Archive for the ‘Week1_TwoCultures’ Category

Triple Whammy! Allie Gates

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Three posts for the price of one!

The first is the blog i wrote the first week before I had gotten onto the correct blog and had created one of my own.  The second is the midterm post, as I accidentally posted it to my other blog. The third is this week’s. Happy reading!


Several centuries later, the Two Cultures that Snow outlines are still confined to their own exclusive enclaves. This is polarization of art and science is an idea that I’ve been chewing on for some time, as it seems like a divide that I jump on an hourly basis; much like Snow, purely because of my own unique circumstances. The recipe was set from the start. My mother is an artist– an award winning graphic designer to pay the bills, a doodler and illustrator to satisfy her own artistic itches. My dad, on the other hand, is a mechanical engineer–my entire childhood quietly tapping away on his keyboard, writing cutting edge computer simulation software. On top of that, I was born a synestheid (, which is a neurologically based phenomena wherein letters, numbers, and other abstract things are perceived to have an inherent color and spacial orientation (on of many reasons I think math is so beautiful; the colors and shapes of higher level math are exquisite). For these reasons, art and science have always seemed like deeply interrelated and interdependent subjects–at times, one in the same. Coming to UCLA was a shock, as a I had never felt like math and art were so geographically and socially isolated pursuits. Although I didn’t realize this at the time, I came to college with diametrically opposed interests. My major was chemistry, but I am a licensed hairdresser by trade. As Snow describes, it felt like jumping between cultures that speak different languages–and (enter tiny sad violin music) for a long time I didn’t feel like I really belonged in either. I attribute much of this to the fact that there are misconceptions and stereotypes on both sides. So, like Snow, I think it’ll be interesting to clear the air about the nasty little slanderous ideas that exist about both sides.

On the one hand, most south campus folk think that cosmetologists are all failed strippers. Community college dropouts. Pretty chicks that can’t do anything better than cut some hair and then go party.


At my salon in Santa Monica, the stylist to my left is a helicopter pilot, training to fly for the Red Cross. The stylist to my left is a real estate genius and has made a killing in residential sales– he has previously dropped out of veterinary school because it was “too easy.” The stylist across the room is the drummer in a very successful LA based lesbian punk rock band. Oh yeah– our receptionist is an Arytrian refugee who is a cage fighter in his spare time. Regardless, these people are bright, interesting, business saavy and most of all: intelligent. Whatever their reasons for hairstyling, they’re all some of the sharpest knives in the drawer.

On the other hand, most stylists/manicurists/makeup artists tend to think of scientists/mathema-what-have-yous as insufferable knowitalls. Robots. Boring dweeby geeks who couldn’t find their way to a party if it poured a beer down their throat.

If there is anything that my time at UCLA has showed me, its that south campusers work hard and play harder. They just happen to know all the chemical pathways that are being tickled when that alcohol or nicotine hits. Period.

In the interest of space, I’ll leave you to dispel or confirm your own remaining notions about hairdressers and scientists. But as a special favor to me, try not to raise your eyebrows too high the next time you find out your hairdresser knows her stoichiometry better than you, or your chem tutor walks in with a haircut that Madonna would envy. People are living gradients, not categories.

With that, check out this video. I think it encompasses the romance of art and science pretty intensively.


Allie Gates


Two: Midterm Review

If there is anything that had been driven home during this course, it is that art and science are married. Intertwined. One in the same even; the kind of polarized dichotomy you are taught to understand of Jesus– he is man, but he is god, even though the point is that they are opposites. I feel the same is true for art and science; nothing is purely science, and nothing is purely art, and they are united by this elusive idea of creativity. More specifically, art and science seem to mutually nurture each other by informing the creative process.  Both Amy Tan and Elizabeth Gilbert have incredible TED talks on the subject of creativity. TED talks are an amazing movement– a couple hundred of the worlds most interesting and brilliant people gather in Monterey, California every year and each talk for 20 minutes on whatever is the object of their passion– from science to art and everything in between.

