Can art and science interact meaningfully?

25 August 2011

 Marc Quinn, Silvia Petretti - Sustiva Tenofivir, 3TC(HIV), on display at Wellcome Collection
[object Object]

Marc Quinn, Silvia Petretti - Sustiva Tenofivir, 3TC(HIV), on display at Wellcome Collection

Are the worlds of science and art really that divided? Haven’t we already had this conversation?  Rosie Tooby, Events Officer for Wellcome Collection, has been out of the office and exploring the arts/science interface.

When creating events for Wellcome Collection, it’s easy to lose sight of all of the other amazing projects going on up and down the country that are doing similar stuff to us. But the last ten months has given me the chance to do precisely that. I’ve been doing a secondment at the Wellcome Trust, working on the Arts Awards grants scheme.

One of the wonderful things about working on the scheme is discussing projects with the producers, artists and scientists that have been funded. There are often unexpected revelations that come up along the way. Scientists are often surprised that collaborating with an artist might offer them a new way to reflect on their work, and artists are sometimes surprised at where a new collaboration takes their practice. It’s fascinating to get an insight into this process.

The work of the Trust in creating art/science collaborations was highlighted in an article in The Guardian at the weekend. It mentions some projects that we’ve funded and others too. Its ten years since Marc Quinn created a portrait of Sir John Sulston based on his DNA, and yet the idea of art that interacts meaningfully with science and scientific concepts can still cause a stir, as you can see from the comments on the article.

We’d love to know what you think.  Are scientists doing the real work, and artists “merely the illustrators”, as one commenter has it? Or are art and science two sides of the same “fundamental creative urge”? Let us know in the comments below.