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Art + Science = Collaborative Action

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.”

(Albert Einstein)

Have you ever been working on a problem and gotten stuck? Chances are you’re just cycling through the same ideas over and over. Collaboration is a good idea because when different perspectives and expertise come together it can result in creative ideas and outcomes. But, if we only collaborate with people who share the same knowledge and skill sets we’re only going to get so far. So, collaboration has branched out. Synergy between two or more disciplines has led to the formation of many new fields of study, including biochemistry, cognitive neuropsychology, bioinformatics, genomics, and photonics.

While crosscutting collaborative partnering has become the standard for responding to complex problems, the Arts are rarely included as a credible partner. Even in the most progressive discussions about transdisciplinary partnering and knowledge exchange art has not been part of the dialogue.

The current academic system requires students to become either scientists or humanists. Modern society values art for expression while science is valued for analytical attention to detail; however, intuition and deduction are not mutually exclusive. Art and science are synchronically linked in ways that our siloed world does not tend to appreciate. Bringing artists and scientists together fosters the development of creative spaces for innovation. Leonardo da Vinci knew this. He was passionate about connecting art and science, blending empirical observations with experimentation and making multidisciplinary connections to create innovation and art.

Creativity is a fundamental aspect of innovation. Invention in both art and science occurs in the same mental space, one where deduction and intuition, simplification and ambiguity coexist. Collaborations between artists and scientists are a good fit for the exchange of ideas and new knowledge generation. Artists and scientists alike explore the world and try to understand the universe through introspection, examination and experimentation. Artists and scientists both utilize metaphor to understand and discuss abstract concepts. When scientists communicate findings, they do so by distilling the most significant information from a complex body of work into the most parsimonious and compelling story possible. Artists also extract salient information for artistic expression. Their commonalties, along with differences in artistic and scientific perspective and methodology, lead to novel dialogue and insights. Combining scientific exploration with creative expression yields unique opportunities for forming new knowledge, discovery and creativity.

Partnerships between artists and scientists have been shown to spark creativity, encourage inclusivity, expand perspectives and augment designs and methodologies. The have also prompted new opportunities for data exposure, knowledge dissemination and public influence by expanding audiences beyond traditional forums. Art and science collaborations can be tremendously inspirational, resonate with large audiences and intersect with social activism. To solve the grand challenges that face society, new collaborative designs are needed which cross beyond traditional boundaries and bring the public into the dialogue. Arts-science partnerships are one way of doing just that.

But new conversations require new platforms that promote crosscutting art and science collaboration. We need to build opportunities that will bring scientist and artists together. Such platforms will promote the collision of ideas for cross-pollination and the dissemination of powerful data driven narratives able to inspire transformative learning and social change. The model offers a pathway for scientific and art collaboration able to engage both sides of our brains, rises past politics, and reach deep into our hearts, to ignite emotions and fuel social action.

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