Elizabeth Gilbert:

Amy Tan:

Elizabeth Gilbert had an especially interesting point about creativity.  She began researching the way that people have conceptualized the creative process over the last several millenia. During the time of the Greeks and Romans, people did not believe that creativity came from within. They believed that those crucial creative moments, the Aha! moments, the moments where the frustrationa and block disappate in the wake of a great idea, those moments were not your own thought, but that this muse-like entity called a genius would come to you from the divine and guide an artist’s mind and work. This conceptualization allowed people to, on the one hand, not be burdened by the pressure of great work, but also dabble in many different creative endeavors and see if genius would visit them and allow them to create outside their regular mediums.

I think propagating this idea of being visited by genius, rather than being a genius, could have interesting implications in this nebulous, gray area we’ve been grappling with, the area between what is art and what is science, what is both and what is neither.  I’d like to think that many people might start to understand that their creativity, their genius, in one area can be translated to work in another.

For my midterm, I was visited by one of these geniuses.  I struggled and struggled to conceptualize a project that was, at once, purely scientific and purely artistic, one that played off the two in a synergistic way rather than being art in spite of being enabled by science or science that was made more widely appealing because it’s pretty.  After going to the Pacific Symphony in Irvine, I realized that music is one such art/science medium, but one that has a certain natural, organic quality to it that is not usually afforded to the futuristic projects we have been shown over the last few weeks.  After bumbling around for the first month of class, struggling to find something new and interesting to propose, my idea sauntered, fully formed, into my brain. It felt as if it had nothing to do with myself, but more like as if a little Dobby the house-elf had emerged from the walls of my room and whispered the idea in my ear.  Of course this didnt actually happen, but this feeling of being removed from the creativity and letting it come to me produced what I (immodestly) feel was a great idea. I decided to design a concert hall that incorporates a biological framework in its execution.  It is a concert hall that has walls outfitted with microchips that mirror the way an octopus changes color in order to produce visualizations of people’s brainwaves as they respond to the music.  If executed, it could provide a means for people to experience music on a new level of interpersonal cohesion.

And maybe that kind of inspiration and experience is what we need to coax the geniuses out of our walls…


Three: Biotechnology and Sexytime

One aspect of the biotechnological debate that I feel has been glossed over is simple: sex.

From the beginning of time, people have been trying to get off. Though, as a species, we’ve been overwhelmingly successful in this endeavor, humankind seems to try to stretch the limits of sexual exploration with every new generation.  For example, the turn of the century was a time when women across the globe were afflicted by the medical malady known as “hysteria”– a condition marked by feelings of unsatisfaction, anxiety, rapid heart rate, excess vaginal fluid and frustration.  Before the early 1900’s, women were not considered to be sexual beings; it was thought that men were the only ones who could experience an orgasm, and so sex acts were solely for the pleasure of the man.  Hysteria was treated by doctors in their practices, and their ‘treatment’ back then was accomplished either manually (thats right!) or with various metal tools (yowza!) in order to make a woman orgasm.  The woman would leave the doctor feeling satisfied in ways her husband wouldn’t bother to achieve, but nobody pegged hysteria was widespread sexual frustration for many years.  Needless to say, once doctors go wise to the complexities of female sexual urges they stopped offering handjobs in their practices.

However, these metal tools that they used to perform the hysteria treatment were the beginnings of what would eventually become a multibillion dollar industry: dildos, and all akin sex toys.  (In case I’ve lost you or made you uncomfortable by now, I just want to clarify that all of this is true and that Im coming around to biotechnology.)  What started as a technological advancement in the treatment of an illness caught on as a commercial product for sexual gratification.  In much the same way, I project that biotechnology that is being developed in order to push the frontiers of medical science will be diverted to a certain extent in order to serve sexual purposes.  After all, people tend to look to technology to unlock wonders that we never dreamed of, to solve problems and bring luxuries that we can’t even comprehend.  The fetishism of technology is everywhere. Asian anime porn is fraught with cyborg whores, cloned mistresses, and sex-kitten biobabes with the sole mission of sex sex sex. The mass media has already latched onto the idea of biotech fantasy girls– the new Joss Whendon series called Dollhouse plays off the idea of genetically programmable people, focusing on women that you can program to kill, or to give some sweet sweet lovin.  The series Forbidden Science takes the robot route in providing a conceptualization for the new sexual experiences that art and science may bring, wherein sex robots are designed to fit different ideas of beauty and are then tested, rigorously!, by scientists who happen to be incredibly hot.  AI, a movie that provides one idea of the future of human-robot interaction, also touches on the ‘exploitation’ of robots for sex.  This is all interesting because it approached the intersection of art and science from a new angle.  In harnessing the science of creating these objects/people of desire, they approach art in a new way, as it looks into the nature of beauty and aesthetics and catalogs it in a replicable, decipherable way, expressed in the fantasy-satisfying nature of these creations.

