ponder: Research day 2 - Art & Science I

Being an 'artist' crossing over into the 'science' area, part of the idea underpinning my research lends itself to the  Art/Science divide which has been a point of discussion for some years. I still remember reading Sophie's World and the section about 'natural philosophy' which was modern science's predecessor and thinking, I never really considered the term 'science' and what it actually meant. 

Language such as terminology, categories and labelling are often taken for granted and implemented through parents, education etc. It almost works like Pavlov's dog syndrome, when someone says science, you immediately think 'lab', chemistry, physics and biology - the so called science subjects at school.  Looking at the etymology of the word originating around 1300-50, the Latin word 'scientia' - had a meaning of knowledge.  This then developed around the late 1300s to mean:


"collective human knowledge" (especially that gained by systematic observation, experiment, and reasoning). Modern (restricted) sense of body of regular or methodical observations or propositions concerning a particular subject or speculation is attested from 1725; in 17c-18c this concept commonly was called philosophy. Sense of "non-arts studies" is attested from 1670s" [1]
Figurative system of knowledge, 1752
The development of modern day science as we know it also comes from the 'age of enlightenment' period which roughly spanned from the 17th century to the 19th century and it was during the this period that the scientific revolution occurred and along with it the Aristotelian natural philosophy ideas became displaced as well as areas such as astrology/alchemy losing its scientific credibility.

Science and the social

Part of my research is looking at Bruno Latour's work - though I admit only to have barely read entire texts of his and understanding them.  He's seen as a sociologist of science - Id never even considered the uniting of those terms and the possibility of the 'social' in relation to science inquiry. But on closer inspection is makes sense. People not robots 'do science'.  In this way, the following quote is apt: 
"Science, since people must do it, is a socially embedded activity. It progresses by hunch, vision, and intuition. Much of its change through time does not record a closer approach to absolute truth, but the alteration of cultural contexts that influence it so strongly. Facts are not pure and unsullied bits of information; culture also influences what we see and how we see it. Theories, moreover, are not inexorable inductions from facts. The most creative theories are often imaginative visions imposed upon facts; the source of imagination is also strongly cultural" [2]
From this, other forms of critique include the idea of what actually is 'fact'? Science is regarded as 'fact' but where does this fact arise from? Hypotheses, experiments, controlled environments which they themselves are subject to subjectivity. Im intrigued by the quote above ' closer approach to absolute truth', I would probably say that science and its advancing technologies reveal more over time that which is hidden under the invisibility cloak and at any one point in time is seen as the 'truth'. But it is more of a temporary truth. 



Crossing and looking into the science realm is far more complex than my naive self had imagined, assuming the clean cut lines of divisional categories with lots of areas rife for investigation for a few lifetimes of work. 

The ideas of categorisation and its knock on effects are also related to my work on the 'Bureau of Binary Indiscretions' and polar opposite terminology and also some work I did around art school education and creation of a short manifesto for a new type of art schooling - which would definitely have some 'science' thrown in there somewhere or at least access to courses in other areas. A topic for talk til the next time...


[1] http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=science
[2] Stephen Jay Gould, introduction to "The Mismeasure of Man, 1981

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