Online Symposium

A Multi-format Symposium.
Co-organized by CUE Art Foundation and Taney Roniger.
November 4 – 15, 2017.


SYMPOSIUM FEED

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: https://brooklynrail.org/ . 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 ...
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Symposium Transcript

Taney Roniger/ A note to readers: the transcript of our symposium is now available as a PDF and can be downloaded here: http://www.concatenations.org/SAASQC_Transcription.pdf.  ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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SESSION V

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 ...
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Response to Werner’s Thought Experiments — Will Science Replace Religion?

Stephen Nowlin/ Regarding Werner’s call for thought experiments on the future of the science-art enterprise, and my query on how science might someday replace religion. Werner asks “Do you have a sense of how this might work in practice?” Good, modest little question, Werner — kinda like asking for simple operating instructions on how to transform all of human history! But an excellent experimental thought challenge. So everyone please forgive me at the outset for the hubris of even imagining how such a massive change might actually happen . . . A first humble step might be to stop casting ...
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Translational research and everyday aesthetics

Dan Weiskopf/ The examples of science-art interactions discussed so far have mostly identified science with basic research and its products (theories, data, images, etc.). But science is heterogeneous, and the emphasis on theory neglects other forms it can take. Beyond the classical division between theorists and experimentalists, we also need to add modelers and simulation-builders, who craft and manipulate computational analogs of real-world systems. Perhaps most significant for thinking about science-art collaborations, though, is the comparatively new field of translational research ...
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“Nature is Infinitely Interdisciplinary”

Linda Francis / Jeanne’s post is certainly spot on. I think we sort of obliquely spoke about “knowledge” and didn’t really continue the discussion James began in regards to it. Matthew graphed the migration of modes of thinking from one position to another in history.  I agree with Margaret that the toughest part of the picture, even with this cascade of science into the culture’s consciousness, is in trying to work together to affect  real-world applications that are most often linked to politics.  Suzanne cited two programs that were applying pragmatic solutions to big political problems in a kind of ...
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Thoughts on the Future of Art and Science

Jeanne Brasile/ I think art and science both have much to offer one another.  One example that resonated with me recently was how scientists and engineers at MIT are using origami to overcome the difficulties of space travel – specifically using designs for solar arrays based on intricate folds to maximize energy use.   Similarly, physicist Robert J. Lang is also an origami master who similarly employs the use of folding to solve complex engineering problems at NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory.  I see that the future is not necessarily about a convergence of art and science, but how art and science can ...
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Sci-Art Fictions

Werner Sun/ Leonardo da Vinci is often cited as the original sci-artist and a paragon to be emulated because of his mastery of both art and science. But I wonder if Leonardo is a false idol, given how much both fields have evolved since his time. Science in the 1400’s was a far more speculative affair than it is today, not having been exposed to the instruments or mathematics or Enlightenment ethos that solidified its current cultural authority. And I suspect that most artists in the 1400’s viewed their craft in a utilitarian manner and not as the vehicle for ...
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SESSION IV

Taney Roniger/ The flurry of activity we saw here over the weekend has left us with much to ponder and discuss! While we continue to explore some of those questions, I want to issue the final set of prompts that will take us through Wednesday. Because we’ve covered so much material in so little time, and because so many of our panelists’ responses call for further discussion, we’ve decided to leave the conference site live through the end of the year. This will give everyone the opportunity to continue the dialogue and, should there be the desire, to respond to ...
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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, ...
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Response to 3.4 by Margaret Wertheim

Margaret Wertheim / As someone who trained in physics and mathematics and now works as an artist and a science writer I find that there’s a fair bit of confusion in the arts-practice sphere about what scientific research is, which is creating angst around the idea of what “research” might mean for arts practice. Let me begin with an anecdote: The other day I was speaking with an artist I respect about mathematics and I mentioned that when getting a PhD in math you have to come up with new equations. He was rather surprised and didn’t understand that new ...
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Response to Dan on activism

Linda Francis/ I do agree, particularly when, as a result of my failure to convince the Audubon Society and a number of associated land trusts with a very well researched and simply reasoned discussion, to actually take some position that would be in accord with their own conservation mandate, I understood in a flash how all is lost on a local level. If one multiplies/enlarges the willful ignorance that was at work, one can see why on a national level we are losing all too. In regards to your posts and Taney’s on Bernar Venet: I totally agree with your ...
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Some thoughts from Matthew Ritchie

