Week 1 – “Two Cultures” by Derek Spitters

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

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