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 these works is that they wear their science lightly. They take the science as a given, as a pre-existing part of our common vocabulary. They respect their audiences, and they do not seek to instruct.

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