Monday, August 22, 2016

Recent scholarship on art/science

Here are some interesting recent publications at the art/sci interface:

The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities

The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities, edited by Ursula K. Heise, Jon Christensen, and Michelle Niemann, is a collection of 45 essays, many of which were first drafted for the UCLA Sawyer Seminar on the Environmental Humanities in 2014-2015. It will be published in late 2016 or early 2017; see the table of contents below for a sneak peak. The volume brings together work by an international, interdisciplinary group of scholars and writers who address the Anthropocene, domestication, posthumanism, multispecies communities, narratives of decline and resilience, environmental history and memory, literature and ecocriticism, and environmental media, technologies, and art. The result is an important reflection on and assessment of the environmental humanities now.

More Info: Forthcoming in late 2016 or early 2017

Combining Art and Science for Conservation Outreach of Ectothermic Vertebrates (Amphibians and Fishes), Brandon Ballengee & Prosanta Chakrabarty


Although artists and biologists tend to stay confined to their professional boundaries, and their discourses largely remain inaccessible to larger audiences, evidence is presented here for a combined approach, which may affectively disseminate knowledge about amphibians and fishes to non-specialists through novel art-science participatory research and exhibitions. In this study evidence is presented that suggests combining art with biology may successfully increase public understanding of the international decline of amphibian and fish populations, as members of the public achieved increased understanding of ectothermic vertebrate conservation issues through direct participation (citizen science) in primary scientific studies. Likewise, art inspired from these research experiences was exhibited internationally with the intention of furthering a conservation message and results from questionnaires suggests visitors gained an increased awareness of the threats many species of amphibians and fishes currently face. Historically many scientists utilized varied creative art forms to disseminate scientific insights to a larger populace of non-specialists, such strategies as visually provocative artworks may still be effective to captivate contemporary audiences. As today's environmental issues are often complex and large-scale, finding effective strategies that encourage public awareness and stewardship maybe paramount for long-term conservation of species and ecosystems.

Constructing reality - The Museum of Jurassic Technology
Mapping the Musesphere - Cultures of Exhibition and Technologies of Display MPhil/PhD, Media and Communications, Goldsmiths College, University of London, 2006, Chapter 5 - Displaying Mimesis: Fakes, Facsimiles and Fabrications

While we might be confident in our faith in our fakes, we have a different kind of faith in museums. Through their traditions of integrity and open-door policy, and as inscribed in legislation, museums assure their public of their authority to collect, conserve and exhibit the cultural heritage on behalf of their public... Confounding the very notion of the integrity of the museum to tell the truth, though, the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, California tells another story. Promoted as an educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic, their narratives do not fall into any known museum categories.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Realising Potentials: Arts-based sustainability science

Realising Potentials: Arts-based sustainability science is a two-day workshop conceived as an experiential site for exploration and dialogue around arts-based sustainability science.

Two main motivations guide the workshop:
  1. To open up an experiential space where artists and scientists can share, connect and expand different experiences, projects and discussions in the field of arts-based sustainability research. A space to experience others’ approaches, to play, to be surprised… A space to explore together, pushing our boundaries, acting/thinking out of the box.
  2. To catalyse a network of Arts-based Sustainability Science as a community of learning, practice and mutual support. A network expanding in time the sharing of the workshop and connecting different actors working in the field, so as to allow us to critically approach and expand different practices, collaborate together, and face different challenges as they emerge.
When and where?

The workshop will be held in Barcelona (Spain), in November 3rd-4th, 2016 at the Institute of Catalan Studies (Institut d’Estudis Catalans, IEC).


During the workshop, participants will engage in different experiential laboratories and discussions to share, collectively explore and critically inquire different experiences of arts-science hybridation -both from artists and researchers, methodological boundaries and challenges as sustainability researchers and practitioners, and the potentials of bringing together the arts and the aesthetics and sustainability science.


This workshop is coordinated by a group of sustainability scientists and practitioners who have experimented with a variety of arts-based approaches and it is open to both artists and researchers interested in this intersection.

