Symposium – science and art

Jonathan emailed earlier this week indicting that the subject matter for discussion on Thursday will be the relationship of science and art. He suggested we watch two videos:

    1. Danielle Bassett: Understanding your brain as a network… and as art
    2. Rob Kesseler: Explores his art and how he has worked with and contributed to science research.

Bassett’s presentation
Bassett’s presentation began by explaining functions of the brain and that her task was to identify how our brains change after learning a new skill. She first described the functions of networks and then applied them to the brain:

Nodes, edges and interactions, hubs, modules, peripheral regions,

She thus described the brain as a network and suggested that scans show different functions/pathways/areas of activity and patterns of interaction – but that the latter are unique to each individual

Bassett’s Problem:
Bassett wanted to understand and quantify the structures in these reconfiguring networks. However she noted that involves very big data and so instead of using mathematical formula they used artists to represent it.


Bassett then talked the viewers through some of these representation and ended by asking a rhetorical question about how her own brain is evolving through working with both scientists and artists.

Bassett’s presentation was about artistic representation as a way of understanding and this fitted in with a long history of representation. For example, Victorian illustrations of nature in books came to mind. However whereas those were literal and copies Bassett’s examples were interpretations and so much deeper.

My thoughts ran in two parallel streams:

  • The first turned to behaviours and how our consciousness changes over time:   unconscious incompetence (habit) -> conscious incompetence -> conscious competence ->unconscious competence
  • The second was about how almost all of my digital imagery is about my brain (my outlook, values, relationships with the world) it offers a sense of this through showing how I represent the world and so is not that different to Bassett’s approach really.

Rob Kesseler’s presentation

Hierarches in art: eg craft, illustration, fine art

  • Art and functions: eg stories, illustration, communicating issues such as wealth, filling spaces, reflecting values of owners
  • Knowledge and skill expressed with different processes represent things differently and emphasise different aspects of the subject matter. They act as filters and modifiers. Kessler appears to argue the art does this better than science.
  • Discussion
    The symposium discussion was wide ranging and covered all sorts of issues such as the similarities and differences between the science and art. I suppose at the end of the day we would all agree that there are lots and lots of interconnections between art and science and it doesn’t really matter how we categorise things between these two areas in our own practice unless we specifically want to. Here are various points and references made in the discussion summarised by me. Thus they are not all my views but points made by other participants.

    So, science and art. In the Renaissance they were considered equal, and many artists were also scientists and vice-versa, such as Da-Vinci

    Left Brain; Right Brain:

    We can also talk about networks of ideas in art, popularized by the idea of the “Rhizome” by Deleuze and Guattari – ideas of interconnectivity – a network of thought, of ideas, of cross-fertilization between disciplines,

    So, art about science:

    Here is the difficulty for me with Ryoji Ikeda – Supersymmetry — with a strong scientific background, I find it difficult to see the “art” in this. Although I try, it falls back into a light show or something off

    When non-artists view an artwork, it should prompt reflection and through this introspection lead to greater knowledge. Art can transform on a social scale with the same potency as science. Perceptions, global thinking Now if Kesseler dissected that cauliflower and photographed it, photoshoped it and presented it…it would then be art



About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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