Changing Currents in Education and Public Life
Edited by Lynn Book and David Phillips
Chapter 9: Interdisciplinarity, critical inquiry and the art/science interface
Despite wide recognition of, and extensive theorizing on, the common features of artistic and scientific creativity, just as much has been written about their differences. Some draw formal distinctions between their methods and aims; others, social distinctions about how their communities generate, validate and communicate the fruits of their creative labor. As someone teaching the natural sciences at a school of art and design, I have run into the full range of stereotypes and misunderstandings about what artists or scientists are and the ends and means of their work. At times I feel somewhat Janus-faced, playing advocate and apologist for the seriousness and intellectual value of contemporary art among scientists who may hold very dated or parochial views about it, while simultaneously cheerleading for the relevance, accessibility and wonder of science to sometimes very skeptical art students. My job begs a nagging question: how can and should different disciplines such as art and science interact, especially given the infamous notion that they are distinctly ‘two cultures’ (Snow, 1993 )? Should they leave each other more or less alone conceptually under the assumption that they are apples and oranges, or should they be invited to intervene with and confront each other?
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