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 is nonetheless easy to slip into complicity (or give the appearance of doing so) with New-Age mysticism, religious pseudo-science, or paranormal and supernatural memes that clearly misinterpret and pervert rather than promote science consciousness. It is in the discourse over how Sci-Art challenges such historically and culturally institutionalized perversions of science, that the movement is potentially both disruptive and enlightening. The absence of such a rich discourse that reaches into the core of human beliefs about reality, is one of the frustrating aspects of most popular media-based coverage of Sci-Art — coverage which tends to address its novelty but not the deeper ontological implications it raises.

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