Participants are invited to share art and research projects directly developed within collaborations among artists and scientists, dealing with one of the thematic areas in question. Understanding the four pillars of sustainability – environmental, social, cultural and economic - proposals should embed the interactions between social and natural sciences and the arts as insightful ways to generate new understandings and relationships, make people aware of the importance of a balanced relationship between human beings and the environment, in its diverse levels, and trying to encourage people to realize potentials as agents of social-ecological transformations.

More details.

Friday, June 17, 2016

CFP: Ecology and Society

From Susan Jacobson:
Editors-in-Chief Carl Folke and Lance Gunderson are pleased to announce the publication of Volume 20, Issue 4 of Ecology and Society
The Reconciling Art and Science for Sustainability special feature edited by Frances Westley, Marten Scheffer, and Carl Folke will remain open to submissions until July 2016. This feature invites papers on the topic of how art and science may be integrated for transformative understanding, increased motivation and new insights.
"Why is science  perceived as entirely different from art? Both attempt to capture the essence of the world around us in novel and eye-opening ways. Still, the approaches are strikingly complementary. This suggests the potential for synergy. What can we learn from each other when it comes to the process of creative inquiry? Could we cooperate to fathom the unknown unknowns, finding important new questions that we had never thought of? This special feature invites papers on the topic of how art and science may be integrated for transformative understanding, increased motivation and new insights into how to build social ecological resilience."

Note: page charges may apply.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Report on University Artist-in-Residence Programs

Stephen Tonsor at the Carnegie Natural History Museum directed us to this 2013 document produced by The Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University.

It's a set of recommendations for artist in residence programs at universities, based on a survey of 14 universities, and paying special attention to the IP issues. The recommendations could also be very helpful to FSML art programs, as well.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Confluence Projects, Todd Gilens

Artist Todd Gilens works with Sagehen Creek Field Station outside of Truckee, CA and Reno, NV, and the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab (SNARL) near Mammoth Lakes, CA. His work there includes:
"...literature reviews, interviews and field work with researchers to understand the language, methods and motivations of stream science, as well as how streams are responding to climate changes."
Gilens has been working in the field and lab with invertebrate biologists David Herbst, Bruce Medhurst and Ian Bell, "considering how to bring aspects of their work to the average urban citizen".

A recent post from the artist's project newsletter illuminates some of the work emerging from that relationship.

From Gilen's crowd-funding website:
In my artworks, I borrow lecture halls, public transit vehicles, nursery propagation houses and other existing structures, adding images that make their meanings more legible. This new project emerged from visits to ecological field stations, where I compared my methods to those of field scientists’ and considered how both could inform our understanding of critical urban systems.  
“Confluence” will use the tops of urban curbs as a space to communicate with pedestrians about flowing water, stream science and the urbanization of landscapes. Using script fonts derived from local historical people’s handwriting, texts will be cut from bright yellow reflective traffic-marking tape and laid down along a mile of curbs, zigzagging from block to block on routes that follow the street grid overlay of former stream channels.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Should art respond to science?

There's an interesting discussion happening at YASMIN. Below is the original post and some of the more compelling comments:



Here is a very very negative review of Ryoji's Ikeda's art installation resulting from his cern residency

Should art respond to science? On this evidence, the answer is simple: no way
Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda's installation Supersymmetry is inspired by his residency at Cern - but signifies little more than that physics is weird. Isn't it time we stopped expecting artists to understand the complexities of science?

this is very much along the lines of my colleague Jean Marc Levy-Lebond's book 'Science is not art' where he attacks much of the mystification of art science practice

the review ends with:

Art <> and science, we feel, should have something to say to each other. But perhaps they speak different languages after all. I don't speak the language of science too well, either, but I do know one thing: it is concerned with the wonder of nature. There is a depressing lack of wonder in this technically sophisticated but intellectually and emotionally empty art.

would be interested in Yasminer reactions: has anyone seen the work ?

roger malina

Yasmin_discussions mailing list

Yasmin URL:


Dear Roger & Fellow Yasminers,

One of the crucial differences between art and science is that art represents and expresses the views of the artist. Art also involves a viewer or receiver. As Duchamp used to say, the viewer completes the work of art. But this isn’t merely Duchamp’s opinion: this is a fundamental proposition of symbolic interactionism as a method in the social sciences, and this is the core understanding of hermeneutics. For a deeper discussion of these issues, I have posted Herbert Blumer’s concise, elegant discussion of the methodological perspective of symbolic interaction in the teaching documents section of my Academia page at URL:

The clarity and precision of the natural sciences arises from the fact that the equations and propositions of natural science reflect and represent a world that should be the same to all viewers. While there are often differences of opinion about the truth, correctness, or value of what any one scientist or research team may represent about the physical world, there are also reasonably common standards that permit us to reach a common view over time.

