Taney Roniger/ While many of the threads we started last Sunday are still going strong, today I want to propose another set that promises to be equally catalytic. Moving from theory to practice, our third session gets down to the meat and bones of the matter: How exactly is sci-art being made, and with purposes in mind? I’ll be especially curious to hear people’s perspectives on one of the most nagging issues of the genre: Is scientific imagery sufficient to invoke scientific content?

Modes of Engagement:
Exploring the Nature of Art’s Involvement with Science

Fri. Nov. 10 – Sun. Nov. 12, 2017

3.1 With what angles of approach are the various sci-art genres engaging with science? Does sci-art aim to celebrate, popularize, “problematize,” or challenge science? Can it do all four at once?

3.2 How is scientific content embodied in works of art?

3.3 What is the relationship between … Continue reading

Response to Linda (and, obliquely, to Werner)

Taney Roniger/

Linda, your question about what art can do and whether it’s being hampered by its own conventions resonates with me very deeply. I’ve been thinking a lot about the so-called “post-studio” movement that seems to be gaining momentum, and while I applaud the effort art’s making to move out into the world I also wonder if it isn’t in danger of losing the very thing that makes it worth bringing out there to begin with. This “thing,” as I see it, is none other than non-discursive thought, by which I mean the kind of thinking that happens beneath the plane of reason in that rich underworld that is the unconscious. This is what art embodies and the means by which it (very powerfully) communicates. What I see happening is that in its reach toward greater cultural influence, art is becoming more like other modes of discourse (which is … Continue reading

Comment from reader Michael Ricciardi

Taney Roniger/ We’ve received an impassioned comment from one of our readers challenging some of the statements that have been made here. In my great appreciation for the push-back, I’m reposting his comment here for anyone who might be interested in responding. Thanks for offering your perspective, Michael!

Michael Ricciardi/ Perhaps the debate over the meaning or purpose of ‘sci-art’ results from the placing of ‘sci’ before the term ‘art’. That said, I have no problem with the term as is. Further, in no way have I ever felt that this meant “Art in the service of Science”…Consider the 2015 exhibition at the Hall of Science Museum in NYC (which I participated in) called ‘Science Inspires Art – The Brain’ []. The exhibition of some 40+ works included several works that were both humorous and /or questioning of cognitive (“brain”) science, and a few that appropriated the theme to explore … Continue reading


Taney Roniger/ Moving into the second session today, I’ve a strong feeling we’re just getting warmed up. There have been so many thoughtful and provocative posts and comments here that many people have asked if the dialogue will be archived. I’m happy to say that indeed it will. In what exact form remains to be determined, but my hope is for some kind of print publication. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted.

While the opening session sought to clarify some of the language surrounding sci-art, Session II will encourage us to undertake some introspection as we examine the underlying attitudes, assumptions, and motives of the movement. Doing so will set us up nicely for the exploration of the various sci-art practices to follow. My hope for the next two days is that we’ll hear from some of our readers who’ve had a chance to reflect on the art-science nexus. … Continue reading

Response to Suzanne Anker’s question about “sci-art”

Taney Roniger/ Suzanne asks: “There is much discussion that references the term ‘sci-art.’ Where does this term come from? What is its origin?”

My understanding is that the term first appeared in popular parlance around the year 2000 in relation to the Wellcome Trust’s trailblazing sci-art program that ran from 1996 to 2006. Apparently it had been coined in the 1960s by an American artist and scientist named Bern Porter, but didn’t really catch on at the time.

I find it a somewhat problematic term. Others have been proposed (e.g., art-sci, art-science), but the main idea is the same. I often find myself wishing we could replace it with something else — something a bit less misleading — since language is notorious for perpetuating misconceptions. Perhaps someone will want to take a stab at that here?


 … Continue reading

Questions for Jim Elkins (and link to Saturday’s lecture)

Taney Roniger/ Since those of you who attended our opening event may have had questions for Jim after his lecture, I want to let you know that he’ll be with us here until tomorrow morning and then back briefly early next week. Whether you were with us on Saturday or not, you may want to take this opportunity to engage him on his views about art and science. Here’s a link to his lecture at CUE:

(Use the comments section at the bottom of this post.)… Continue reading

From the Ground Up (response to Werner)

Taney Roniger/ Like Werner, I’ve also been impressed by the enormous range of responses so far, each of which alone could keep us busy for the next few days. But because I so strongly agree with him about “going back to basics,” I want to pick up on that thread and see if we can take a stab at articulating the core concerns of each field. Werner has offered up a definition of science that cannot be emphasized enough, and this is that science is first and foremost a way of thinking. (Although we collectively swore the other night we’d never mention him again, indulge me here this one last time: even C.P. Snow perpetuated the ridiculous image of science as a grand filing cabinet of facts. One of his many blunders, to be sure.)  Would anyone care to offer a similarly succinct corrective on what art is, or what … Continue reading

Note to Readers

Taney Roniger/ Since a lot of the action seems to be taking place in the comments sections here, I may be re-posting some of the comments in the main feed over the coming days. Until then, be sure to check the comments sections beneath posts.… Continue reading

Response from James Elkins

James Elkins/

Sorry I missed the event: it sounds like it was great. I can be online until Wed. AM, when I’m off to see the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, where you can imagine there won’t be a speck of science, except in the Renaissance galleries.
Regarding the notion of a “drunken conversation”:  I agree with Suzanne. The expression “drunken conversation” was meant to indicate an interesting conversation: one driven by desires, one that overflows the boundaries of propriety, one that may not get anywhere right away but flows on with force and conviction until it arrives in some unexpected place.
I think we may have space for discussion when it comes to “knowledge.” I am not convinced by most of the theorizations of “knowledge” used, or implicit, in practice-led PhD programs. I don’t think “knowledge” is something always to be desired, and when it’s applied to visual … Continue reading

On the Question of Audience

Taney Roniger/ I think it’s significant that many of the posts so far have taken on the issue of sci-art’s audience. This is so very important, and it’s one of the reasons I’m interested in the genre to begin with. Above all, I see the growing sci-art movement as an earnest and impassioned attempt on the part of art to achieve greater cultural authority in these urgent times.  And I agree with Stephen that if it’s to be taken seriously, sci-art needs to stop presenting itself as a mere novelty. The question that comes to my mind is: If our aim is to reach beyond the ivory towers of academia and the narrow confines of the art world proper, how can we expect a nuanced and meaningful reception when the vast majority of the public is ignorant of art? Daniel, you say:  “If art can potentially expand its audience through … Continue reading