I have enjoyed your posts, please find my contribution to your discussion:
1- what is your background as a scientist? In the arts, design or
Education: BA Fine Art, MA Printmaking, Practice-based PhD 'Drawing as
Epistemology for Morphology' (in collaboration with Natural History Museum)
Wellcome Trust Arts Award (2009-2010), Artist in Residence in Imperial
College London Mathematics Department (2011-ongoing), Artist in Residence
for Northern Ireland Science Festival (2016).
2- when and how did you become involved in a hybrid art/science practice?
As an MA student at the Royal College of Art (2005), I was interested in
Morphology and began drawing from the Natural History Museum's research
collections, which is how I began talking to and working with scientists.
3- what have been the major obstacles to overcome?
I agree with Malina when he says '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'. As a 25 year old MA student at
the RCA I began these difficult conversations with scientists at the NHM in
London. This seems to be a recurring experience.
Understanding what shapes the fate of art-science endeavours, I feel, are
related to the social conditions that make these kinds of explorations
possible – and the conditions that make them impossible. My reflection
points at the institutional forms and processes that open or close spaces
for careers to be forged – and intellectuals (artscientists) to grow.
I am currently working on an Arts and Humanities Research Council
application for post-doctoral research. It has been a long and voluntary
process (approx. 6 months) for which there is no way to be compensated. The
project is in collaboration with a Philosopher and Biologist who are both
in tenure positions which restricts the amount of time they can devote to
the application process. The project is genuinely inter-disciplinary and
(we hope) ground-breaking as an unusual opportunity for art, science and
philosophy to hold equal shares in a research project.
A disproportionate amount of art-science funding comes from science RC's
meaning that collaborations and successes are shaped in science's own terms
(here I use the term "science" in its institutional meaning, not in the
"intellectual discovery"): goals (publications, audiences, media).This is
not only a question of opportunities for the specific individuals involved,
it also affects what kinds of opportunities are there for art-science at
all, about what topics, etc.
4- What have been the greatest opportunities/breakthroughs?
Although not entirely positive, the practice based PhD to some extent has
provided a legitimisation of my artistic research to the scientific
community at the NHM. As a PhD-researcher and artist, I was given access
and support that had not been offered as a self-employed researching
artist. Now with a PhD, I have more opportunities to apply for research
funding, to teach and to collaborate with universities and other
institutions that would not be available otherwise.
A breakthrough was publishing my first PhD paper (2011) in Leonardo
'Endangered: Morphological drawing in Zoological Taxonomy' (2014) as this
helped me to grow confidence that I could contribute to academic
discussions on art/science, biology and philosophy… this was later followed
by another paper co-authored with the mathematicians at Imperial College I
have collaborated with since 2011.
5- What would you do differently, knowing then what you know now?
I would have studied German at school (and later) so that I could read
Goethe and Klee's works in German.
6- Any advices to someone who may want to walk in your footstep?
Don't be afraid to ask questions, no matter how stupid you may think they
are. Remember there are many ways to approach understanding/creating
knowledge from the world… and there is no strict hierarchy to this,
scientific methods are not always exact, artistic methods are not
necessarily intuitive and vague.
All best + thanks,
Dr Gemma Anderson
Artist and Lecturer in Drawing at Falmouth University
Honorary Research Fellow, Egenis, University of Exeter
*The **Cornwall Morphology and Drawing Centre*
*The Isomorphology Project*
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