Posts Tagged ‘‘the third culture’’

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