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Both science and art enable us to see more deeply into the mystery of existence.

Article    by John Eichinger, PhD.

January 16, 2000

[The following was adapted expressly for zenzibar.com from: Eichinger, J. (1996). Integrating art and science in the classroom: Probes and explorations. Collaborative Inquiry in a Postmodern Era: A Catís Cradle, 2, 37-44.]

Blending Art and Science
by John Eichinger, PhD.

Which side of the fence are you on? Art? Science and technology? It is time to tear down the fence, if we dare, or at least to rip a few sizeable holes in it. Differences exist between science and art, certainly, or the two words would be useless. Perhaps the thoughts that follow will make the boundaries between the two disciplines appear fuzzier, however. Maybe those boundaries already are fuzzy, and we see them as solid in order to maintain a sense of security in a chaotic world - like the way our brain automatically fills in the blind spots (caused by the lack of sensory cells where the optic nerves meet their respective retinas) in our field of vision with what "should be there." Are we ready to release time honored, security-generating distinctions and begin to acknowledge the holistic function of human cognition? Many artists and scientists have already done so. Does the "fence" actually exist, after all?

Imagine the almond-shaped entity produced when two circles overlap partially. In mathematics, this entity is the shared set of a Venn diagram. It is the mandorla of medieval Christianity and Jungian psychology, i.e., the region shared by seemingly separate, even antagonistic concepts. An examination of the territory shared between the arts and the sciences may provide the common ground necessary for developing a more integrated and functional perspective. What characteristics do these two apparently polemic disciplines share? The art/science mandorla might include aspects of the following:

    • analysis
    • observation
    • use of specialized tools, including a distinctive lexicon
    • reliance on a process of discovery
    • openness to novel phenomena
    • imaginative leaps of intuition
    • creativity and play (with materials, ideas, phenomena, and experience)
    • experimentation ("what if...?" thinking)
    • collaboration, historical context, and a sense of community (e.g., "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." - Sir Isaac Newton)
    • publication, practicality and/or reference to external, subjective evaluation
    • an appreciation of elegance and the sublime (an aesthetic sense, i.e., a regard for beauty in forms and/or ideas).

 Both science and art enable us to see more deeply into the mystery of existence. They remind us, in their own distinctive ways, of where we really are. Perhaps, then, their greatest similarity is that they are both means of furthering our personal awareness, of expanding consciousness. The following poem could refer to either an artist or a scientist:

I am the eyes and ears of my species.

I am the ape mind

Noticing itself.

I am the living rock,

The darkest amalgam

Of stardust and light.

Writer and painter Henry Miller had this to say, "All art, I firmly believe, will one day disappear. But the artist will remain, and life itself will become not Ďan art,í but art ..." (1941. Wisdom of the heart. p. 24). Does "life itself" include the sciences? Does "art" live in the creative, innovative, introspective, and conscious progress demanded of engaged individuals by the interdisciplinary blending process itself?

In The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, C. P. Snow said, "This polarisation [of scientists and artists] is sheer loss to us all. To us as people, and to our society. It is at the same time practical and intellectual and creative loss..." (1961, p. 12). I would only add that the disconnection may represent a spiritual and visionary loss as well. That is, if art and science are viewed entirely as separate phenomena, and if they continue to be disassociated in our daily thoughts and activities, then a crucial circle in our lives remains unmended.

Fortunately, many forward-thinking individuals are currently immersed in the active integration of the arts and sciences, and many of those projects can be explored via their web sites through zenzibar.com

Here are a few sites exploring this subject:

ASCI - Founded in 1988, Art & Science Collaborations, Inc. (ASCI)
is one of the few art & technology members organizations in
the USA.

Emergent Systems - My interactive installations look to the intersection between natural and technological systems. Integration of organic and electro/mechanical elements assert a confluence and co-evolution between living and evolving technological systems.

Mindship International - A non-profit organization that creates opportunities for collaboration between artists and scientists. Our participants are from many countries. Our goal is to encourage projects, studies and works of art and publications by artists and scientists working together, and to present these to the public.

MkzdK - A difficult to categorize site that is full of art, poetry, commentary on science and spirituality and is beautiful to browse through.

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