Is this art?


Interaction of Stellar Wind with Diffuse Nebulae, 1968
Bernar Venet

The traveling proprietors of Cognitive Daily, Dave and Greta Munger, check in from Paris with this formidable question: Is science art? More specifically, is an enlarged journal article, presented devoid of context, art?

Many amusing comments ensue.

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4 Responses to Is this art?

  1. John Dennehy says:

    Tolstoy wrote, “The activity of art is based on the fact that a man, receiving through his sense of hearing or sight another man’s expression of feeling, is capable of experiencing the emotion which moved the man who expressed it.” As such, art is actions or objects created with the intention of expressing emotions and/or ideas. So is science art? Do you not share with Darwin a sense of wonder, awe, even euphoria on reading the last paragraph of Origins? Does not the structure of DNA inspire delight and amazement on first viewing, as it did for Watson? My answer is yes.

  2. mdvlist says:

    The piece in question is definitely art. Since a certain subsection of contemporary art is about provocation more than communication, generally to be achieved by exploiting the most non-arty thing the artist can think of– like a scientific journal article– it fits right in. Whether it is “good art” is a question for people who know more about art than I do, but I personally find it tiresome. DNA might well inspire a sense of wonder, but that thing sure doesn’t. In fact, if it were to inspire any emotion at all in a viewer, I would expect it to be more along the lines of irritation (for which I can think of a number of reasons), or that cold feeling of impending doom that strikes the failed science student, even after so many years, at the sight of anything that looks vaguely like data. Maybe that’s what the artist intended. I still find it tiresome. I’ll have to go read the discussion following from the Cognitive Daily article, as I’m quite curious.

  3. Pierre Carl├Ęs says:

    Yes, the “art” is pretty boring, but the discussion on the blog was very interesting. A few common-place comments about art, but many very informed and thought-provoking remarks. I was impressed by the knowledge of most participants.

    And yes, John Cage’s 4’22” immediately comes to mind.

  4. cicada says:

    I guess there’ll be no consensus – on the one hand John is moved to wonder and on the other mdvlist feels a sense of impending doom! Or perhaps it’s proof that scientific documentation is indeed art – otherwise how could it generate such controversy?

    I have seen science papers that work for me as art – certainly illustrated ones, and even sometimes equation-heavy ones, but blobs of text not so much. My guess on this is that the artist chose the paper because it describes a phenomenon that sounds profoundly beautiful and romantic, and in describing it, turns it into a graph and a smattering of equations. Is the beauty of a “stellar wind” or a “diffuse nebula” gone when it turns into jargon and some integrals? Is it, like Pierre observes, boring? Or is beauty, like energy, not lost, but transmuted into a different form?

    And is Science a sort of Juggernaut that rolls around, demystifying beauty and turning it into drab monochrome journal articles? I’m sure I have no idea. . . keep in mind this artwork is forty years old, too. Journals are much prettier now.

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