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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

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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