In the end, science and art serve what the market demands. And as we continue to demand sexual gratification, developers will continue to create ever evolving products to satisfy.

Hey, at least you can’t get an STD from a robot.

Allie Gates

Week 1_ Two Cultures Necessary for True Genius by Christine Vu

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

        History is an unavoidable phenomena. As a child, born and raised in LA, I have learned to admire UCLA as a school where its students eccentricity is put to the test. It is not until enrolling in my second year of college that I realized, conformity is what defines us.
        Stereotypes of high school have found a way to cling onto our suitcases as we enter a new realm of life. But the only difference now is that Jocks, Geeks, Punks, Musicians, and Nerds, are thrown into two separate cultures: north campus and south Campus. Sadly, I learned this first through t-shirts saying “northie” and “southie”. As a freshman, I was eager to enter into this rivalry, not thoroughly examining the motives behind it. It wasn’t until another year of college that I became aware of the negative affects. As an individual who loves the sciences as well as the arts, I am sensitive to the clear distinction the faculty, staff, and student body has successfully imposed. For example, why is it that north campus is surrounded flowers, green quads, and beautiful sculptures while south campus is made up of gloomy ancient buildings? Many would say South campus majors are too focused on their studies to appreciate decor, but in my point of view, it’s just a silly assumption. Another reason why it is too difficult to  mesh these two cultures is the many requirements that one must take to just fit into one. A south campus major can barely graduate within four years taking his or her minimal required classes. I believe that we should cut down on the requirements and allow little room to take classes outside of our major.  It’s ironic how college is suppose to be about taking the classes you like, when that is clearly not the case.
        We are in a war in which we are forced to choose between being a south campus major or a north campus major. In each case, there is a certain criteria that must be followed. Many argue that north campus students are smarter because of their ability to succeed without doing as much work or being able to say “I partied so hard last night at frat row”  despite having an 8 am midterm the next day. On the other hand, most south campus students share the common goal of doing the impossible: getting into medical school, doing what their parents imprinted in their heads since grade school. This dilemma places a limit on learning and the paradigm that “anything goes”.
        Discovering Professor Vesna’s Desma 9 course, i was intrigued by its desire to break this custom, collaborating art, science, and technology into one study. As busy students, we tend to overlook the fact that in many cases, art and science are very much alike. Albert Einstein even wrote, “”…one of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one’s own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought.” I hope that one day, we will realize that it takes both the arts and the sciences to experience true genius.

Two cultures… or one culture? Nicole Carnarius

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

The Indictment of the Enlightenment


A very true point was brought up in class that while many “science types” have read at least one Shakespeare play, most artists do not know the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The impulsive side of me wants to say that is because art is a way of life where science is a profession. A Shakespearean play is not about art but about life and therefore can be used to understand the human condition. In order to consume art, the person must understand it, and in understanding it they can learn something about their own life. The Law of Thermodynamics is about science. Of course a scientist would say that the Law is about life, but its not required for life. For scientists, knowing the Law helps them in their profession create scientific works that benefit humanity; however, knowing the Law isn’t required of the average person to use something that is created by scientists. As for the play, as far as the “reading” parts concerned, theoretically, anyone who can read can read Shakespeare; however there is a certain level of guidance on the part of a teacher needed to understand it. Most artists have at some point in their life “read” the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but they just do not remember it anymore.


So what am I trying to say? Science can be a form of art, but it can also be a form of conveying information. Just like writing can be a form of art, but it can also be a form of conveying information. Shakespeare, in creating a play combined the science of writing with creativity. Other people use the science of writing, but only to do boring remedial tasks. It is true that many people cannot understand science but it also true that most people do not need to understand science in order to function in our consumer society. Being a scientist already puts some one into the upper or upper middle class of society because most people have no desire to learn this complicated way of simplifying things they cannot understand. In fact there is a large population of people who won’t do anything intellectually engaging after high school. The majority of the population consumes science, but does not create it. Art, on the other hand, is consumed and created by many people.


