Shoehorning science into art

1 minute read

The Guardian today ran an interesting article giving several examples of artists collaborating with scientists…to make art “When two tribes meet: collaborations between artists and scientists”.

It was a radical departure for portraiture. Certainly few sitters contribute, as Sulston did, a sample of DNA from his sperm. That sample was cut into segments and treated so they could be replicated in bacteria. The bacteria was spread on agar jelly and placed under glass, forming a portrait about A4 size. "Some say it's an abstract portrait, but I say it's the most realistic portrait in the National Portrait Gallery," says Quinn. "It carries the instructions that led to John and shows his ancestry back to the beginning of the universe." "Well, yes," says Sulston, "but DNA gives the instructions for making a baby, not an adult. There's a lot more to me than DNA."

The examples aren’t especially very inspiring as art. And they seem to be exclusively one-way: the scientists aren’t getting much from the artists in these cases. It all seems forced.

I find art tremendously inspiring to my science, but my sense is that art that is useful in this way doesn’t get much appreciation in the art community.