Thursday, December 11, 2014

What is Art and Science

Lately I have been making the claim that technology revolutions cause changes in culture and those changes are usually integrated into our Art. This is evidenced by Digital Art, Robotic Art and others. Science and Biotechnology are becoming more integrated with our culture and with it brings Science.Art. Sadly, many scientist.artists create pieces that are neither Science or Art. Maybe it is a bit egotistical but I feel a bit shamed to be placed in the same category as these people. The thing is that I never wanted to be placed in the category of Artist. It is not till now when people want to curate my works in museums that I really need to ask myself "Am I an Artist?"

As Kanye said "I ask cause I'm not sure, does anyone make real shit anymore?". Many Science.Art pieces lack either a Scientific part or an Artistic part and to me end up being something that is difficult to appreciate. I often see artists claiming Science but their works are very missleading and are not actually what they say they are or believe them to be. And Scienctists claiming Art when their works are neither. I will give a few as reference.

Christina Agapakis puts bacteria on plates mostly ( This is really not Science. As for it's Artistic merit some could argue for it but this kind of work has been done many many times before in slightly different contexts ala Steve Kurtz and many others. The depth and skill seems lacking and way behind on the times. Maybe it's interesting and speculative nature would have been there 10 or 20 years ago but not now, not like this.

Jalila Essaidi told the world she made "bullet-proof skin". What I thought and imagined was that she trangenically expressed proteins in epidermal cells that allowed them to be bullet-proof. I was interested and I emailed her. What she actually did was take a bullet-proof material and then put human(mammalian?) cells on it and call it skin. ( She didn't respond to my second email when I asked her the specifics of how the project was done and why she thought it was skin.

Ginger Dosier claims she is an Architect and Scientist. From what it appears, she uses Scientific work others have done and claims it as her own ( I tried to contact her about her work but she did not respond. It seems the people she impresses don't know enough about biocementation and bioclogging to know better. That is a field I have been starting to work in at NASA. Using engineered bacteria and proteins to harden soils and regoliths. (If you read this Ginger and have performed some new work in biocementation please contact me and let me know what it is. I am sure Scientists would appreciate knowing your advances) 

There are many many more but you get the picture. Maybe people see this as hating, I see it as having a high standard. Having respect for the quality of the work one puts out.

What is Art? People always say that this is a difficult question to answer but I have never thought so. I think that people can argue Artistic Merit of certain works but I think what makes something Art is that it is done by an Artist. Just as Science is done by a Scientist. So who is an Artist? If anything can be Art then what is the need for Artists? Why can't we all just stick petri plates on a wall and be done with it? An Artist to me is someone who is trained and.or dedicated to their craft. Someone who can create works that require "skill" and I think that is the word that differentiates Artists from non-Artists, skill. This is what differentiates a Scientist, a Footballer, a Medical Doctor from everyone else, skill. Skill can be somewhat quantified. If someone claiming to be a Scientist doesn't know Science then they are not. If someone claiming to be an Artist has never been dedicated to the craft then they are not.

I often refrain from calling myself an Artist directly. My work is mostly Science and Engineering with about 10% Art. Lately it has started to travel into the realm of speculative Science and Engineering and that is where the 10% Art comes in.  I think this speculative  but functional nature of some of my works, such as The Chromochord, (What would a future be like when organics are components in electrically engineered projects?) can perhaps be viewed as Artistic. Both the Science and the Art are original.

Look at works of Artists I know, Micah Zayner ( and Zachary Williams ( Their craft is skilled, well thought out and has depth. Just because you go out with your friends and pay $30 to drink wine and paint pictures doesn't make you an Artist or your work a piece of Art. It is some oil or acrylic based colors dried on some material. Art takes dedication and skill.

Scientists can tell the difference between Science and science. Science takes skill, is well thought out and has depth, science does not.

For me Science.Art and Technology.Art require that the Artist add something original to both Science and Art. Maybe these are very stringent requirements and it takes dedication and skill to create a piece of that nature. To me