please find my own thoughts/responses in reaction to the questions that
An Art-Science Career is like Piloting Through Chaos
ROGER MALINA answers to the Mercado Central questions for art-science
hybrids and lessons learned:
Astrophysicist, Editor and Publisher and Art Science Researcher
CONTRIBUTION TO THE YASMIN DISCUSSION: Scientist's Mercado Central
Exchange Advice FOR YOUNG ART SCIENCE PROFESSIONALS
1- 1- What is your background as a scientist?
In the arts, design or humanities?
I obtained a BSc in Physics at MIT, followed by a PhD in Astronomy at
UC Berkeley. I was lucky enough as an undergraduate to be involved in
the beginning of x ray astronomy, and got the bug for the 'thrill of
discovery'. I went on to lead a team that built the telescopes and
instruments for a NASA satellite
(https://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/euve/euvegof.html ) and then
operated the satellite. I was then head hunted and started a career in
research administration leading to my job as Director of an
Astronomical Observatory (
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marseille_Observatory ) .
I started a career in the art world when my father died in 1982. I was
then a postdoc in space astrophysics. My father had started the
art-science journal Leonardo in 1966
(http://leonardo.info/isast/leostory.html ). I decided to try and keep
it going and started two art-science non profits one in Paris
(http://www.olats.org/ ) and one in San Francisco
(http://leonardo.info/index.html ). I was 32. I took a conscious risk
at a time I was 200% consumed by my scientific career. Since then I
have been very involved in the art science world, through publishing,
organized workshops and artists residencies in scientific
Lesson learned (see end section) This is piloting through chaos. When
your personal life, in this case my father's death, intrudes on your
professional life- think it through and jump, take the risk if there
is a connection essential to one's personal integrity. Initially my
work in art was motivated by the memory of my father and his legacy.
35 years later, that instinctive decision to keep Leonardo going has
become a core of my motivation in life. I had never run a publication
or a nonprofit, but we had the startup mentality and with a group of
friends and colleagues it worked.
2- When and how did you become involved in a hybrid art/science practice?
I distinguish my career in publishing in art science from my new
career as an art-science researcher. The later began in 2015 when I
started the ArtSciLab at UT dallas (http://artscilab.utdallas.edu/ ) .
I am now collaborating in a fascinating art science project (Data
), to create in a gaming engine new forms of data representation,
including immersive, interactive and sonified data. The collaboration
includes a neuroscientist, an astrophysicist, three artists and
composer, two gaming company entrepreneurs, a computer scientist and a
user experience designer. This is the most difficult research project
I have been involved in, certainly since I was at Berkeley in a group
inventing extreme ultraviolet astronomy. And the thrill of discovery
is there again. I was recruited in Dallas in 2014 by a long colleague
Tom Linehan with whom I had worked in 1987 on a Leonardo SIGGRAPH
). I was 63 when I started my new career.
Lesson learned: when someone shares your obsession, they probably will
still share it 30 years later: we kept in touch. Keep in touch with
partners in crime!.
Lesson Learned; Art Science research is as difficult as any other
field. It takes method, discipline and invention,
3- What have been the major obstacles to overcome?
I have basically kept my separate careers separate until recently (I
used to maintain a science CV and separately an Arts CV). But I have
been extremely lucky that my art career, which never paid me anything
until three years ago after 30 years of volunteer work, is now my full
The hardest thing has been convincing my scientific colleagues that
art-science was more than science illustration or science education
outreach, and that the interaction would change the way science is
done and what it studies. It has been gratifying to see the STEM to
STEAM movement in the last few years where the ideas that hybrids have
espoused for decades at least are now getting public discussion and
attention. The work of Robert Root Bernstein
(https://vimeo.com/157058429 ) has helped me understand the sociology
of what is going on. A book I enjoyed recently is Randall Collins The
Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change.
Another hard thing was keeping the Leonardo non-profits going
(Leonardo Journal is now celebrating its 50th). Running and keeping
going an arts nonprofit is really difficult; we have been lucky to
have a dedicated collaborators (I think particularly of the late Steve
Wilson and the former Leonardo managing editor Pam Grant Ryan.
4- What have been the greatest opportunities/breakthroughs?
