A couple of thoughts from following the very interesting threads of the last few days:
Much of STEAM is focused on practical curricular issues that invigorate STEM with more creative and innovative models of thinking. And as part of this equation I think we will see an ascent of the stereotypically less practical "informal learning" as an important means rather than just the outreach stepchild of linear testable formal learning. In that sense what I do as a curator of artscience exhibitions becomes engaged in the STEAM effort. Unlike a science museum in which subjects are presented through didactic texts or goals-managed interactivity, in an art gallery the subjects of science can be presented simply as experiential -- or as Whitman implied when he wander'd off "in the mystical moist night air" and "look'd up in perfect silence at the stars," that this was a valuable means of knowing astronomy. I think young people will be turned onto science more effectively and adults' science literacy increased more emphatically if we stop trying to get them to learn it, and allow them to viscerally experience it instead. I would rather visitors leave my artscience exhibits a bit confused, intellectually rearranged and emotionally stirred than with a handful of facts. This is the torque gained by the art in artscience. The power of this notion needs to be better understood and integrated as a means of valid science pedagogy, rather than diluted in the hierarchy as "enrichment."
As to "where is science-based art headed?" There are multiple paths and meanings emerging, of course, but an incessant question is -- why does science-based art matter? Where it is headed must be to where it matters -- and where it really matters is where it has the ability to disturb. I think its discourse needs to be less about ingratiation and more about its provocation and agitation. One discourse, an elephant in the room, really, is how artscience refutes the traditions of supernatural religious doctrine. Science does not acknowledge the existence of the supernatural, yet art has been the supernatural's complicit image-maker for millennia, and therein lies an innate tension which needs to emerge in the discourse of artists and writers who will shape the meanings that help make artscience matter. Poetic and transcendent dimensions are stereotypically thought not to exist in a scientific worldview, but are forged in its alliance with art. Sensations of poetic transcendence, i.e. an emotional connection to a meaningful existence in a wholly natural non-supernatural universe directly contradicts the dogma of most religions. Meanwhile most of the planet's human population still believes in, and patterns their behaviors after, the ancient pre-science perception that nature is but a facade behind which supernatural forces account for all that exists. This is a stunningly persistent misconception which art, if it is to have a true allegiance to science, must disturb.
S t e p h e n N o w l i n
Director, Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery
1700 Lida Street
Pasadena, CA 91103
626.396.2397 | http://williamsongallery.net/google
P a s a d e n a — C I t y o f A r t & S c I e n c e
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