Artscience: Creativity in the Post-Google Generation by David Edwards is a dense book chock full of interesting ideas about the ways in which art and science not only overlap, but can result in the kind of synergy that crosses multiple barriers to lead to innovative projects of great social and cultural benefit. The book is written in a somewhat dry academic style, and is sometimes repetitive. Nonetheless, it contains remarkable examples of how art and science have become intertwined.
Edwards notes that the gap between the two is fairly recent: “Long ago, scientists cared deeply about aesthetics. They did not reveal a major theoretical insight without presenting it in literary language, perhaps accompanied by beautiful hand-drawn sketches, with evocative prose and visual imagery. Great British scientists from Newton to Reynolds wrote like poets.”
Examples of artscience type thinking can be found in “. . . Benoit Mandelbrot,whose invention of fractal geometry has helped artists and scientists probe more deeply into the beauty and complexity we encounter in nature. As Mandelbrot writes in his book The Fractal Geometry of Nature, ‘Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, and bar is not smooth.’ Nor are scientists and artists the pure right- or left-brain thinkers we may assume them to be.” Another example is the poet Andre Breton, once a French medical student, who developed his philosophy of Surrealism from his study of hysteria.
Contemporary examples include Doris Sommer, founder of Cultural Agents, an organization that sends artists and humanity majors to work in Boston communities. “Others explore today within and outside research institutions how the arts can mediate human behavior by understanding the effects of music on intelligence, color on mood, and improvisational theater on patient care,” Davis writes. Mark Fischer, an engineer and artist: “. . . uses wavelets to transform ocean mammal sounds into beautiful visual images that express distinctive structures human ears cannot detect.”
The idea of the “lab,” a fluid place of experimentation and interactivity, is Davis’ vision of a place where creativity and education mixes with industry, society and culture. “Process matters, more than results,” Davis says, an observation that will ring true for any writer or artist.
To me, the artist’s studio is a similar kind of lab, a place where many ideas and disciplines may become synthesized and coalesced within the artistic process. Art is no longer contained in rarefied realms such as attics and museums – it is an exciting confluence of ideas, events and projects that increasingly spill into society.
Crystal Heiden is an artist who occasionally combines her multiple disciplines of photography, sculpture and woodworking into visionary pieces such as her horizon machine, through which the viewer watches a constantly approaching horizon. It is exciting to live in a time when the conventional methodologies and territories of art become more adventurous every day.