One of Albert Einstein’s great papers of 1905 was his paper on Brownian motion. He published this at a time when no one was yet able to physically see an atom. Many scientists doubted the physical reality of atomic theory — and this included a great many scientists who accepted the hypothetical use of atomic theory for heuristic or didactic purposes while doubting the physical reality of atomism.

Einstein’s paper, “On the Motion of Small Particles Suspended in Liquids at Rest Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat”
examined several well-known physical and chemical facts, drawing together well established evidence to demonstrate the physical reality of atoms. As a result, many scientists who had been skeptical about the reality of atoms became convinced that atoms were, in fact, real. You can read the paper (in Satchel 1998: 71-98) for yourself on my Academia page at URL:

The key issue between these two kinds of discussions is the difference between the ways in which we can understand human beings, how they think, how they behave, and what their behaviour means — including those forms of human behaviour that include speech acts, and the artefacts of behaviour in the form of written texts and works of art.

Not only do human actions change over time, but the meanings of human actions change over time. What’s more, the understanding of human actions, human artefacts, and their meaning undergo translation by everyone who hears, sees, or participates in any action.

An atom of carbon will be the same as any other atom of carbon in the universe. Gravitation is the same force wherever we can look and wherever we can measure it. Certain predictable factors account for measurable differences — different isotopes of any element, differences in the strength of gravity on the surface of a large planet as against the force of gravity in space outside the pantry atmosphere.

In contrast, my idea of a good beer may differ to the ideas of those five people at the table next to me. I’ll order a bottle of India Pale Ale from the case and not the refrigerator while the next table has five frosty glasses of house lager on tap. Someone may enjoy Aaron Copland’s film scores while someone else might prefer Danny Elfman’s work, and yet another person might enjoy them equally. One viewer may love Ryoji Ikeda’s work and another may not. I am puzzled about the multimillion dollar sums that Jeff Koons’s work take at auction when someone can buy a beautiful print by Dieter Roth or a painting by Dick Higgins for a 5-figure sum.

It is for this reason that I read Jonathan Jones’s review of Ryoji Ikeda’s Supersymmetry installation without too much feeling either way. The artist responded to scientific ideas, but Ikeda’s installation is art and not science. It is very much the same thing as a musician composing works to reflect a sense of what early astronomers called “the music of the spheres.” Jones’s review tells me what Jones thinks — it doesn’t tell me what I think.

I haven’t seen the installation for myself, so I have no idea about it from first-hand experience. I did read the review, but the review doesn’t seem any more harsh than other kinds of reviews. If you want to read some truly withering criticism, take a look at Nicolas Slonimsky’s Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers Since Beethoven's Time. I suppose that a similar collection may exist for visual art, but I haven’t seen it. There are two interesting books of rejection letter from publishers and others, however. One is Bill Shapiro’s Other People's Rejection Letters: Relationship Enders, Career Killers, and 150 Other Letters You'll Be Glad You Didn't Receive. The other is Rotten Rejections: The Letters That Publishers Wish They'd Never Sent by Andre Bernard.

Duchamp used to say “posterity will be the judge.” We’ll eventually find out whether Ikeda’s work or Jones’s opinion prevails.



Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | 设计 She Ji. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL:

Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| University Distinguished Professor | Centre for Design Innovation | Swinburne University of Technology | Melbourne, Australia


Dear Roger,

A very interesting set of questions to arise at this point in time of intense mutual admiration between art and science and lack of responsible criticism in the arts and as science falls prey to conservative doubting, at least in States, and what I would argue is an over determination from technology sectors in education.