It has been exhilarating seeing the success of the art science and art
technology creative community. Leonardo has been a witness, a
promoter, and a documenter of an international group of pathbreakers
that developed so much of the basis for the digital culture that is
Some of the proudest moments have been setting up programs and
workshops. In the 1990's Annick Bureaud and I organized a series of
space and the arts workshops in Paris
(http://www.olats.org/space/space.php ). At the beginning this was a
dozen people in my living room with professionals in space and
astronautics and professional artists. Innumerable collaborations were
spawned by this series of 'convenings. Lesson learned – if you are
working in a hybrid field, often the professionals are invisible to
each other. Create situations where they meet each other.
Similarly I worked on setting up a number of artists residencies in
science settings beginning in the early 1990s
(http://cse.ssl.berkeley.edu/arts/ACEfellow/information.html ) , but
notably the art-science residency program at the Mediterranean
Institute of Advanced Studies
)– such residencies are now flowering internationally.
Lesson learned: all risky innovations require champions inside the
organization you want to work with. Find them.
And right now I am really excited by the work I am involved in in data
sonification- I think we are path breaking new interesting research
methods and awesome art.
5- What would you do differently, knowing then what you know now?
I have been lucky, each step in my career grew out of the previous
step ( I moved from MIT, to Berkeley, to Marseille, to Dallas and next
?). Again it comes down to the piloting through chaos thing. I can
think of mistakes I have made ( hmm we jumped on too quickly on CDI
technology. ) In terms of doing things differently, I wish I had read
David Bohm's 'On Dialogue'
(http://sprott.physics.wisc.edu/Chaos-Complexity/dialogue.pdf ) before
I was 55. Figuring out the new context in which one is stepping takes
a lot of real exploration and dialogue. I only learned about
translation studies after I got to Dallas. It is easy to misread
signals from people who are important in the context you are trying to
do something a bit unusual in.
6- Any advices to someone who may want to walk in your footstep?
If you are working deeply in a hybrid practice – bring people with
shared interest together. This can just be a few people in your home
city, or begin on line. Dhru Deb who is also in this discussion and is
a cancer researcher and artist is doing just that trying to connect
the cancer researchers involved in the arts
(http://www.leonardo.info/isast/journal/calls/artandcancer.html ) . As
I said above- people in this hybrid careers are often not visible to
each other (our organisations generally marginalize them in the public
presentation of their activities).
Document your work and show it to others. This can be podcasts in the
Creative Disturbance platform we just started
(http://creativedisturbance.org/ ), or articles in publications or
papers at relevant conferences or just a good personal web site. It is
so much easier now than 50 years ago to reach and connect with people
with shared interests.
Develop a reputation management plan. I never did this and wish I had
invested the time articulating what I was trying to do and making this
visible across my activities. And with your reputation management plan
draw attention to your work (as documented above)
Seek out mentors. Often your close environment may not have older
professionals who share your double interest. They probably exist
within 50 kilometers of you. Find them.
7. Add other questions and your responses you think are relevant
Much art science practice is collaborative. I believe collaboration
can be taught as a skill and practice. The collaboration and
management training I received at NASA taught me much – in this case
on projects involving scientists, engineers, managers, companies. Art
Science collaboration is even more difficult. I don't think it's just
an implicit skill. I am very impressed with the group working on the
Science of Team Science. Check out their best method manuals
I like to say 'interdisciplinary is not a discipline'. Each
art-science collaboration has complications that arise from the very
different research and production cultures. And Art Science Career is
like piloting through chaos.
For thirty year I have had a friend and colleague Julian Gresser. When
I first met him he was working on 'strategic alliance' management.
Getting companies to collaborate ( eg Japanese, American and
European). If you think art-science collaboration is difficult try
those! In the last ten years Julian has written a couple of books
about "Piloting Through Chaos" (http://explorerswheel.com/about ). In
general I am not a big fan of self-improvement books (and I sometimes
find Julian a bit too 'spiritual' for me). But his core idea of
piloting through chaos using the multiple compasses of ones dividuated
self : professional goals and activities, personal, physical and
philosophical ( spiritual) structured using the principle of
integrity, to re integrate the dividuations seems like common sense
when trying to break a path through a world dominated by disciplinary
structure and reward systems.
This set of responses is submitted to : WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO
YOUNG PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE SEEKING TO PURSUE HYBRID ART-SCIENCE
ANNOUNCING A YASMIN DISCUSSION: Scientist Mercado Central Exchange
Advice FOR YOUNG ART SCIENCE PROFESSIONALS
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