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 be used cooperatively to overcome challenges in both fields.  It is in the area of innovation – the ability to think, see and tap into knowledge outside your area of expertise – that will enable us to make gains beyond that which can be approached by working within the limited parameters of a single discipline.  Nature is infinitely interdisciplinary and as we work on more complex problems, we need to emulate nature’s multifarious characteristics to form appropriate solutions.


5 Replies to “Thoughts on the Future of Art and Science”

  1. I’m glad you brought up the so-called origami revolution, Jeanne. I agree that this is one of the most promising points of intersection between art and science around right now (although for accuracy’s sake this should really go under the more inclusive rubric Art/Nature/Science/Technology). Part of what’s so striking here is that the art being drawn upon is not illustrative (the bane, it seems, of most sci-art interactions) but rather *structural.* I know a lot of artists today who are exploring the structural principles of nature, so this movement could potentially expand beyond origami. I’m also reminded of one other field whose practitioners excel in the area of structure, and this is architecture. When I think of architects like Christopher Alexander – father of “the pattern language” whose nature-oriented approach has been widely influential in the field of design – I wonder if the sci-art movement can more actively pursue contact with that field. Linda has mentioned something about this – an initiative at Pratt, perhaps?

  2. Taney – Thanks for introducing me to Christopher Alexander – I was not familiar with his work. My entree to this subject is via artists/writers like Jack Burnham (Real Time Systems, Systems Esthetics) who, beginning in the 60’s, was interested in understanding patterns based on systems that could be applied to art – patterns that were borrowed not only from science – but the disciplines of sociology, economics, chemistry, biology, engineering and physics. This represented in his mind a paradigm shift from art as object based, to art as system based.

  3. I agree with Jeanne that nature is infinitely interdisciplinary and it is very possible that nature has some disciplines it hasn’t shared with us yet. It makes me wonder if collaborations between disciplines will unveil practices even more profound than art and poetry. If I were to make a prediction based on the cumulative discourse of the better Sci-Fi works of literature that I’ve read, I would say that it is inevitable for our survival in this Universe to eventually tap into dimensions beyond the four we are accustomed to, those being the three dimensions of space and one of time. If we are to become multi-dimensional one day then we may discover an abstract language even more profound than art. Not that the convergence of art and science will necessarily take us there but at the moment the dialog seams logical, and even more logical is our critique of it.

  4. Thanks for this, Jeanne. Your observation that “Nature is infinitely interdisciplinary” has been haunting me. We as humans build so many different “ways of knowing” — including science and art — and they all have their own internal logic (whether or not we accept their premises). But meanwhile, Nature just sits there in all its complexity, simply existing. Is it any wonder, then, that we need so many different descriptions of Nature, some of which might contradict each other, but nonetheless simultaneously true?

  5. Werner – your reply is incredibly eloquent and I like your personification of Nature. I do believe Nature has its “internal logic”, but at this point we cannot fully understand the language, let alone the logic. Perhaps our fascination with art and science is a means to bring us closer to Nature’s and logic and parlances. For example, we’re just beginning to understand how plants communicate and work with other species to defend themselves. How can a plant speak to a bee to get pollinated, or a bug protect itself from a fungus? Nature is definitely interdisciplinary, but also multi-lingual.

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