Matthew Ritchie/ The question of what constitutes ‘scientific imagery and scientific content’ as specific terms separate from the representation of other forms of human enquiry is evolving – and therefore often poorly defined or indefinable. Even the term ‘scientist’ only appears in the early nineteenth century, in counterpart to the idea of the ‘artist’, precisely when it becomes clear there are many specific forms of science, just as there are many specific forms of art. The goals, uses, materials and processes of science and art are not necessarily exclusive, but are often mirrors of each other. In both fields, a premium ...
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Response

Linda Francis/ I certainly concur with Leonard’s post on legitimacy, although it is difficult to know how to judge things that we want to call art of any kind, and within that sci-art. The problem both Taney and Daniel have identified is the problem of relevance or authority in society as a whole.. But I ask this question: what do we want from sci art, and how is that similar or different from what we want from art in general. Taney and Suzanne speak about Activism or social relevancy in art. Bio-art when it is positively positioned gives us some ...
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Response to 3.5 from Suzanne Anker

Suzanne Anker/ As we continue the conversation, the “sci-art” proposition and its engagement is still not resolved. What is included in this set? Do we separate out the physical sciences from the biological ones? Bio Art may be a sub-set of this conjunction, but does it follow that there is a Physics Art? Geology Art? Mathematics Art? I don’t think so. When artists such as Damien Hirst or Marc Quinn or even Orlan employ dead animals, bodily fluids or molecular substances in their work, they are not referred to as belonging to the “sci-art” genre. What is included in this ...
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The Sci-Art Moniker and Art’s Fight for Relevancy

Daniel Hill/As has been touched on so eloquently elsewhere here, and as evidenced by the absence of Sci-Music or Sci-Poetry, the visual arts appear to be in a desperate position to retain some cultural authority.  Whether the alienation of the general public; the toll paid for years of cold, exclusive postmodernist jargon; a blind capitalist system dictating aesthetics via market value; or poor overall art education, the art world seems to be a bit of a mess right now.  It is no wonder that Sci-Art would emerge, but the moniker has become synonymous with an illustrative aesthetic which can lose ...
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Response to Leonard Re: ‘Giving Legitimacy to Nonsense’

Stephen Nowlin/ In his critique of “artworks which include random scientific imagery in order to ‘science up’ the artwork” Leonard Shapiro thoughtfully raises a fundamental issue for Sci-Art. The challenge is how to manage an artwork that appropriates scientific imagery for the purpose of evoking emotional reactions and transcendent associations which were not inherent in the imagery’s specific scientific origin, thus proffering for that imagery its legitimate resonance with broader ideas and sensations — and at the same time remaining true to the integrity of the science. When poeticizing or in effect acknowledging the genuinely ‘spiritualizing’ dimensions of science, it ...
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Sci-Art as Activism

Taney Roniger/ Since we’re on the subject of practice, I want to reintroduce a question Eve Laramee brought up early on in this discussion, which was: Is there a place for activism within sci-art? Given Eve’s own work as an environmental artist and activist, I think the answer is certainly yes. But I wonder if anyone would care to speculate about some of the complications inherent in this kind of work. It seems to me that when one’s explicit intention is to educate or raise awareness, it becomes especially important to get the science involved right and to relate it ...
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Art invoking the authority of Science in order to give ‘legitimacy’ to non-sense

Leonard Shapiro/ I have often seen artworks which include random scientific imagery in order to ‘science up’ the artwork; to give the artwork the veneer of being an artwork that is making a comment that is supported by science. This imagery is often unintelligible (to the general public and even to the visually literate) and can even consist of a fragment of the original scientific image.  In doing this, artists are doing science (and sci-art) a dis-service in that unintelligible sci-art imagery alienates non-scientists even further from approaching and understanding things scientific.  And it certainly alienates scientists from art and artists ...
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Response to Werner Sun

Leonard Shapiro/ The fundamental differences between the ‘language of art’ and the ‘language of science’.
It might be obvious and for that reason overlooked: each individual artist uses a visual language specific to them and we the viewer need to get to understand their unique language in order to ‘read’ and understand their artwork and what they are trying to ‘say’. Even fellow artists need to decipher the unique visual language that their fellow artists use.
Scientists (and indeed the whole science community) use a universally understood language. As such, scientists understand each other’s writings, terminology, visual imagery, annotations, etc ...
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The Problem of the Wall Label . . .