Moving on, now that scientists have engineered digital devices and developed computer technology, artists can use computers as well to make art. All that is required of them is knowing how to use computers. Art in this form can either be used to make data more engaging or data can be used to make art more entertaining. It is a process that I do not know if I am okay with. All in all, I cannot be sure that I am okay with many parts of modern society and haven’t decided whether to take part in them yet. Science seems to be the enemy, even though it can help people live longer and provide them with modern day conveniences. It’s not trustworthy yet. I guess everything has to be digitalized and made more accessible, but its just too shocking. In fact I’m only really angry at it out of fear. As long as the Internet never fails us, science will have a noncapitalistic outlet into society with which to redeem itself, but until science starts saving the world from the precarious position its put us in, I’ll use science to help make art, but I won’t use art to help out science.


week 1_blog multiple exposure by josh b.

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Ive been exposed to many to many aspects of art and technology mainly throuh anime and videogames, but an  enlightening experience to this combination was through my high school robotics program. my school took part in the FIRST robotics competion, a competion where teams would be given that years “game” rules and would have to build a robot to compete in this game. for example teams would be asked to create a robot that would shoot balls through a hoop as well as race other robots. Another part of the competion, the side in which i was active was to create a 30 second 3d animation promoting the program. teams would be given a theme and would have to relate this theme to robotics.

one the year the theme was “thinking green” our animation was about a lizard that falls in toxic waste and becomes godzilla. a robot made from recycled parts shoots a needle with a cure into godzilas back wich becomes a lizard again. animation is posted here:

pacipating on on the team gave a strange feeling. In one room, team members were working on drawings and storyboards while in the other on physics and engineering of a shooting mechanism.

The robotics program is a great example of art and engineering working together.

Week 1 by Mindy Truong

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Before taking this course, I often viewed the arts and sciences as being separated by a line; the arts were on one side and the sciences were on the other side. This was how I always pictured it, as two complete opposites. Both subjects seemed to be far apart from one another and each seemed to be completely different from one another. The relationship between arts and sciences didn’t seem to overlap.

After a couple lectures, my perspective on these two topics changed immediately. I saw another side to these two topics; one that combined these different yet similar subjects. After seeing some works that combined both fields together, I realized that science and art can be combined as one and be congruous. Before, I thought the combination of these two cultures wouldn’t really click together especially because they were always viewed as being divided. Even on campus the arts and sciences majors are separated; art majors are considered north campus while science majors are considered south campus. Thinking over the lecture, I realize I wasn’t exposed to the combination of these two cultures before, or even if I had been exposed to it, I overlooked it. However, now I’m starting to notice more of a relationship between these two cultures just by exposed to it.

While blogging about this subject, it brought up something that I usually forget; Leonardo da Vinci was both an artist and a scientist. This was something that was always known to me, but it doesn’t always jump at me because I always pictured sciences and art so far apart from one another. However, now I see that these two cultures can meet in the middle.


- Mindy Truong

Week 1_The Third Culture_Wenjing Wu

Monday, January 12th, 2009

I was reading “Toward a Third Culture” when the chapter of “End of Art? End of Science?” drew my attention. Yes, throughout the reading materials and the lectures by Prof. Vesna and Dr. Kurtz we hear about the “gap” between art and science seems really problematic. Is there anything can funtion as a bridge? If so, who is accomplishing the work? What are they doing to to create this “third” or maybe “fourth” “fifth” culture? I paid special attention to these question mainly because I’m a Biotechnology student who’s aimming at a career as a product designer–using C.P. Snow’s words that will be “By training I am to become a scientist: by vocation I feel like being a designer.”  To my understanding, from both level of education and industry, the best way to build a bridge between art and science is for them to know more about the other one. I think sometimes this will be a little bit difficult for artists than for scientists, since the inner dynamic of artistic activities exhibits more relations towards human emotion and compassion while that of scientific activities requires the memorizing of a series of objective laws and the characteristics of the matter you’re studying. And that is why, as I see it, we hear about more and more artists are working with scientists/technicians.


