Week 1–Artists for Reason

Steven Wilson addresses some crucial points in his writing on Myths and Confusions in Thinking About Art, Science, and Technology.   As an aspiring artist, invested in science and hoping to bridge the gap between the two cultures described by Snow, I have specific hopes fellow artists and myself.

First, I hope that we can open our minds to the idea that our next major cultural paradigm shift will be more fundamentally driven by innovations in science than in art.  Our daily lives as humans will change shape dramatically in the coming decades as a result of the exponential growth of information technology (among other factors).  We as people will learn, eat, move, and interact with each other in completely novel ways as technology progresses in coming years.  I hope that fellow artists can overcome fears of the new, the rational, the complicated, and become intimate with technology as an inevitable part of our society—it is not our enemy.  As far as I’m concerned if you use facebook, you should be grateful for “technology,” not afraid of it.

Second, I hope that artists will become not only comfortable with technological and scientific innovation, but also engaged with that progress.  Wilson outlines three major ways that artists engage with science and technology:  continued modernist practice, critical practice, and art as research. He describes how artists in the critical tradition often position themselves against sci/tech.  It is easy to make emotional protests against what scientists are doing when the artist herself lacks “specialized” knowledge (a problem a la Snow) needed to make a responsible critique.  I share Wilson’s worry about when “artists see their only possibility as opposition to the research and blanket denial of it as new human possibility.” (3)  I hope artists will motivate deeper research, not protest it at face value.

We define Art in part by how it addresses that which is beyond rational.  The artist inevitably struggles therefore to successfully engage with the highly rational stakes of science while maintaining openness to that which science cannot (yet) explain with evidence and reason.  How does an artist use the power of human emotion to illuminate a more rational state of awareness or pursuit of knowledge, to shift perspectives towards curiosity and openness to a scientific worldview.  How can an artist help society embrace technological progress?  First and foremost, the artist must respect a scientific definition of “truth” and the values encoded in a scientific method for ascertaining this “truth”.  The artist must maintain intellectual integrity if she is to responsibly engage with science as a field.  She must uphold the values of science as a rational, intellectual, evidence-based pursuit of understanding in order to extol or critique its effects on society.  I hope to see a new culture of intellectually rigorous artists emerge—artists who are not only experts in matters that lie perhaps beyond the rational, but can admire the beauty of logical experimentation as well.

If you agree, you may be interested in my (still very young)  blog.

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This video inspires me, although it makes me envious of designers. How can artists collaborate in a significant way?  If art has a purpose, does it become design?

Stephany Howard

One Response to “Week 1–Artists for Reason”

  1. stephany howard says:

    (Not sure why the photos aren’t cooperating at the moment…they’re on my previous post for Adam’s section.)

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