As we open this forum to the public today, I’d like to welcome everyone to the online component of Strange Attractors: Art, Science, and the Question of Convergence. First, I want to extend my thanks to all our panelists for enthusiastically accepting our invitation to share their thoughts on art and science over the course of the next ten days. Thanks to this diverse group of accomplished artists, scientists, writers, and curators, the forthcoming dialogue promises to be dynamic and illuminating.
For those of you who missed our opening presentations at CUE last night, we’ll be posting links to both James Elkins’s lecture and the diagram our audience participated in creating with Matthew Ritchie. We hope you’ll take a look at those to get a sense of the ideas that sparked a lively and probing discussion at the end of the evening. (If it’s any indication of the degree of interest in our subject, last night’s event lasted for four hours, with many of our stalwart guests staying well past the stated end time.)
Over the coming days we’ll be addressing four interrelated topics here, each roughly delineating one aspect of our subject, to be introduced by a set of questions issued at the start of each session. Both the topics and the questions are intended to catalyze dialogue and to provide a structure for the discussion. Participants are welcome to respond in any way they see fit, whether from personal experience or from a theoretical perspective. Excursions, deviations, and musings of all kind are encouraged.
Throughout, we’ll welcome moderated comments from our reading audience. Please note that there may be a slight delay before your comment appears, as we’ll be making an effort to place reader contributions in a relevant context within the flow of the dialogue.
Our first topic, which we’ll be exploring today through Tuesday evening, is: Language Matters: Defining Our Terms. Below are the questions for Session I.
1.1 James Elkins has memorably called the dialogue between art and science a “drunken conversation,” one in which both sides—even when mutually enamored— perpetually misunderstand and talk past each other. With a view toward a more sober exchange, how might we comprehensibly articulate the essence of each? Perhaps more important, what is each emphatically not?
1.2 With the sci-art movement gaining momentum, we’re hearing more talk of the “convergence” of the two fields. What is meant by convergence? Is what’s being proposed a synthesis, or something more like a complementary relationship? If the former, why is sci-art a branch of art and not science?
1.3 However we define convergence, what does each field stand to gain from a prospective partnership?
1.4 As currently conceived, what is sci-art, and who is its intended audience? Granting that it is a branch of art and not science, how does it expect to be met by the scientific community?
1.5 Given that art has always appropriated images and ideas from other domains of culture, on what grounds do we need a special category for art that incorporates scientific content? Why sci-art?