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Art and Science: one dude’s opinion

Not just any dude, but David Ng, director of the Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory and editor of The Science Creative Quarterly. He blogs about creativity and science education at The World’s Fair. Ng has written a little about what he views as the complicated relationship between art and science.

Often I get asked to attend artistic events because apparently word has gotten out that my lab does a fair amount of work within the creative arts. Whilst this is true (my lab does have a number of projects that interact with the creative writing and visual art community), and I am always honored to be included, the reality is that I often feel very out of place when I go to these things. The cultures embedded within these scenes—a poetry reading, an art exhibition, or a theatrical production—are just so very different from my own scientific setting. It’s as if I know there is beauty in what I am experiencing, but still I can’t help but feel a certain sense of awkwardness. That maybe I shouldn’t be there in the first place, at this strange intersection between the arts and the sciences. 

Of course, this interplay is awkward, and I say awkward out of courtesy. Sometimes, it can feel downright foreign. Which is understandable since, as we’ve all been told, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and at last count, there are almost 7 billion beholders out there on this planet, most of them foreigners to us.

Everybody see things differently. Take viruses as an example: Objects that serve as a baseline for subsistence, almost cheating their way into the world of the living. Most scientists see beauty in these forms, not necessarily because they are aesthetically pretty to look at, but because there is elegance in the way they function with so little, in the way they survive, in the way they be. To people like me, it feels like a small miracle that they can even exist in the first place.

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Check out the Science Creative Quarterly

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Author:

Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.