Constellation 2: Art, Science and the construction of reality, and Dissertation Proposal.

Art, Science and the Construction of reality was the theme for the second year constellation group lead by Prof Clive Cazeaux. In this class we looked at the connections and collaborations between art and science. The relationship between art and science looks largely into how the notions of romanticism and the ‘artist as genius’, which comes into direct conflict with the questioning and ever changing facts presented by evidence and experimentation in scientific practise.

We also looked at how art can represent science with icon(resemblance), symbol(convention) and index(causality); C.S Peice “signs take three forms; icon, symbol or index.”  As well as the concept of ‘inter-action'(you cannot separate the event or process- all the factors have to be included to actually produce the product); K. Barrad “knowledge creates the world through interaction.” Barrad sort to empathise both symbol and index, she would like to reject icon, as it is on the side of representation. Don Ihde states that scientific images are not representations, it is a duet, as they are a ‘technological contraction’ that rings their objects into existence. Art that represents science through these three categories, and we considered from this the implication of each. The integrity of the art and the credibility of the science that it is presenting can directly effect the message ad the value of the fact that it presents; this can be blamed on how art and science each have a very different view on the meaning of ‘fact’. Artistic fact is largely determined by the artists romantic notion of genius, which makes the expression of the artist fact, but in the empirical evidence based theory and practice of science, fact must be proven and needs to be shown to be ‘true’ through evidence and experimentation.
While this constellation topic was quite detracted from my subject studies and projects, it was super interesting to look into the philosophy and the theories between the estranged relationship between art and science. The two disciplines are always placed at either end of the spectrum in terms of both education and ideologies, but the ways that they can collaborate and cross over are so interesting and engaging. It’s these collaborations and how they where perceived by both sides that really peaked my interest. In illustration, we seek to communicate through our art and serve as an artistic mouth to a piece, text, ect, when commissioned; so it seems to be logical to conclude that art can therefore be a very effective means to communication complex science to the masses, making it more accessible and easier to comprehend. But this is not often the case. In my essay, I explored two main examples of how this relationship has worked in practical application; the ‘Revelation Fields’ and ‘Thames Dig’ art installations both worked with scientific principles and practises with varying degrees of success. Mel Chin’s ‘Revelation Fields’ was an installation piece that showed how a section of landfill could be rehabilitated and effectively have the effects of the toxins and chemicals ‘reversed’. It was an artistic success, in the opinion of Chin, it achieved exactly what he felt he had wanted to express; but, for collaborative scientist, Dr Chaney, it was a failure. He felt it was not actually representative of his work and he felt that it only further alienated the science from the public, as it did not actually explain anything, but only served as a work of art. In comparison, Mark Dion’s ‘Thames dig’ was both a critical and scientific success, despite the fact that he did not in fact collaborate with a scientist. Instead the installation featured a great display of archaeology practise as well as books and literature that the public could use to better understand the exhibition; the installation was set up to encourage the public to investigate the piece to really get to know how the process was carried out, by both engaging the with the process and by making viewing the process accessible to all. Though Dion did all the research and carried out the experiment, with the help of public volunteers, without a scientific guidance, his extensive research and accuracy made it a very informative and engaging exhibition. Proving that the worth of collaboration between art and science.
It was on this basis that I disputed the ‘artist as genius’ and the romantic notions of art, as not being sufficient cause to say that art and science cannot successfully collaborate. Art does not necessarily water down or conceptualise science and fact; it does however depend on a balanced relationship to work correctly. Mel Chin did not balance his priorities when he created his piece, so while it was artistically successful and a working example of science, it failed to properly represent the science that was behind the installation; without an adequate explanation of the scientific theory, it offers nothing in the way of making the theory it represents more accessible, if anything just putting up another barrier to the public by presenting as ‘high art’. Mark Dion, however, kept a balance between the art and the science, keeping both at the core of the piece;  he also made the installation hugely interactive and engaging to the public, encouraging them to do their own research and to go away having truly understood the principles behind the piece. The conclusion that I came to at the end of my essay was that art ad science need to be used in balance in order to get the best result from both disciplines respectively, collaborations on work effectively when both parties involved are able to get equal representation; the artist needs to have a small amount of licence and flexibility to be creative, but also needs to respect the integrity of the science, equally the scientist collaborator needs to allow the artist to express ad respect that the balance, allowing the creative perspective to enhance the experience while still enforcing the emphasise on their research.
Going on to write my proposed dissertation, I wanted to go back more into my subject and too reconnect with my artistic practise; while I really enjoyed the scientific and more fine art friendly concepts in my constellation group, I really want to build a stronger connection to my subject work in illustration as I head into dissertation work for next term. With this in mind, I did decided to keep a scientific perspective present in my work, while revisiting a topic that I feel has strong roots in my practise and is of great interest to me. The topic of the unconscious mind and automatism, that I have touched on in all of my constellation modules, is one that I feel has a lot of potential to explore. Going back to the topics that I looked into in my second term constellation group in my first year, Cognitive Development, I decided that I’d like to look at the connections between the subconscious, dreams and doodling. Starting with the work of psychologists Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung, who presented the first key theories on the subconscious mind, and going into how these theories influenced the artistic movements Dada and Surrealism; intimately I’d like to look at how doodling works and how it can be applied in a professional and casual sense in artistic practise, and how it can show the works of the inner mind and to help us to understand and take notes ect. In dong this, I’m looking to marry together the scientific application and theories with illustration and my own practise, keeping the art science collaboration theme and taking it in a new direction.

Going back to the ‘roots’ of my subject, with the focus on doodling, in this way, I’m looking forward to really researching and understanding the psychological theories and the various hidden facts that are at play in my own work. Though I have looked a little into this realm before, it was from quite a different perspective and had less focus on an actual professional and practical application and the theories behind why it might work. therefore, this will be a far more in depth and comprehensive look into the practise of doodling and all the subconscious actors that go into an artists work without their knowledge; ultimately asking the question, what does this add to art as a communication of self and the inner mind?

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