Science Borealis

Science Borealis
Science Borealis

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

My Brush with Art

A lot of universities have a Faculty called "Arts and Science".

If the faculty segments its disciplines into "Arts" and "Science" does that imply that arts and sciences don't mix? are they mutually exclusive? or is there some overlap?

Such fundamental questions as "what makes something Art?" or "Can Science be considered as Art?" came to my mind as I was organizing a public event for Pueblo Science which was to be part of Culture Days weekend, held on September 28th 2013 weekend across Canada. I named the activity : "Painting with Science".

Luckily for me, I happen to have a friend who is an art curator, and who is better qualified to help me in my quest to understand where Art and Science meet, or whether they don't, than an art curator?

The short answer I got was: "it is art if you say so."
 Well that's easy then, I just say my science demonstration is art, therefor it must be art.

But will people believe me just because I said so?

So I kept on questioning, "but will people believe me? why should they?"

And here lies the profound boundary (at least based on my interpretation):

ART provokes your subjective FEELINGS
SCIENCE provokes your objective REASONING

In other words, art presents you with something to explore with your emotions, to think about how you feel about it, to like it or dislike it, or perhaps to be indifferent, and in either way, ponder about why is it that you feel the way you feel, and then perhaps change your mind, feel something else. You may feel differently every time you experience it. And every person may feel differently about the same art.

Science, on the other hand, is about understanding why things are the way they are, why things behave the way they do. Your emotions are not part of it. Like it or not, gravity will pull you down when you loose your balance. Love it or not, but a drop of food colouring falling on a piece of fabric will soak and spread. Science is about articulating an explanation (and later testing the boundaries and limitations of that explanation). Finding a 'general rule' which will allow you to predict how the world will behave based on how it was observed to behave until now. And it doesn't matter who is the observer, the science is always the same.

Wait, so does that mean art and science can or cannot mix?

My feelings about this is that they can overlap if you let them.
If you ALLOW yourself to both FEEL as well as REASON, you can enjoy both ART and SCIENCE.

Look at this painting we had both adults and children paint at the event:

You can clearly see a canvas. You can also see different drawings, using different colors, pink and green. You can think about how the drawings make you feel. What do they remind you of. How the collection of different drawings produced by different people combine or clash. It is art produced by random people who were presented with a fabric, paint brushes and paint, and the opportunity to draw anything they felt like on a nice sunny morning in Toronto.

Oh, and one last thing you can't see from the image. The paint they were given were all colorless, transparent liquids!!! Yes, that's right. Our painters used solutions which looked exactly the same, but produced different colors when they touched the fabric. What a surprise. Now another feeling comes into play, that of surprise. Amazement.

And now, once you've let yourself soak the feeling of marvel, you may ask "Why does this happen?"
And we can now search for an explanation. Are the liquids the same or are they different? Is it the paint, the fabric, or their combination which produces the different colors?

We've stepped from an artistic experience into a scientific experience.
And once we understand why things happen, does that diminish our feelings? or maybe it enhances them? personally, I prefer to think of it in a non-competitive way. Our feelings are different with the knowledge we gained, but feelings are still feelings, no right ones no wrong ones. No better, no worse.

Think of how your feelings change when you learn how a magic trick was performed. The first time you see it, you are amazed. Once you learn how it was done, you may feel admiration towards the magician who has mastered the trick so well. Instead of replacing one feeling for another, cherish them both. Both add up to make you who you are.

So, as I explore my personal feelings about the who event, I conclude that I've learned that I can appreciate the artistic merit of my science activity. And I liked it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment