” . . . Science communication is not a one-way street between researchers & journalists to the lay public. From the Science Art Feed you can see the array of conversations non-scientists are starting through visual media. There’s a response, an echo and an amplification to the impact the scientific method has had on culture. Researchers, too, are stepping in and showing the inspiring, baffling and illuminating images they come across and use. Does it mean there is a new aesthetic, a new movement afoot? Will there be leaders, schools, manifestos, turning points? I don’t know for sure, but as someone interested in exploring science in artwork, I feel I’ve seen a rise the past 10 years, and this is coupled with it being easier than ever to find. . . . “
A spate of recent arts/medicine convergences have caught my attention, and has me thinking about the potential of ARTStem collaborations between our arts institution and the medical research and healthcare sectors of Winston-Salem.
Here’s a short article out of Drexel University about a current exhibit of artistic work once used in medical education. The Smart Set: A Model Body.
Here’s a news story about the exhibit:
And there was this item from the Chronicle of Higher Education about “narrative medicine,” an approach that aligns training in narrative with training in medical diagnosis. From the story: ” . . . Lately, however, I’ve become interested in the field of narrative medicine, which takes a more sympathetic view of doctors. The idea here is that studying narrative—training doctors to read literature, to become more compassionate listeners and interpreters of the stories their patients tell—can make doctors better at what they do. To develop “narrative competence,” doctors are encouraged to undertake self-reflective writing exercises to help them process the emotional residue left by confrontations with illness, pain, and death. As the parent of a child who needs medical attention, I’m attracted to the idea that my training as a literary critic might help doctors more capably realize the ideals of their own profession. . . . ” More: http://chronicle.com/article/Narratives-Medicine/126560/
” . . . In 2008, a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed that medical students at Harvard who completed an art appreciation course were 38 per cent more accurate in making medical diagnoses than before they took the class. (Observations by a control group did not change.) At Yale, a study found that nursing students in an art program had more objective clinical findings when viewing patient photographs than their non-museum-going peers . . . ” READ ON . . .
” . . . And so I’ve begun to wonder recently whether STEM needs something to give it some STE(A)M—an “A” for art between the engineering and the math to ground the bits and bytes in the physical world before us, to lift them up and make them human. What if America approached innovation with more than just technology? What if, just like STEM is made up of science, technology, engineering and math, we had IDEA, made of intuition, design, emotion, and art—all the things that make us humans feel, well, human? It seems to me that if we use this moment to reassess our values, putting just a little bit of our humanity back into America’s innovation engines will lead to the most meaningful kind of progress. By doing so, we will find a way back to integrating thinking with making and being and feeling and living so that left- and right-brained creativity can lift our economy back into the sky. . . “
A recent contemporary art exhibition in Los Angeles was curated by Harvard physicist Lisa Randall. The exhibit featured several different contemporary artists, and explored the concept of “scale.”
Randall explained, “. . . I wanted a theme where both art and science could participate and it wasn’t just art representing science or science pretending to be art, but where we could think deeply about ideas that underlie both of them. . . .” (see article)
I though this was a particularly notable passage articulating several factors establishing “the arts” and “the sciences” as kindred spirits:
” . . . Art and science as disciplines offer methods to understand and discover the world. Scientists and artists through their work are both challenged to communicate to others what they observe about nature or about society. To do so, each profession is trained in specific tools and methods, draw upon discipline-specific theory, engage in collaboration across professional networks, are publicly funded and supported, engage in both “basic” art or research or applied work (in the case of art, advertising or design), and are peer-reviewed or juried by other experts. Artists, like scientists, are also limited by natural laws particularly light and perspective, often deal with issues of privacy and the ethical use of subjects, and both groups are deeply concerned by the need for public understanding and appreciation for their profession.. . ”
from the "Morphology" website at http://users.design.ucla.edu/~mflux/morphology/details.htm. "The work here is known as "computer based model building", and the analogy here is multicellular biology. It's just like making a map on the ground, letting twigs and rocks represent landmarks, paths, and places of interests. Here I'm allowing equally crude forms and behaviors represent highly complex things, such as the laws of physics, chemistry, and systems of biology."
An article from SEED Magazine, “Getting Past the Pie Chart,” took me back to some of the most interesting ideas we talked about in the first ARTStem seminar in August of 2009, which revolved around the art of visualizing information or data. That’s not a new kind of activity, of course, but digital tools offer a lot of new kinds of experimenting with how to visually communicate information. And on the flip side, modern science and new technologies for data collection are producing data sets so huge and deep that they defy (or at least threaten to) traditional modes of representation.
To my mind, this is where everything comes together–this is where the shared project of the humanities, the arts, and the sciences reveals itself. At root, we’re all working at the very complicated interstices of knowledge discovery, organization, and representation/communication. This is one of the junctions where I think all art and design practices can play a powerful role in facilitating public understanding of, and civic dialogue about, complicated issues involving global scales, big numbers, and levels of interconnection and interdependence that are near impossible to wrap our heads around.
If you’ve never looked at it before, check out this IBM project called ManyEyes. It’s geared toward the ‘democratization of visualization’ and provides tools to creatively visualize and map data sets, ostensibly to render meaningful important information that, in the absence of effective representation, never travels that last, most difficult path from being raw information to becoming human knowledge. There’s also some pretty cool links there. For example, this at VisualComplexity.com. In particular, this blog entry on different ways of “visualizing music and sound” captured my interest. Here’s a video of a music visualization of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
How excellent would it be to have an ARTStem project that somehow combined students in the sciences (or social sciences, for that matter) collecting data of different sorts on topics of importance (researching, surveying, fieldwork, etc.), learning to manipulate and mine for meaning with digital applications, thinking critically about modes of representation, and perhaps even communicating with more dramatic, performative strategies, too?
Something of this ilk has actually been done in recent years by the Winston-Salem Light Project (led by UNCSA D&P’s Norman Coates), come to think of it, which has done some awesome light projections, including some with real pedagogical content. Check that out this year if you have a chance.
I continue to find the basic idea of how representational practices of all sorts (i.e. the ARTS) play an important role, historically and today, not just in the explanation of science but in the process of shaping public opinion. This new book on visual representations of Darwinian theory caught my eye.