Response to Daniel Hill’s question: “what if a robot makes the scrambled eggs? Would it still be an art?”

Leonard Shapiro/ At the outset, let me say that robotics is not my field so please be as critical of my response as you need to be.

A robot would be programmed with the intelligent input of a human or a number of humans. When the robot makes decisions and then acts on these decisions based on its programming, it is acting within the parameters of its programming and therefore within the parameters and limitations of the human intelligence that it now contains. I am sure the robot can be programmed to randomly adjust some of its decisions. For example, to add a pinch more salt or whisk the egg more slowly or more quickly (which will introduce less or more air into the egg mixture). The parameters of ‘how much or how little salt’ can be pre-programmed; in other words, it would be pre-programmed not to add over a … Continue reading

Session 1 Still Lives! (Response to Elaine)

Werner Sun/ First of all: Elaine, many thanks for bringing a fresh perspective to this conversation! I very much enjoyed your talk on Saturday. I wanted to react to the comments in your post and also synthesize a few threads from elsewhere in Session I.

I wholeheartedly agree that the scientific method in practice is much messier than the way it is taught in schools. I made a similar point in one of my earlier comments. When I said that science is a way of thinking, I was referring to scientists’ underlying attitudes and worldviews, not any specific procedure for doing science.

Similarly, returning to a previous thread, the “core concerns” that I suggested we should unpack also reside on this fundamental level. Dan Weiskopf nicely characterized the practices of science. And Taney cited a definition of art from Sian Ede. But I’d also like to hear … Continue reading

Reply to Elaine and Taney ” A couple of ..”

Linda Francis/ The problem is language. We have more or less agreed upon it. So do we parse the structure of scientific method and then do we measure art by it? Or Taney, apropos of “reason” – How do we have a meta- discussion of  meaning in the language of art or science -It strikes me that there is no other way but to reason together, or alternately, produce work together that is critical in and of the genre in which it is operating. It brings us back to the necessity of fluency in each language.  Perhaps the example that Elaine uses re: scientific thought and evidence taking a back seat to – knowledge? In any case, I think there is some problem in what art is doing with itself too. Is it able to discover new things or is it hampered by its own conventions? How can we use … Continue reading

Reply to M Ricciardi

Linda Francis/ There is no argument here regarding the many possibilities for art and science together, there is only my dismay at a catch-word that has the effect of limiting the dialogue, characterizing the work in a superficial manner, and leaving the enterprise vulnerable to the usual swings of the marketplace.… 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

A couple of other loose ideas

Elaine Reynolds/ People on the thread talk about science as a way of thinking and I agree.  However, in my view science is carried out less like the traditional scientific method we all learned about in high school and more like an exploration. It is often a flawed enterprise.  For example, the current connectome project, which seeks to map structural and functional connections in the brain, is not a hypothesis driven project; it is a collection of data points that can be explored for pattern and purpose. This was also true of the much maligned human genome project.  Bias and interpretation is a huge part of science. The idea of scientists as objective viewers of reality is a farce. Unconscious bias creeps in to perturb objectivity. Results are fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and puzzle pieces rarely fit together neatly.  As I said [at our opening event], my advisor … 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

Response to Stephen Nowlin’s Examples of Sci-Art

Werner Sun/ Responding to:

Stephen, thank you for your list of successful sci-art works (link above). Each of them is unique and wonderful, and they certainly incorporate scientific ideas in surprising ways. But what’s interesting is that, if I had encountered any one on its own, I would probably not have identified it as sci-art per se (except the Jim Campbell, and only then because of its title). Even the Bela Tarr film, which makes the most explicit use of science, strikes me simply as superb filmmaking.

Why has the “sci-” prefix primarily been applied to visual art (your one musical example notwithstanding)? Why wouldn’t we refer to a poem about the solar eclipse as sci-poetry? [As a concrete example of science in poetry, I would offer James Richardson’s “Essay on Wood”.] A related question: how has sci-fi seemingly transcended its prefix?

I think a common thread in all … Continue reading

Response to Jeanne Brasile on Sci-Art as a Trend . . .

Stephen Nowlin/ I agree with Jeanne that Sci-Art will continue to be a way of relating to the world even as it morphs into the future, and I think it’s an important topic to try and unpack. For the moment, Sci-Art criticized as a kind of fad or fashion, temporary obsession, etc, is something to which it is vulnerable, and one which may be helped by discussions such as these that provide some historical perspective.

One lens through which to view that history begins in the mid-nineteenth century and the gradual metamorphosis of representational painting into abstraction and non-objectivity by the early decades of the twentieth century. It is not accurate to declare the period to have begun a permanent decline in representation and its symbolisms, since to this day representational art persists in abundance. But I think it is accurate to say that the introduction of abstraction created not … Continue reading

Response to Daniel Hill on epistemological chasms as unbridgeable

Leonard Shapiro/ “But the epistemological differences between the two make a true convergence unlikely in our lifetimes and perhaps never.”

Despite the epistemological constructs that separate art and science, one can still build a bridge and forge practical links (on an individual basis i.e. literally in the work that one does), between art and science. I teach an observation method that involves touch and drawing to medical students and medical practitioners in order for them to dramatically improve their ability to observe the 3D form of the human anatomy.  I see the work that I do as having made a small bridge between art and science, but a bridge all the same. More of these practical examples can happen.… Continue reading