Art and Science Exchange



A collaborative event between the Biochemical Society and the MA Art in Science programme

On Tuesday 27th & Wednesday 28th August 2019, the MA Art in Science programme at Liverpool School of Art and Design hosted an Art & Science Exchange workshop with members of the Biochemical Society. The exchange was held at the John Lennon Art and Design Building, in the Public Exhibition Space and X-Gallery amongst the MA Art in Science student's end of programme postgraduate exhibition, which showcases the outcomes of their three month research projects. These projects served as a basis for investigation of specific art-science interactions, and were supported by open discussions, hands on activities and a Liverpool LASER talk.

The Art & Science Exchange workshop participants met at the Public Exhibition Space at Liverpool School of Art and Design in the morning on Tuesday 27th August. Participants included MA Art in Science students, members of the Face Lab research group, a visiting Medical Artist and three members of the Biochemical Society. Here the group gathered for an introductory presentation by workshop facilitators Mark Roughley (MA Art in Science Programme Leader), and Kathryn Smith (MA Art in Science tutor) that described the current art-science landscape in the context of the MA Art in Science programme, which encourages transdisciplinary creativity and collaboration across art and science, and provides opportunities for artists and scientists to interrogate art-science interactions, conceptualise, collaborate and carry out work in hybrid studio-laboratory spaces.

The group introduced themselves in a round-table setting and were challenged to locate their current thoughts about art and science in response to visual historian James Elkins' 8 models of art-science interactions:

  1. Art and science have two separate grammars
  2. Art and science share aesthetics (beauty, the sublime)
  3. Art and science collaborations are a third “culture”
  4. Art and science are two cultures; there are many
  5. Art and science have common ground (“Venn Theory”)
  6. Art and science can fuse to create a hybrid (or convergence)
  7. Art and science share creativity, inspiration, wonder
  8. Art and science are a “drunken conversation” of “strange attractors”

MA Art in Science students, inlcuding Sophia Charuhas and Jay Hampton then guided workshop participants through their postgraduate research projects that were on display as part of the Liverpool School of Art and Design Postgraduate Degree Show, which spurred many conversations about art-science collaborations. 

 

Day one of the Art & Science Exchange workshop ended with a haptico-visual observational drawing workshop designed by student Raji Salan. Participants brought objects that they could hold in one hand and that represented their interests in art or science. They handled and explored these objects through themed activities combining sketching and storytelling, taking a multi-sensory approach that foregrounds the relationship between sight and touch and offers a more physical experience of the objects. The idea is that participants would leave the workshop with a greatly enhanced level of understanding of a familiar object, having re-experienced it through new visual and haptic experiences.  

Day two began by building on conversations from day one during two further hands-on workshops in the X-Gallery. The first was led by student Helen Birnbaum that explored the memorialisation of disease through sculpture & storytelling. Helen described her projects Memorialising Disease and Quarantine Boxes and guided the group in sculpting deadly microbes with fascinating stories, and challenged participants to develop fantasy microbes with biographies specific to the workshop participant’s disciplinary specific expertise, including these from veterinary virology researcher Ellie Bentley https://twitter.com/InfluEllie/status/1166672636656701440?s=20.

 

In the afternoon Dr Jessica Liu introduced the group to the work of Face Lab, who operate at the interface of art and science. Jessica demonstrated haptic 3D sculpting that enabled participants to produce digital versions of their microbe sculptures, using robotic arms that allow the user to sculpt 3D virtual clay - a technology developed originally for engineering purposes. We concluded our Art & Science Exchange with a Liverpool LASER talk where we reflected on the day’s activities and revisited the group's previous thoughts on James Elkins’ eight models of art-science interactions, to see if their experiences over the two days had reinforced, changed or challenged their perceptions of art and science. 

The aim of the workshop was to instigate the development of uniquely collaborative projects bridging the arts and molecular biosciences, and we are looking forward to seeing what projects develop as a result of the Art & Science Exchange. We thank all of the participants for a great workshop and Dr Pedro Ferreira, the Biochemical Society's Education and Public Engagement Manager for reaching out to the MA Art in Science programme and funding the workshop.

The Liverpool LASER talk will be made available online here https://tinyurl.com/y694ul9m

 



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