Do art & science belong together? An artist’s perspective.
September 21, 2017 by KyleMarian
Oregon Eclipse artist collaborator Nasimeh B.E. shares her post-festival thoughts in this guest blog. Nasimeh collaborated with scientist Sena Koleva as part of our first Artist-Scientist Festival Residency. Together, they brought the interactive installation Bar None to Oregon Eclipse 2017.
Here’s the thing. I never used to think art and science went together.
It’s not that I considered them inherently opposed to one another – not an oil and water situation. More of a peanut butter and Earth Balance situation, or millenials and CD-roms situation, or twitter and my parents situation. The sort of things that could spend time together but usually don’t, and might make you raise an eyebrow if you saw them hand-in-hand.
Growing up, I assumed that people were separated into categories:
Art-people and not-art-people.
Science-people and not-science-people.
You could only be one, I reasoned, and therefore also the not-other. You couldn’t be both.
Being lumped into the definitely-some-sort-of-artist category at a young age, I made the quick leap to understanding that I, imaginative and prone to long bouts of daydreaming, was a not-scientist. So, by the transitive property of childhood, I assumed that art and science did not mix.
Then I did an art-science residency with Guerilla Science all leading up to one fabulous week at Oregon Eclipse, and that all got turned on its head.
Here’s three things I learned through my time.
1. Art and Science definitely go together.
Let’s start with the most obvious: Art and science totally go together. They go together like sriracha and eggs, Broad City and binge watching, or late night cravings and taco trucks. They’re great together, the stuff of t-shirts and BFF rings.
The creative, playful, imaginative aspects of art pull in people who are naturally curious and want to learn about the world around them, but are turned off by dry, textbook-like wording and rhetoric (people like me). On the other side, science adds a nice dimensionality and grounding to art, bringing it off the walls of the proverbial museum and out into our everyday world. Adding some practicality or applicability to an art project also pulls in people who don’t think of themselves as ‘creative types.’
Basically, it’s good. It’s real good. Which is likely why…
2. People love the combo (at festivals especially!)
It wasn’t that I didn’t think this would happen; it’s just that I was a bit skeptical of presenting something that required engagement of brain matter to a mass of humans who are subsisting mainly off of thumping bass and dust for a week.
But people were all about it.
My collaborator, Sena, and I gave a talk about our project on day one of the festival — a day when people were still trickling in and structures were still applying their finishing touches. I figured we’d have three people attend, if any, and two of them would be fellow residents. I was so wrong – about 30 people showed up, armed with great questions and an obvious thirst for learning about human connection (our project, Bar None, was based around the science of human connection).
Throughout the weekend, the Guerilla Science tent was a constant hub of activity. Every morning, dozens of people showed up for Space Yoga, then stayed for the various talks presented. Sensory Speed Dating, easily the most popular event of the weekend, had so many eager participants that the ‘overflow’ crowd created their own DIY version over to the side of the tent, running in tandem with the ‘official’ event. And every evening, people crowded around a cluster of telescopes with Black Rock Observatory, basking in the glory of the cosmos.
It makes sense. We want to know about our world, and festivals are places of wonder and intrigue. Still, it was heartening, and caused me to recognize (last but not least)…
3. Science is DOPE
Okay, so I sort of knew this already. It’s not like I thought ‘science’ meant bespectacled people in lab coats checking off items on a clipboard – I watched Bill Nye. I listen to radiolab. I know there’s cool stuff out there, and I’ve always held deep respect for science and scientists. But if Guerilla Science’s entire purpose is to bring a new appreciation for and understanding of science to people, then this was undeniably successful.
How do I know? Well, by the end of the week, I was akin to a 3rd grader after their first field trip to the natural science museum – I was stoked on science.
I had learned about lube and what goes into making it through a gameshow style talk (which included, among other things, giant genitalia costumes).
I learned about plastic recycling by making a necklace so awesome I will actually wear it outside of the festival, and about the science of attraction through smelling a stranger’s neck, blindfolded, and feeding another stranger a cherry tomato.
I was wonder-filled, excited, and impressed by the work of my fellow residents, on both the art and science sides of things.
And in case you need a tangible representation of my newly ignited appreciation of science, I downloaded the audiobook version of Astrophysics For People in a Hurry – no small feat for someone who’d always considered herself a not-science person.
So yes. Art and science go together well. Very well. They go together like bananas and nut butter. Brunch and mimosas. Sunday afternoons and not doing anything. Or … like art and science.
The Artist-Scientist Residency was supported by the National Science Foundation and conducted in partnership with Pratt Institute. See more of the Artist-Scientist Residency projects in action at Oregon Eclipse on our Flickr page.