Why combine art and science?

BioArt, SciArt, Digital Art,
Art and natural sciences
approach each other

At first glance, science and art appear to be two separate disciplines that do not have much in common. They used to be and are now more closely linked again. Leonardo da Vinci was famous for both his artistic and scientific work and was not an isolated case as a polymath at the time. Until the Romantic period, the word art was used to describe everything that arose from a creative process, including scientific techniques. Since the Romantic period, the term “fine arts” has been used to describe works in literature, music and the visual arts and to distinguish them from the natural and engineering sciences. Where the scientist attempts to describe and explain the world objectively, the artist seeks to recreate it from his subjective experience, to question it, to create it anew. In view of the growing specialization and differentiation of the so-called exact sciences and the development of their own methods in the humanities and cultural sciences, the author and physicist C.P. Snow finally spoke in 1959, quite disillusioned, of the “two cultures” separated by a whole “ocean”.

However, the disciplines have been converging again over the last 20 years: In “artistic research”, for example, the focus should be on a science-like, methodically guided research process. And in the natural sciences, in turn, there is a growing awareness that the results of this discipline can also be the subject of social discourse and artistic interpretations and are opening up to the questions of artists – because they themselves can also benefit from this exchange.

Artists are increasingly concerned with the areas of friction between technosciences and society. The relationship between man and machine, between man and the environment or between man and his own body is currently being explored anew: In BioArt, biological experimentation meets aesthetics and social questions about what we want to be able to produce. Digital artists are inspired by the findings of computer science and the natural sciences, both in their forms of representation and in their themes such as dealing with media, data protection and human/machine boundaries.

The idea of Nexus Experiments

At this intersection, we design events – our experiments – that bring art and technoscience into a productive relationship of tension in order to discuss socially and ethically relevant research topics with a broad audience. After all, information and knowledge societies rightly expect scientific institutions to make research results accessible to different stakeholder groups and to discuss them publicly. We want to strengthen this bidirectional transfer of knowledge. This is why our initiative takes a special approach to science communication and ethical reflection: we develop participatory formats in close collaboration with artists because we believe that art can open up a space for intensive, mutually inspiring, critical and curious interactions between scientists and society. We see our events and projects as a creative playground and joint platform for scientists, artists and the public with an explicitly experimental character. This enables open discussions between scientists and the public about the ethical and socially relevant aspects of current research.

Read more:

Henk Borgdorf summarizes the debate on artistic research.

The European Digital Art and Science Network has compiled some voices on the subject of media art and science in this Compedium.

This television program introduced some well-known BioArt artists.

There are a number of institutions around the world that, like us, operate at the interface between the natural sciences and art, and we would like to list a few of them here:

A science center and part of Trinity College, Dublin with international offshoots.

A film festival on the subject of BioArt

This science center in New York is also published by SciArt magazine.

The Ars Electronica Futurelab develops interfaces between the natural sciences and art.

A project by