Art and science intersected excitingly last Monday night at the University Main Library. As part of the Festival of Creative Learning, a pop-up exhibition of postcards about science and art was put on display on the first mezzanine of the library and remained up until the close of the Festival on Friday.
The postcards were created as part of a collaborative workshop, hosted by InterSci, a university and student society at University of Edinburgh whose aim is to encourage conversation and collaboration between scientists and ASCUS, a non-profit organisation committed to bridging the gap between art, design and the sciences.
[…] it was about the discourse between the scientist and artist surrounding how we can use art to visualise and express abstract concepts in difficult subjects.
In mid-January, the organisations brought together ten scientists and ten artists into pairs to each create a piece of art on a postcard. The workshop, which is in its second year, is titled Art & Science on a Postcard and was a networking and hands-on workshop for artists and scientists to exchange knowledge and ideas and to get creative around technical topics. The workshop took place at the ASCUS Lab in Summerhall, the UK’s largest publicly accessible laboratory for experimentation in art and science. The ASCUS lab holds open-access sessions, as well as workshops.
An essential element of the workshop is that it was not meant to be about the artists creating illustrative artworks for the scientists. Instead, it was about the discourse between the scientist and artist surrounding how we can use art to visualise and express abstract concepts in difficult subjects. Though teams worked in pairs, each participant created their own postcard. Further, they were each constrained to only one postcard-sized piece of work, a strategy designed to encourage exploration and experimentation on a small scale, as opposed to the overwhelming task of creating a full-scale work of art in a few short hours.
[…] the artists talked about the deep parallels between science and art as enquiry-based processes and described their challenges in creating work at this intersection.
On the library display, these postcards have been arranged according to the scientist-artist pairs who created them, demonstrating their collaboration and individual interpretations of the challenge. A range of techniques is on display, from traditional pencil and ink illustrations to copper etching, even sculptural work with plastics and textiles. But regardless of the materials, each piece fits onto only one postcard.
After the debut of the display, InterSci hosted a panel discussion with two artists and two scientists who had worked on the project. In the conversation, the artists talked about the deep parallels between science and art as enquiry-based processes and described their challenges in creating work at this intersection with their partner. The discussion then opened up to the audience, leading into a discussion about barriers to art and science individually, as well as barriers to collaboration between artists and scientists. Though the discussion came to no clear-cut conclusions about these issues, it allowed participants in the original workshop and audience members of the debate to use the work on display as a springboard into a broader dialogue.
This post was written by Miles Martin and edited by Karolina Zieba.