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Inside an Art-Science Collaboration

03/12/2013 in Art, Artifact, Collaborations, Imperial College, Science

This week we hear from Andy Roast, an ex-science communication student from Imperial College London who shares with us a condensed version of his dissertation that explores how metaphor is used extensively in art & science collaborations.

Different stages of chromosome segregation in mitosis: cell in metaphase. DNA (blue), the axes of sister chromatids stained with topoisomerase II antibodies (red), the mitotic spindle stained with tubulin antibodies (green). Courtesy of J.-F. Giménez-Abián. via http://www.mitosys.org/

Last year I was lucky enough to meet some real-life, art-science facilitators. The MitoSys project aims to observe the interactions between 600 proteins involved in cell division, with the goal of uncovering how individual protein molecules contribute to cell division as a whole.

This is an interesting scientific project. But even more interesting from an art-science perspective is that the multimillion Euro’s worth of funding provided by the European Commission came with a condition: that there must be a public exhibition of the results.

Enter Marina Wallace, Professor of Curating at University of the Arts London: Central Saint Martins and Director of the art-science organisation, Artakt. Marina is well known in art-science circles, having successfully curated many exhibitions including one about the pioneering geneticist Gregor Mendel at the Abbey of St Thomas in Brno: the very place in which he worked.

My role with this group was to observe how curators and art communicators facilitated a discussion between scientists and artists.

C P Snow is well known for noting that discussion between the ‘two cultures’ of art and science is rare. Perhaps this is due to the different purposes of each subject: science, through method and reason, attempts a precise description of natural occurrences, whereas art can convey an idea, feeling or emotion.

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Bridging the Gap.

25/11/2013 in Affective Disorder, Art, Central Saint Martins, Collaborations, Events, MA Art & Science, Science

In reaction to interdisciplinary subjects such as art and science collaborations gaining more of a foundation in the academic community, Central Saint Martins have developed a new MA which encourages its students to integrate the creative relationships between art and science with their work. Here’s Sivan Lavie – one of the course’s latest intake – to tell us what making the transition from scientist to artist really feels like, and how her past academic experience as a scientist is fuelling her work as an artist. 

I’m a psychology graduate, from the University of Birmingham. Upon finishing high school, I wanted to read a subject that combined all my interests, in writing, creativity and scientific evidence, so I chose psychology. I had a very interesting three-year experience. But on the side, at night in my room, I would make art. It was a gradual process that spilled out of me, I didn’t really see myself as an artist until I was in my third year, yet creating was an integral part of my life, and going to see art at galleries was something I always craved. I took art at school, yet felt restricted by the silent consensus of what ‘good’ art should look like (mostly a realistic painting style) and felt very offended when a classmate said my drawings were ‘cartoon-like’.

Art school, Central Saint Martins, is the opposite of what I experienced at high school. It’s also nothing like studying psychology at Birmingham. The Art and Science MA started running in 2011, having its first graduate show in May this year. From my first day this September, I was filled with wonder, as the twenty students in the class are all from diverse backgrounds, from quantum-physics to the history of public hygiene, to anthropology. But all of them are also deeply passionate about art, which makes it such an intriguing pioneering experience. Art and Science is a relatively new field; we are stepping on fresh ground as a class, and forging links between the scientific and art worlds. Coming from different experiences, our art techniques are dissimilar, yet interconnections can be illustrated and deepened as we work together and learn about each other’s disciplines.

Coming from a class of two hundred, from which only about ten students actually cared about psychology, to a class of twenty students who are eager to learn, experience and grow, is something that inspires me, as well as being in the centre of the art world, here in London.

Holly Owen

Work by Holly Owen another student of the CSM MA

My amalgamation of art with science focuses around affective disorders, specifically depression, and its bidirectional relationship with art. Having suffered from clinical depression as well as having studied the illness to great detail at university, I believe it is thoroughly important to educate the public about the sheer force of depression and its related phenomena, to remove stigma and undervaluing of the illness. Grayson Perry said in his Reith Lecture series that art’s function as the communicator of ‘the big ideas’ has been eclipsed by the media. Personally, I think that the media educates us to a certain degree, but with mental illness, especially affective disorders, seeing art can be imperative, because art holds a truth, a strong emotive effect that speaks louder than words. Perry adds that art has the advantage of ‘seeing the real thing’, which feeds into my idea of the experiential aspect, essential for comprehending an affective experience.

