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. immediately. There are descriptive standards which facilitate precise understandings and clear, unambiguous communication.

2 Replies to “Response to Werner Sun”

  1. Thank you for pointing this out, Leonard. I agree that artists and scientists construct their languages with different goals in mind (although they both seek to be understood, in their own ways). Do you find the inscrutability of scientific language (as Taney puts it) to be off-putting? And in your teaching, do you find that scientists are receptive to deciphering unique visual languages?

  2. Hi Werner, I don’t find the language of science off putting. I find it helpful in my communication with scientists. When I teach anatomists or medical students a multi-sensory observation method, I bother to learn the anatomical names of the various parts of the body. I learn scientific terminology and develop my vocabulary quite naturally as I proceed in the medical science domain.
    I find that scientists I know who are interested in art are open to deciphering visual language. However, they might not be open (as I as an artist am not) to deciphering particularly obscure visual language. To be fair, some artists are not yet fluent in their visual language and so their artwork is difficult to ‘read’.

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