Prof. Vesna mentioned in her essay that much of the bridge-building work takes place in universities, where specialists form various deciplines can work together and thus get more chances to know each other’s work. Let’s see what CAE’s doing. I’ve do some research on Dr. Kurtz’s work (including the case which aroused heated debate) and the biotechnology-related installations such as the “Contestational Biology” which “attempt[ed] to reverse-engineer genetically modified canola, corn, and soy plants through the use of nontoxic chemical disruptors” and “Free Range Grain”, which was able to detect genetic modificaiton in food. Rather than to provoke the viewer’s contemplation of living philosophy or political issues as some other modern art work or installations do, CAE’s work, as far as I’m concerned, seems more like helping the public to obtain knowledge of Life Sciences so they will be more impressed by participating in the art work than by reading hollow articles from Scientific American. Another example is John Maeda, current President of the Rhode Island School of Design. After watching Maeda’s renowed talk on Simplicity at, I was totally attracted by the fabulous work he did to combine computer science and visual arts together. The art he discovered is not only confined to the definition of “What a magnificent arith” but able to make people from all desiplines smile and appreciate his work.john-maeda_risd


Another yell for seeking dialogues between the two culture is from groups like we want money not art. Strictly speaking they are not from a mature industry with production pressure. Yet we can consider this continuous attention for experimental art events as a symbol of shaping the third culture.0aarabbititiijjiio-300


I still remember on the first class when Prof. Vesna did the survey of how many students in this class are from science majors, more than 80% people in the auditorium raised their hands. I’m not sure whether this proportion equals to that of total UCLA students. No matter how this is a good sign to show both sides are willing to know more about each other. And for both I want to borrow some words from Winston Churchill at this point: This is not the end. This is not the beginning of the end. This is the end of the beginning.


–by Wenjing Wu

Week1_TwoCultures by Nikola Kondov

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Ever since I was aware of the world around me, there was always a separation between arts and sciences. It seemed to me that it was hardly possible to combine the two as one. That, of course, couldn’t be more wrong. But, society has implied that the two matters are completely distinct from each other. For example, in my high school, my class was separated into two parts: one that studies arts extensively, and one that gives more accent to the sciences. It is no surprise then, that people from the first part of the class couldn’t even do basic math, whereas, I, who was in the other part, can’t even draw a circle. Then, I go to college, and the separation between the two seems even more obvious. Even the way people look differs. One could easily distinguish the South Campus majors from the North Campus ones.  And, like it was mentioned in Thursday’s lecture, hardly any accent is given to the “opposite” type of classes. So it is no surprise that the line is drawn between the arts and sciences. Yet again, there is always  science in the art, and there is always art in the science, although the latter is harder to notice. Think about the paint used in the paintings. Paint is consisted of various chemical compounds with different pigments. (I apologize if that statement isn’t exactly correct, but I have taken only one quarter of chemistry so far, and barely passed it with a C- =) ) So… it takes chemistry to create the colors you put into a work of art. “Well.. I don’t make the paint..”, one would say. And he or she may be right today. But, that was not always the case. Think about the pre-historic artists. Did they just get their paint from nature? Yes and no. Of course, they didn’t use the scientific methods that chemists use today to make the paint artists use. But they had to do something with the materials they get from nature. They used “red and yellow ochre, hematite, manganese oxide, and charcoal” (cited from But, it’d be harder to stumble across manganese oxide that you could readily use as you walk around in the woods for example. So, the prehistoric artists had to derive these compounds from something else in order to have material with which he could draw. So, the prehistoric artist was also a prehistoric chemist. He had to know exactly what to do in order to have the materials needed. He had to know exactly what happens when he puts the raw material into the fire. That may not sound like science, but it is. Maybe a raw science, but still science. 800px-rock-painting-turtle

A cave painting of a turtle.

And there is the art in the science. While harder to notice, it is still in front of our eyes. Who hasn’t admired the beauty in the way some birds and insects look? Isn’t their coloration  a piece of art created by nature? Of course, this has more practical functions, but still it amazes me. Or the diatoms (small microscopical protists that have a cell wall made of glass).


A flatworm.


Diatoms (not looking like living organisms, but they are, and are keeping the whole ecosystem alive.. :) )

Volvox globator (obviously pregnant) from Youtube. ( cool video of another microorganism, people actually combined videos of it with music, but, I don’t know whether I should upload them here, but feel free to check it out).

