On Oct. 24, the Simons Center Gallery opened “The Art of Science: Selections from the Collection,” a compilation of pieces curated by Lorraine Walsh that highlight the relationship between science and art. The collection of photographs, portraits, etches and textiles were pieces visualized by a group of sixteen mathematicians, physicists and artists that made it their goal to show that science and art “share a great curiosity to see the world in new ways.”
The sixteen scientists and artists that contributed to the exhibition are Nikolay Bogoliubov, Insup Choi, Jean-François Dars, Eric J. Heller, Avi Ma’ayan, Gary Matthews, Dan Meyer, Ryan and Trevor Oakes, Anthony Phillips, Prithviraj “Raj” Rajebhosale, Elena Sanchez-Rodriguez, Xiwei Shan, Claudia Silva, Frédérique Swist and Jacqueline Thomas. Each piece in the collection made by these collaborators from two seemingly incompatible fields demonstrated that the desire to gain new perspectives and finding ways to share them with the world is universal and should not be limited to one area of study.
Following the gallery opening and an opportunity for the guests to enjoy wine and cheese while discussing the art, Ethan Edwards — a researcher with the Experiments in Arts and Technology (E.A.T.) Program at Nokia Bell Labs — stood in as the guest speaker for the Head of Experiments at E.A.T., Domhnaill Hernon, and presented an interesting lecture: “On the Importance of Fusing Art and Science to Humanize Technology.” Although Hernon could not be in attendance, he took advantage of the technology that would later be both praised and criticized by Edwards. In a video presented by Edwards, Hernon apologized for his absence and explained that the goal of E.A.T. is to find “ a way to better humanity” by fusing the disciplines of art and science.
In his talk, Edwards made a point to engage his audience with interactive videos and audio clips to showcase “the current trends in technology and engineering, some things that might be wrong with those and some steps we may be able to take to better use these different disciplines to create the innovations that humanity really needs right now.” Edwards acknowledged the great contrast between art and science, admitting that the two disciplines do not necessarily complement each other. While scientists are generally reductionists that use logical and linear thinking, artists are usually expansionists that favor non-linear and “illogical” thinking. Edwards then revealed that the differences between these areas are exactly what requires them to feed off each other to produce innovations, which Edwards defines as “simple, basic adjustments in understanding” rather than the more complex and high-risk attempts taken by scientists and artists in order to create “the next big thing.”
As explained by Edwards, “the important skills of the engineer and the important skills of the artists” are needed to allow members of both communities “to exist as translators between [the] two worlds … and to make sure that people aren’t just making things in one field and going in an entirely wrong direction for the things that we really need.” Edwards explained that rather than having “innovations,” what we really need in today’s society is new perspectives — “this fusion of being able to tackle the hard problems that are out there in nature, out there in science, but also be able to look at them with this askew, human, nonlinear perspective.”
The marriage between art and science as influenced and beautifully displayed by the contributors in “The Art of Science” proves Edwards’s claim that the collaboration between artists, who are “master communicators,” and scientists, who are finding new ways to further develop technology every day, is desperately needed to better humanity.