Stephen Nowlin/ There are, as this symposium shows, many approaches crowded under the Sci-Art umbrella. For the one having to do with exhibiting works of science-based art, the quaint convention of the gallery wall label conceals much deeper issues than its quietly pragmatic utility would suggest. First of all, gallery labels are annoying — tiny little extra rectangles, visual objects in themselves, that dot the wall and exude residue of having hawked one’s craftwork at a peg-board street fair. Worse, though, they trumpet the century outmoded single-channel notion that each work of art is “on display itself” rather than part ...
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transfigurations and exchanges

Linda Francis/ Dan mentions the possibility of art’s heuristic value to theorists or that it may be suggestive of new phenomenon to investigate. To inspire scientists, as well as of course others, is “not nothing” to quote Ray Johnson. And to be inspired by them, as I  wrote earlier, can be the subject of art. A personal example: I became friendly with a materials scientist who enjoyed coming over to my studio and talking with me about various ideas regarding science in general. We lost touch a couple of years later, when he moved to California to work on a ...
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Response to Jeanne: One Scientist’s Perspective

Werner Sun/ I would like to echo what Jeanne posted earlier. Speaking as a scientist, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in my own appreciation of sci-art is not knowing how I am supposed to react to the scientific content. Scientific ideas are often very difficult to explain to laypersons and even other scientists. But for practitioners, every scientific idea holds a specific meaning, and it plays a particular role in the development of a field. The same is true of instruments, data, equations, etc. Every component is a brick in a Jenga tower. So, when I see scientific material ...
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Transfigurations and exchanges

Dan Weiskopf/ I’m going to venture a strong claim: it’s impossible for scientific images and other materials to preserve their meaning when they’re imported into artworks. Images, simulations, and other visualizations are working images: they hone our research projects by operating as evidence, or as devices to reason with. They depend on an array of skilled interpreters, both human and technological. Making them idle by tacking them up for display shifts attention to other properties (their formal character, their allusive potential) that play no role in their working life. Elsewhere I’ve discussed some examples of how this happens in works ...
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Jeanne Brasile – Session III

Jeanne Brasile/The angles of Sci-art to which I am drawn stem from a fascination with science and popular culture.  My generation came of age during the Space Race and the development of shuttles, space stations and space probes.  Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and a legion of movies about space brought astronomy and physics to the forefront of our consciousness.  Medicine and Biology were also very salient areas of discovery and popular culture for those coming of age in the 1970s through the 1990s.  Though there was a multitude of approaches and themes to explore in Sci-art, what interests me the ...
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Session III – Data or No Data?

Gianluca Bianchino/ Currently Sci-Art appears to be partial to the popularization and celebration of the subject and less on the much needed self-critique, thus I thank this forum for engaging with the question. Given the current troubling political climate, strongly influenced by conservative zealots in tandem with a stubborn petrochemical economy, a claim could be made that Sci-Art is an institutional critique just by its mere existence and popularization where both conceptual and formal scrutiny may be seen as inconvenient at the moment.  Similarly to the relationship between Sci-Art and current politics, identity politics in art may be experiencing a ...
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Response to Taney and Daniel

Linda Francis/ So Taney and Daniel and all: because of your experiences, and mine although of a different generation, you can understand why I am wary of the sci-art label. In my generation as in all of them it seems, there holds sway some form of suffocatingly exclusive rhetoric ...
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Is scientific imagery sufficient to invoke scientific content?

Linda Francis/ Invoke  scientific content, yes, but produce content not necessarily unless we ask the same questions of both disciplines, “what is reality” notwithstanding. If we focus on one specific question maybe, and then agree to discuss each discipline’s findings in relation to the other. That might work. Perhaps a more narrow version of consilience, as Taney cited in the last session. Thinking about what Dan began in a reply to Werner regarding discursion reminds me of a particularly interesting conceit in art that is labeled “recursion”:  In one sense, artists are creating works that have to prove themselves as ...
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Reminder to our reading audience

Taney Roniger/ For those just joining us, much of the conversation is happening in the comments sections beneath posts. Be sure to check those wherever you see that comments have been made! ...
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SESSION III

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 ...
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Response to Stephen: Science Museum vs. Art Gallery, and other stuff . . .

Werner Sun/ Stephen, “sci-art” as a way-finding sign is such a refreshing way of approaching the term. It does shift one’s perspective when thought of that way. I am reminded of the “shut up and calculate” approach to physics, which has certainly had its successes. I suppose I am ambivalent about the term “sci-art” because it tends to color my interaction with any given work. It feels as if a certain lens has been placed in front of my eyes. Perhaps that is my problem and not yours. And thank you for sharing your videos with us. Congratulations on such a sensitively ...
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Response to Taney via Dan

Linda Francis/ I certainly agree with Dan Weiskopf’s  well taken points and enjoy his caveat -as if we could know. And Taney: that this romance has been going on through history and your observation: “Beneath all the cynicism and irony that set in with postmodernism it’s hard not to detect a really deep sadness compounded by a pervasive sense of insecurity about art’s agency as a cultural force.” Witnessing the demoralization of young art students in the face of postmodernism was tough. I realized that you cannot take a young developing cohort and tell them that their ideals and aspirations ...
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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 ...
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Just what is it that makes today’s science so different, so appealing?