So, as we can see, arts and science are one, we just have to look for the art in the science and the science in art.

by Nikola Kondov

Week1_TwoCultures by Dennis Yeh

Monday, January 12th, 2009

For the entirety of the first week of DESMA 9, we have constantly been told that Art and Technology go hand in hand.  While I had never before considered how two seemingly polar opposites go hand in hand, I realized that this idea is as important as it is true, and the evidence is everywhere.

But first, what exactly is art?  We as humans immerse ourselves in art every day, and often times we never realize it.  We are constantly admiring art in our daily lives: on our way to class, starting out of the window while we daydream in class, and checking out the countless number of possible suitors on our way back to the dorms.  Everything we see, touch, or hear can be considered art.  I consider art to be a form of language, defined by any medium through which emotions and ideas are expressed.  Thus, our opinion of artistic merit depends on us; the viewer.

What would you consider to be art?  Music?  Photography?  Sculptures and other 3D-designs?  These categories are merely labels we assign, and are just three examples of the infinite number of things that we consider “art.”  If something can instill emotion or inspire thoughts and ideas to somebody observing it, I consider it to be art.  What do tailors, furniture makers, and architects have in common?  They are all artists.  A tailor or clothing designer had to conceptualize and design every piece of clothing we wear, a furniture maker had to design and assemble every piece of furniture we use, and an architect had to draft and revise plans for every sidewalk, street, highway, or building that we pass by.

Tempurpedic matress made of "space-age" foam that "remembers" your body's natural sleeping position.

Tempurpedic matress made of "space-age" foam that "remembers" your body's natural sleeping position.

Diagram of a Corinthian Column commonly used in Ancient Greek Architecture.

A diagram of Corinthian-style columns commonly
found in ancient Greek architecture.
And what is technology?  It consists of using science, mathematics, and engineering, and it’s purpose is to increase the efficiency of everyday tasks as well as improving our standards of living.  Technology, like art, constantly surrounds us.  For example, The clothing we wear is rarely made by hand, as they were before advances in technology such as the cotton gin (Made by Eli Whitney in 1794) rendered hand-weaving inefficient.  Today, the clothes we wear are made with advanced processes and innovations that are constantly evolving.  We can trace the timeline of the evolution of textiles:

Hand Loom (8000 BC to 2500 BC)
Ground Loom (2500 BC - 1500s)
Spinning Wheel (500 AD - 1000 AD)
Flying Shuttle (1733 AD; increased loom’s speed and efficiency)
Power Loom (1784 AD)
First Synthetic Dye (1856 AD)
Rayon Discovered (1892 AD)
Polyester mass-produced (1953 AD)
Fiber Reactive Dye Discovered (1954 AD)

In this specific example of textiles, we can observe the trend of how clothing design (art) is affected by innovations in textiles (technology).  That is, art is the innovative use of certain mediums to portray ideas or emotions, while technology creates new mediums to work with.  The innovations in textile processing provide new interesting mediums for artists to work with, as well as reducing the cost of supplies, allowing artists more freedom in their work.  The invention of the internet and the digital camera pathed the way for blogs, which evolved into v-logs with the advent of inexpensive “webcams” and the ever-popular  With respect to music, ancient musical technologies include instruments such as the didgeridoo (Austrailian), Native American Flute (North America), lute (European), or harp.  Over time, with the invention of precision tuning instruments (such as the tuning fork or electronic tuner) as well as many other technological factors, such “ancient” instruments have evolved into “traditional” instruments such as the keyboard, guitar, violin, flute, trombone, baritone, etc.  Now, with our transition to the Digital Age, new inventions such as the synthesizer or digital effects commonly used by guitarists or keyboarders have created new genres of music such as trance, drum and bass, electronica, and techno.  Obviously, technological innovation has greatly changed what we now consider to be music.  Both art and technology constantly evolve and take new forms.  With each invention, there are always artists willing and able to use these inventions as a medium through which to create art, and influence what we consider to be “our culture.”

-Dennis Yeh

Week 1 – “Two Cultures” by Derek Spitters

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Here at UCLA, it is blatantly obvious that a divide between art and science has emerged. Students here are aware of the rivalry between North Campus majors and South Campus majors. These are the “Two Cultures” C. P. Snow is referring to. There are many stereotypes surrounding both groups. For example, some people believe that South Campus majors work harder because the classes they take are supposedly more difficult. Similarly, others believe that North Campus majors are more outgoing and creative. Although these stereotypes are not necessarily true, there still may be something inherently different about students from each of the two cultures. This essential disparity determines a person’s propensity towards one culture or the other. On the other hand, just because someone is more scientifically inclined does not mean that they do not appreciate artwork. I do not believe that the two cultures are mutually exclusive.

