Note to Readers: Art and Science in The Brooklyn Rail

Taney Roniger/ As an extension of our Strange Attractors conference, I was invited to serve as Guest Editor of the Critic’s Page in the December/January issue of The Brooklyn Rail. The section, which features 20 essays by selected conference participants and an introduction I wrote to give them context, further explores some of the ideas we covered in our symposium. The Critic’s Page can be found on the Rail’s homepage: .

My hope is that by extending our audience to include the Rail’s readership we’ll be able to continue the dialogue on a larger scale. Comments from Rail readers can be made in the comments section under this post.  Rail essay contributors will be checking this site regularly through the end of the year, so let us hear from you!

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Drunken conversation or exquisite corpse?

Dan Weiskopf/ At the outset of our discussion, encounters between science and art were framed by James Elkins’ seductive image of the drunken conversation. A conversation may meander, lose its way and double back, but no matter how confused things become, it is still held together by the cooperative norms that prescribe mutual intelligibility as a goal for all parties. These norms, even if allowed to lapse in practice, always hold out the prospect of achieving a hazy form of comity.… Continue reading

One More Thought Experiment

Werner Sun/ Inspired by what Dan and Suzanne said about the boundaries of sci-art:

We have been focusing on science-based art, but it might be interesting to consider the implications of the converse — art-based science — by which I mean the study of art objects using scientific techniques. There are many examples: violin makers systematically quantify how violins produce their distinctive sound (also this), physicists have deduced what Jackson Pollock knew about paint, and at the lab where I work, x-rays have revealed hidden layers in a Picasso painting. Some artists are uncomfortable with such work because they feel this reductionist approach diminishes the human element and dispels the mystery in art. I wonder why it has to be either-or. Why can’t have it both ways?

In physics, we often study phenomena that admit multiple (sometimes mutually exclusive) descriptions — light is both wave and particle. … Continue reading

Conclusions and Acknowledgements

Taney Roniger/ When we began this dialogue eleven days ago, one of my main objectives was to impose some sobriety on what James Elkins has memorably – now perhaps indelibly — called the drunken conversation between art and science. Establishing clarity and eradicating misunderstandings, I was convinced, was the only way sci-art could mature as a genre. How quickly I was disabused of this notion! Indeed, if there’s one thing that’s been made clear to me over the course of this symposium, it’s that working with only partial understandings can be wonderfully generative, and that by taking little stabs at sense from numerous different angles we can generate ideas and questions wholly unforeseen at the outset. Such has been my experience here, and I can honestly say I’ve learned not just more than I’d hoped for, but more about things quite other than I’d anticipated.

We’ve covered so much ground

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Comment from Suzanne Anker

Suzanne Anker/ Taney, thank you very much for your efforts in helping to clarify some of the intersections between art and science.  As there is not one kind of science or one kind of art, more specific definitions and re-definitions are in order. One aspect not covered in the discussion is the notion of epistemic things, a term greatly referenced by Hans-Jorg Rheinberger in his writings.  He refers to epistemic things  as concepts in experimental systems.  That said, perhaps we can view art as an experimental system and begin to outline its attributes.… Continue reading

The Poetic Space

Gianluca Bianchino/ As I go about my career making works in dialogue with science, and therefore  participating in Sci-Art to some extent, I still believe the category itself is potentially unnecessary for it is the result of defining a trend and less so a movement in art.  We are in a strange age that orbits the very edge of Postmodernism, echoing the long undefined boundary of the solar system the Voyager space-crafts are traveling through.  Before these space-crafts securely reach another system will they be traveling through a forever undefined border? Perhaps we are currently making our way through an ambiguous region of our own as artists whose trends and categories are driven more by fierce market forces than intellectual rigor.  What will be the next definable phase in art and will that bring back movements as opposed to fashions?  That being said I still believe that Sci-Art will persist … Continue reading


Taney Roniger/ Heading into our final day here, I have to say that eleven days now feels woefully inadequate for the kind of dialogue we’ve been having! So many of the issues raised here beg for further exploration, while others equally rich in potential have gone all but untouched. That said, we’ll be keeping this forum live through the end of the year should anyone want to further pursue any of the ideas discussed. I’d also welcome posts with notices about other sci-art goings-on here in New York or elsewhere – it would be wonderful to get to know more of the sci-art community!

With an eye toward assessing the shape of the dialogue moving forward, Session V offers an opportunity for panelists and readers to weigh in on how you’d like to see it progress. I look forward to hearing your ideas.


Wed. No. 15, 2017

5.1 If … Continue reading