Dan Weiskopf/ I’ll offer a few fairly wild speculations as to why now might be an especially propitious time for artists to take a special interest in science. (With the caveat that there may not be anything special about now except that we’re living in it.) ...
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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 ...
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Response to Werner: Science Museum vs. Art Gallery, and other stuff . . .

Stephen Nowlin/ Regarding some cited works of Sci-Art, Werner Sun comments that “. . . if I had encountered any one on its own, I would probably not have identified it as sci-art per se . . .” ( http://bit.ly/wernercomment ) Werner, thanks for your thoughtful comment, which raises really intriguing issues. First, on a broader subject being discussed, my two-cents is that I don’t really think “Sci-Art” rises to the definition of a brand — it’s rather more like a way-finding sign. It suffices, only. Personally, it kind-of covers what I do and maybe that’s as much as we ...
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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 ...
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2.1 What is it about contemporary science that makes it so inviting of art/science comparisons

Lorrie Fredette/ I have a few general thoughts. The first is our ability to access enormous amounts of information via the internet as well as the promotion of news, articles, stories via social media. Step in a bookstore and National Geographic Magazine covers are glossy images of the new brain, the study of the brain and the teen brain. Organizations work hard to get their messages out and do so via these platforms creating headlines of interest to rise above the fray. One of the more important avenue of accessibility is via the NPR program RADIO LAB!! Don’t forget Science ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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SESSION II

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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Response to Stephen Nowlin’s Examples of Sci-Art

Werner Sun/ Responding to: http://strangeattractors.cueartfoundation.com/more-on-how-art-and-science-know/#comment-66 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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Response to Taney’s post On the Question of Audience

Daniel Hill/ I used to like to make a thought experiment of trying to imagine the edge of any material object as magnification is slowly and steadily increased.  Physics has shown that any solid object is mostly empty space, so at some point in magnification, the boundary between the thing and no-thing would become difficult to determine.  Since thinking about the line between art and science can feel like wading into quicksand with no possible outcome, I like to think in terms of perspective.  One thing we can be sure of is that our tenures on this planet are exceedingly ...
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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: https://youtu.be/o62nyrpcMk0 (Use the comments section at the bottom of this post.) ...
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Session 1

Jeanne Brasile/In thinking about the idea of a ‘convergence’ between art and science, I see this not so much as a union of two disciplines, but rather, a meeting of the minds.  Sci-art is a trend, a catchy name to describe something that artists have been doing quietly for some time without an official title.  If you think back, Sci-art has pretty much always been ‘a thing.’  Georges Seurat was studied in the science of optics.  Robert Smithson was interested in the geometric properties of molecules and crystalline structures.  Kenneth Snelson worked with the forces of physics and was inspired ...
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1.5 There is no sci-art

Linda Francis/ Science can be the subject of art,  just as reason can be a method or operation in making art and then in understanding it. It can be style. But the appellation “sci-art” is a brand, a useful commodification just as the embrace of science in the popular media is a necessary sale to the public in a world which is increasingly underpinned  by the sciences.  The allure to artists: the gorgeous imagery, structure, form of the macro/micro revealed in photographs and stories of escape from society’s more clearly repulsive  spectacle. It opens onto the usual discussions of aesthetics ...
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More on How Art and Science Know . . .

Stephen Nowlin/ Science, of course, investigates and knows about many things but let’s just take one category, astronomy. It’s likely that most of the planet’s current human population knows through education or at least general cultural awareness that the Earth orbits the Sun and the Moon goes around the Earth. And my guess is that (just speculation here, and despite sporadic droplets of broader knowledge many now encounter through contemporary sources like Discovery or Science channels, Facebook posts, CNN headlines, or fading Sagan-Cosmos memories), . . . that this simple Copernican Sun/Moon/Earth relationship is about the extent to which a ...
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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 ...
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Semantic Sprawl