A piece by Sivan

A piece by Sivan

As the year progresses and we’ve already had an interim-interim show, we hope to continue to utilise all resources we have, from fantastic workshops here at CSM (from photography-developing to silk-screen printing to metal-work), the amazing opportunity of being in a vastly creative environment with people from numerous disciplines who we can share ideas with, glean information from and collaborate, by creating links with art-science societies such as the Wellcome Trust, the GV Art gallery, and looking into our own scientific fields and finding subtle, interesting connections with art which can be further explored.

This piece was written by Sivan Lavie, for more of her work visit her website: Cargocollective.com/lavie-art 

 

 

Gemma Anderson

19/11/2013 in Art, Artifact, Collaborations, Imperial College, Matematics, Opinion, Science

If you’re looking for inspiration, this week we hear from Royal College of Art alumnus Gemma Anderson who tells us about her experience as Leverhulme Artist in Residence within the maths department at Imperial College London. 

Our artistic collaboration began in 2011, when I found myself reading the article ‘A Periodic Table of Shapes’ in the Imperial College Newsletter. The article described the research of Mathematicians Tom Coates and Alessio Corti, who study geometric forms called Fano Varieties that are “atomic pieces” of mathematical shapes.

I immediately took the article back to my studio and began making drawings, exploring the Fano forms.  This subsequently developed into a full collaboration, first with Coates and Corti and then later also with Dorothy Buck.

Drawing has played an essential role in our project.  During hundreds of conversations about scientific ideas — about string theory, hyperbolic geometries, polyhedra, topology, knot theory, DNA, and many other topics — drawings have formed the bridge that allows interdisciplinary communication.

fanoetching72
These drawings are largely informal, notational, and schematic.  They accompany and form an integral part of conversations, with drawing functioning as a non-verbal, intuitive language for scientific concepts.  The precise role of drawing differs from place to place in the conversation: communicating the visualization needed for understanding; sharpening these visualizations; or creating understanding (for the drawer) through the physical act of drawing.

Drawing also plays a different, and deeper, role in our collaboration.  Because the creative processes of the mathematicians involved are heavily visual and drawing-based, I can witness and connect to the process of doing mathematical research; this directly inspires artworks based on the geometries and forms involved. In turn, I respond with unique insights and resonances, the result of my practiced observational drawing practice across the natural world.  The works that we create thus admit multiple overlapping perspectives, holding within them as they do the different logics of the artist and the mathematician.

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To find out more about Gemma’s work and see some of her past exhibitions visit her websites below: 

www.isomorphology.com

www.gemma-anderson.co.uk

The Return of Artifact

11/11/2013 in Artifact, Collaborations, Imperial College, Imperial College Union, RCA, RCASU, Royal College of Art, Update

Artifact is back for another year! With an exciting programme of events and lectures planned over the next academic year, here’s our Co-Chair, Ros Pearce to tell you what we aim to create and why she got involved.  

The Imperial College Union is once again teaming up with the Royal College of Art, in an exciting opportunity to promote communication and collaboration.

Artifact works like this: following a series of social events, scientists and artists from each college form partnerships. Taking inspiration from each other, these partnerships will work together to submit a proposal for the Artifact summer exhibition, to be shown at both Imperial and the RCA.

As a Scientist perhaps you would like the opportunity to explore your work creatively. Your work may have emotive or aesthetic value that you had not previously considered. Maybe you feel that your area has the potential to generate discussion. This is your chance to share your passion for your field with others.

As an Artist perhaps there is something that fascinates you about science. Science is transforming our world and our lives. Scientists can be seen as wizards, creators, destroyers, heroes, and the area of science commands incredible respect and power. Or perhaps there is a particular kind of expertise that you need to realise your ideas. Artifact provides a unique opportunity to access such expertise.

There is an increasing interest in interdisciplinary art, and I believe that some of the most thought-provoking work can come from the collaboration of the ‘two cultures’. From a young age people are sorted into ‘those who can do science’ and ‘those who can do the arts’. I think this is an oversimplification of the human intellect, and something that I always found restrictive. After all, some of the best scientific ideas have come from thinking creatively, and many artistic mediums require considerable technical expertise.

This is why I jumped at the opportunity to get involved with Artifact. Bringing together some of the brightest minds from two world-renowned institutions is sure to have interesting results. I’m already very excited to see what the final exhibition brings!

 

Ros – Vice-Chair