Conversations between scientists, artists, and the natural world
Conversations that led to Living Data began in Antarctica, where as veteran expeditioner Jack Ward explains,you can imagine yourself interacting with "a disembodied spirit of tremendous force". Jack worked in Antarctica to help establish radio communications at Mawson station. After that he was a senior librarian at the State Library in Victoria.
Language was Jack's passion. Working closely with scientists, he respected the distinction between poetic ambiguity in the arts and the striving for unambiguous language in science. His own poetic language brings to life what we know from science about the physical world, for example his description of a katabatic wind.My first meeting with Jack (in 2007) convinced me that more conversations are needed between scientists and artists if we want more people to experience the pleasure these can bring when they inspire and inform useful responses to global warming.
Conversations that began in the ice continue as scientists and artists explore places closer to home. Conversations take many forms, such as interactive sculpture (above, by Leanne Thompson), motion capture of seagrass choreography (below, with William Gladstone and Jason Benedek), and spontaneous written musings on art and science (below, by Deirdre Cobbin). Simon Pockley's conversations with Anthony Larkumsuggest that we may also have conversations with our selves, between our scientific and artistic natures that use completely different parts of our brain. Anthony reflects on the creative process in science, of developing a new hypothesis:
It's almost an inspirational process, where it comes out of left field. It's not a logical process at all... we're just at a stage at the moment where we're trying to understand how quantum physics contributes to photosynthesis. We don't know yet, the way it's going to come out, but it seems to be very exciting...
Anthony's involvement in the Living Data program began in 2012. The following year he identified it as,
an interaction between art and science. It's re-interpreting that in a completely different way, and I think, quite possibly, it then re-introduces that into science. I think that's the exciting part of it, that interaction between these two what seem to be completely distant and almost antagonistic aspects of human nature."
With new technologies and methods now available for sensing, expressing, and communicating global climate changes, it is possible for Antarctica to be more widely understood as key to the health of the whole natural system, including us. So why is Antarctic science so poorly funded in Australia, when Australian Antarctic territory is the largest slice of that most southern land? Why are the arts as well as the sciences undervalued in today's human culture? As well as being vital for conveying depths of meaning to new scientific data, the arts reach more people beyond the scientific community. Is it now vital to nurture interactions between our own scientific and artistic natures, for the creativity that's needed in all aspects of our lives, to maximise the chances of human adaptation to a changing natural world?
Underwater life beside the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS), Feb 2016.
Photo: William Gladstone
L-R: William Gladstone and Lisa Roberts at SIMS, Feb 2016; Jason Benedek, William Gladstone and Lisa Roberts explore motion capture technology to describe sea grass movement through an avatar's dance.
University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
Photos: William Gladstone
Insights arise spontaneously and unexpectedly
From: Deirdre Cobbin
To: Lisa Roberts
Subject: science and art are the same
Date: Fri, 1 Apr 2016 04:05:25 +0000
I've been doing my one hour 'walk' each day for exercise..back and forth along the veranda rail and like little Obelia in snugglepot and cuddlepie (who when she wanted to think, actually went down to the bottom of the sea and counted her pearls in a big clam shell) I use the time to think about all sorts of mindless things.
One of which that gradually emerged
(after I failed to sort out the unanswered one of why do leaves flutter on the branches all the time...what is the function of this...so why are they evolutionarily designed to do this....)
That is ..... wondering about Art and Science and their differences
While they appear to be doing quite disparate things.
This really is not the case
Science and art are in fact doing the same thing,
they are using the same concepts
(don't call them the same thing of course)
however they even have the same core goal/aim/motive whatever we call it... no matter which science branch you take or art direction.
and I think it is ...well I don't like to put this word on it because it sounds so concrete and that is not what I mean
I think it is reality
or making sense of our experience
or of the world
But whatever it is it is based on our personal experience somewhere at the core of it all.
even with the most fanciful abstract or 'fantasy like' drawing, sculpture, carving, music, song, something as wildly removed from reality and this world as the person can imagine..... if the aim is to produce something that is so abstract etc etc ... well that obviously requires the person's concept of what IS reality and draws on some of the things the person is trying to NOT portray.
And their take on the what IS depends on their own experience with the world or their corner of it and the present or previously recorded IS,
(if you are confused IS means IS REALITY)
and of course there is with a myriad of shades in between....those art works and attempts to as painstakingly as possible capture the essence of reality...as something, some view, some sound, some feel some touch IS.
the concepts are still the same
Okay that's a quick blob re art from a non artist to probably now a highly irritated artist
well ... how about science
it is doing the same thing too except what it typically is attempting to figure out is what actually IS reality by finding...observing...stuff in the world that supports (or equally importantly...does not support a present or former guess (hypothesis) of what the IS and IS not are.
and science for all those who say it can't look at this or that or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin... puts a huge effort into somehow getting a way to count, observe, measure, record or correlate with the invisible or unseeable and the like
the way psychology goes about sorting out thoughts and other invisible cognitive events/processes depends upon our ability to dream up (now there's an invisible approach!) some method.
I could go on but if you've read this far you get my drift.
and it's time for my next walk.....