conversation — from my perspective, at least.

At one point, I harshly judge the vast majority of art-science collaborations, describing them as “vaguely “sciencey” artworks that baffle or amuse scientists and disappoint most artists.” I stand by that condemnation, but point out in the footnotes that there are “notable exceptions…like Brandon Ballengée or Philip Ross, whose projects succeed because they blur the line between artist and scientist/engineer.”

Brandon and Phil are both heroes in my art-science pantheon, and if there”s a measure of the quality of the Art Practical issue that Selene has put together, it”s that my fellow contributors include Brandon, Phil, and other artists, scientists, and thinkers of the first order!

I”m delighted and honored to be sharing (virtual) page space with Lee Smolin (who”s anonymously referenced in my essay, identified only as “a theoretical physicist”), Laura Splan, Gail Wight, Marina McDougall, Piero Scaruffi, and Lynn Scarff (of the Science Gallery Dublin)! What a killer line-up!

Click through to read my essay “Art Science = Magic (Or Not?)”), but I encourage anyone interested in contemporary art and/or science to read the entire issue…and let me know what you think in the comments!


Categories: art, BAASICS, science, wonder, and writing.

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