Perhaps it's not so much that artists should "understand" or take a deeply creative interest in mimicking science in their practices, but that both can learn different sets of questions and directions for research from each other and that deep critique both positive and negative is needed in both fields. We have enough problems to solve on this planet!

I had a chat with Erik Davis after a presentation he did about psychedelia in which he screened early CIA scientific experiments with LSD - controlled in a white office, with clock, with men in ties. If this is "objectivity" about the type of mystical experience possible on psilocybin then scientists have missed something crucial about aesthetics and sensual pleasure in affecting mind-alteration. He also talked about a recent study done at Johns Hopkins where it was determined that there was some kind of universally-had mystical experience. Presumably this more recent study used control environments more conducive to tripping than the CIA did in the sixties.

My point being that Science could gain important insights into how it is posing questions and proving its ideas from artists and artists would do well not to treat their own practices as if Art were for producing results that need to be proved--what has seemed a creeping concern in both criticism and practice and a peculiar (funding driven?) demand on artists in the last decade.

Molly Hankwitz, PhD
Independent scholar, curator, editor
Bivoulab "scientist"


Gaston Bachelard makes the point that "bad science can produce good art."
His books reveal how what was once taken to be scientific fact can become a
poetics that retains a psychological truth even when it can no longer claim
any scientific legitimacy. Ordinary language still carries along the
imagery of how we used to imagine the word--and ideas we no longer accept
as scientific may still condition our experience of the world.

I have only seen Ikeda's work in online videos, so it is particularly
difficult to know how to react to it. I do use other works of his in class
as examples both of simplicity of means and large scale immersive
environments. I read the review some time ago, and found it irritating--the
sort of "let's be sure you know my opinion" writing that for me is the
opposite of what I imagine good art criticism should be. Rather that
offering readers analysis that would allow the reader to form her own
understanding Ikeda's work, the critic decides what is good and what is
bad. But that's the pattern of most newspaper criticism for you.

On the other hand, I think that there is a point to be made about artists
learning the language of science in ways that go beyond the facile.
Complexity and chaos theory have been particularly misconstrued--consider
the innumerable times "the butterfly effect" is dropped into conversation.
There is a tendency of artists to skim the surface, pluck a few metaphors,
and consider that their work is done.


-- Paul


Dear Ken and Fellow Yasminers

Of course the letters that publishers wish they had never sent is a good way to view Jones' review.

I've been reading Susan Sontag's essay on Camp and that's the sort of writing that we are looking for - sensitive and evocative responses to the sorts of work that we are interested in and involved with. Writing that draws out the sensibilities of the work and provides us with a frame of reference for understanding.

But remember that Jones' review might have prompted more people to visit the installation, more people to have arguments about the relationship between art and science and more people to appreciate Ikeda's art. Sometimes you have to slag something off to get people to pay attention to it.

But the world is not only the Turner Prize, any news is good news, no such things as bad publicity.

We actually need good critical writing to explore what the work means to the audience (bearing in mind that as Ken so rightly highlights there is no direct connection between the artist's intention and the audiences' reception of the work). The critic is the audiences' voice, the way the artist hears back. I'm not meaning to simplify the critic or to remove the power relations, the connection between critic and collector, etc. But we know we need high quality criticism and we know that we need it more than ever now.

For what its worth my cues for writing good criticism are Helen Molesworth, Susan Sontag and Grant Kester.



For those interested in some further discussion of this article by
Jones, you can see a conversation in e-flux from April here:

David Harris
UCSC Digital Arts and New Media

Mary Beth Leigh | TEDxFairbanks

Seeing the Elephant: Reintegrating Arts, Humanities & Sciences
"Collaborations between the arts, humanities and sciences can strengthen our connection to the ecosystems in which we live. This TEDx talk highlights work done by Mary Beth Leigh combining ecology, dance, visual art, and other media to advance the arts, sciences, and public understanding of social-ecological issues. 
Mary Beth Leigh is an Associate Professor of Microbiology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and is an organizer of state and national efforts to integrate the arts and humanities with ecological science. She directs the Alaska-based program, In a Time of Change, and co-organizes the nationwide networks, Ecological Reflections and ArtSciConverge. 
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at"