I am a biochemistry major and therefore identify largely with the South Campus. However, I am also planning on earning a minor in political science, a North Campus subject. Many students are in comparable positions and have interests in both the sciences and the arts. The university system has both exacerbated and reduced the split between cultures. Colleges and universities encourage the type of specialization that has results in the compartmentalization of intellectual communication. Only those chemists or historians who are at the top of their specific field can have a meaningful conversation about the subject. Then again, a college education also encourages students to pursue a variety of subjects. A perfect example of this is my experience with DESMA 9. I am taking this class in order to fulfill a general education requirement, and it will probably be one of the few art classes I take while at UCLA. College graduates gain both breadth and depth of education. Although my UCLA education will take me deep into the field of biochemistry, it is also broad enough to expose me to various art disciplines as well.

My only real art experience is in photography. I took a year and a half of photography in high school, and I found that there is a great deal of science and technology behind a photograph. This is one area where the two cultures seem to meet. The history of photography represents a series of scientific and technological breakthroughs. Early cameras required exposures that were several hours long. As new photosensitive chemicals were found, the process was refined and now takes only a fraction of a second. New discoveries allowed color photos to be developed, and further advances have led to digital photography. While the composition of a photograph is a purely aesthetic exercise, getting the right exposure has more to do with physics. Depth of field and focus are governed by physics principles. Additionally, developing film and printing photos in the dark room are chemical reactions. I think I was drawn to this art form because it was so interconnected with science. Although I have worked mainly with black and white film, I have also used a digital single-lens reflex camera. Digital photography has created a whole new medium for expression, and technology such as Adobe Photoshop allow artists to do amazing new things with their pictures.

These photos by Jerry Uelsmann were created using multiple enlargers in the dark room:

An example of my photography:

Science and art are complimentary. One could not exist without the other. In order to make a substantial scientific breakthrough it is necessary to think creatively as an artist would. Moreover, scientific advances often lead to new opportunities for artistic expression.

–Derek Spitters

Week 1_ The Two Cultures_ Long Fung Lau

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

On the first day of class I was reminded by Professor Vesna’s artworks of the novel Next by Michael Crichton. I still remember how I was amazed by one of the articles in the novel stating that an artist has created a cactus that grows hair instead of spikes using genetic engineering methods. The artist called it “the transgenic cactus”. I was perplexed by the notion of using science or technology as a medium in portraying art. Then I began to think deeper and it occurred to me that this notion has been around for a long time; for instance, photography and motion pictures are art forms that came about by the advances of optical technology. The transgenic cactus isn’t at all different from any other forms of art.

Though it has always been there, the connection between the sciences and the arts is so subtle that it often escapes people’s attention. On one hand, the discipline of science is the use of logic to search for answers; on the other hand the field of arts is known to emphasize creativity. In Professor Vesna’s lecture she mentioned one of Einstein’s famous quotes: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Indeed, the common ground between the two vastly different subjects is the spark of imagination. Needless to say, in the realms of arts imagination is the key ingredient in cooking up masterpieces throughout history. What’s more difficult to see is the role of imagination in science, a study of reality. Apparently, the sole driving force of scientific advances is the spontaneous generation of new questions based on answers obtained from previous experiments and theories. These questions arise from both knowledge and imagination; without either component, the very dynamics of science would crumble.

In the essay by C.P. Snow, the separation of the intellectuals into two distinct groups is portrayed as “The Two Cultures.” The problem here is that both groups “crystallize” their social forms away from each other and refuse to communicate, blaming it on mutual misunderstanding. As Snow points out, this problem seems to have arisen from the over-specialization in the education system. While it is true that to gain expertise one must be specialized in the area, however I agree with Snow that interaction with other areas is imperative in making progress. Information must diffuse into each other’s fields in hopes that something new and original can come about.

The following cartoon pokes fun at the hostility between the architects and the engineers.

Pearls before swine

Long Fung Lau