Science Meets Art & Design
The ArtScience Interfaculty between the University of the Arts in the Hague and Leiden University aims to stimulate students to think about global developments in an artistic way. It focuses on technology and science with a view to discovering new contexts and forms in which art can function.
A lot of the teaching and research programmes concern the transformations caused by developments in science and technology. The base is interdisciplinary and the confluence of media art, music, theatre, film and visual art is always considered as self-evident.
During the twentieth century there have been two such waves, the first being in the 20s and 30s, marking the beginning of modern art, industrial design, modern music and modern architecture. The second such wave was in the 50s and 60s, marking the birth of electronic music, video art, interactive art and generative art.
Both of these periods shared a sense of optimism about potential future developments, but also a sense of responsibility for the artist who had to fulfill a specific mission to help ensure this positive potential.
Culture often lags behind the advances in technological control of the world, and according to Bauhaus artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, this lag is one of the root causes for excesses such as exploitation and war.
In the current wave of interest in the ArtScience connection a number of views on the interactions between art and science can be distinguished. A form of collaboration that has become almost common is one in which scientific concepts are seen as a kind of content, and where the artist translates these concepts into images, sounds or other experiences. This can reduce the artist to a kind of scientific communicator, but in most cases it triggers radically new kinds of artistic development. Also it can result in works that help scientists to get a new, intuitive understanding of what it is they are doing, or works that comment on consequences of scientific developments.
Another form of collaboration is one in which scientists or technologists assist in realizing an artistic idea. This can reduce the scientist or engineer to a kind of art facilitator, but more often the artistic idea itself is informed by a new awareness of possibilities. Also the artists can help trigger new directions of research by posing uncommon problems.
A more complex and much more interesting zone between art and science has been described in two recent books. In his book ArtScience (2008) David Edwards cites many examples from the worlds of science, art, civil society and industry that show how transposing ideas or strategies from one field to the other often results in radical innovation. ArtScience for him is an intermediate area of creativity where neither art nor science are clearly defined: stimulating this zone he considers to be one of the key strategies to foster innovation.
In his Information Arts (2002) artist and theorist Stephen Wilson gives an encyclopedic overview of many new forms of art that have their origin in current science and technology.
Art and science share the aim of enlarging the scope of our ideas about the world. By inventing new media and new artistic languages, art can create new worlds of experience. By widening our imagination it also creates new kinds of thinking, as we can not think about the things we can not imagine.
As Gyorgy Kepes, founder of the Centre for Advanced Visual Studies at the MIT wrote in 1956: "The images and symbols which can truly domesticate the newly revealed aspects of nature will be developed only if we use all our faculties to the full - assimilating with the scientists brain, the poets heart and the painters eyes. It is an integrated vision that we need; but our awareness and understanding of the world and its realities are divided into the rational - the knowledge frozen in words and quantities - and the emotional - the knowledge vested in sensory image and feeling."
The ArtScience Interfaculty is entering its twentieth year, but - like the world it is part of - the contents and structure of its programme are continuously transforming.
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