Werner Sun/ Thanks to everyone for all the posts so far and for such a stimulating discussion at the opening event on Saturday. There are so many interesting threads to pursue here. But for now, let me begin with a somewhat prosaic pet peeve of mine: As was alluded to at the opening event and also in several posts here, one barrier to productive communication and collaboration between artists and scientists is the lack of a common language or vocabulary (as in any interdisciplinary endeavor). And this disconnect separates practitioners in either field from the general public as well. It ...
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Initial Thoughts

Sinead Maharaj/ Thank you for the invitation to join a great forum. The discussion on the convergence of Science and Art is a personal interest of mine, that inspires my work. To enter this dialogue, I will refer to my  initial difficulty,  that of how the pedagogy has defined the disciplines of Art and Science, as two very seperate ways of thinking.  The pedagogy positions our minds to differentiate each discipline, as completely separate. Science is sold to students as the positioning of  facts, with evidence to support, making something true or false. Art is positioned as creative thought processes ...
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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 ...
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Co-production or critique?

Dan Weiskopf/ I find it useful to think about art-science interactions in terms of two broad models: co-production and critique. Each of these is pitched at a separate audience, and embodies a different idea about what the two practices have to offer each other. On a co-production model, artists and scientists jointly aim to create something of potential value to both enterprises. In its strongest form this might mean producing a kind of knowledge (or new data or phenomena) that can be incorporated into science itself. Sciart here is continuous with scientific practice. Alternatively, it might mean generating knowledge that ...
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The Morning After

Gianluca Bianchino/ Session 1 A drunken conversation has often proven to be a good jump start to a great friendship since the vulnerable state of intoxication allows a level of truth and honesty to spill out of both parties (art and science). I’m certain we’ve all been in that exciting and yet naïve state of being (unless you don’t drink).  But in a drunken conversation there’s always a small window of opportunity for that truth and honesty to establish a lasting meaningful relationship before one of the parties gets carried away by the effects of escalating inebriation spoiling the credibility ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Response from Eve Andree Laramee

Eve Laramee/ Regarding question 1:4 -“who is the intended audience,” Stephen Nowlin brings up an important challenge facing Sci-Art: the possibility of being both inspirational and subversive. To my mind, it is critical for us to ask if Sci-Art can activate change, and if so, within which demographics and cohorts? With the current political climate and an administration that is dismantling environmental protection laws, there is an urgency to resist the obfuscation of facts. How better to create that field of engagement than through science-art collaborations? I believe there a place for activism within a Sci-Art convergence ...
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Response to 1.1 from Suzanne Anker

Suzanne Anker/ To begin with, what’s wrong with a “drunken conversation”? While some drunken conversations perseverate and go on endlessly in the land of repetition, others invoke unconscious or otherwise non-linear concerns which can lead to innovative thoughts, processes and materials.  When examining the nature of research and dialogue I quote Jacques Monod in that evolution operates by chance and necessity.  If we liken language to a communication system, what is the relevance in which “drunken conversations” produce mutations of thought and its consequences? For Monod, ”mutations constitute the only possible source of modifications in a genetic text……chance alone is the source ...
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Who’s the Audience?

Stephen Nowlin/ Thank you to the CUE Foundation and Taney Roniger for initiating this timely and important dialogue. An initial thought: I think the title of the conference itself smartly points to the need for a deeper excavation of what Sci-Art is and what it means. “Strange Attractors” exposes the tendency, particularly in the popular media, to approach a convergence of science and art as a kind-of inspirational novelty — that is, as an implausible tale of romance, an affair noteworthy primarily because it seems to successfully pair what are stereotypically perceived to be polar opposite ends of a spectrum ...
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A few thoughts on 1.1 & 1.2

Daniel Hill/ Many of the group dialogues I have been involved in with artists and scientists have indeed wound up like a drunken conversation.  Often it seems both are using the same terminology but have different definitions.  Another issue seems to be a more than average knowledge or awareness of current issues in science on the part of the artist and a lack of general knowledge of contemporary art on the part of the scientist.  I think this is because in the potential sciart relationship, art needs science more than science needs art. I see the most fundamental difference between ...
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Session 1

Leonard Shapiro/ Thoughts on the Art and Science Worlds. Is the separation as great as we think? Artists inhabit a domain, a world they call the ‘art world’. Scientists inhabit a world they call the ‘science world’. Each of these domains has a specific language associated with it (for good reason) and the people who occupy each domain use this language to communicate with each other. However, while a particular language serves an important communicative and descriptive function within each domain, these languages can unwittingly serve to alienate those who are not familiar with the other’s domain. It is generally ...
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Moderator’s Welcome

Taney Roniger/ 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 ...
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