Lorna Mills and Sally McKay
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Some kids get to go to cyber camp. Next week I am going to SciBar Camp (and taking my mimesis/mirror neuron mish-mash with me). I'm looking forward to it, but I must admit to a certain amount of skepticism about the current rampant enthusiasm for art-science collaborations. There are a few barriers. For one thing, contemporary art is just about as inpenetrable for the novice as science, but most scientists are not self-educating on the leading edges of art theory (and why would they?). There are also distracting superficial reasons for getting together. Scientists are often attracted to the idea that artists might beautify and disseminate their science (do outreach) for new audiences. For artists, science provides status and legitimacy (and bigger grants).
In contemporary art discourse, it is (rightly) very difficult to make claims to universal meaning. By attaching ourselves to science, artists get to piggy-back our work to content that seems on the surface like empirical truth. Of course, anyone who has done any half-way serious research knows that the knowledge produced by science is also negotiated, historical and subject to cultural influence and ideology. But it is very tempting for artists to sweep this understanding under the rug in order to get the sexy "hit" of external meaning. I know because I've done it myself. It's fun and liberating to take a break from the contexts and conventions of your own field, kind of like going on a vacation to another country (which is why I've adopted the role of "tourist" for my forays into physics). But I think it's probably a good idea to try and stay critical, even when you're on a holiday.
These pitfalls also present opportunities and open up new paths of inquiry. I dunno how much of this discussion belongs at SciBar Camp. I don't really want to participate in cranky old-lady mode, since I am completely inspired right now by my own cross-disciplinary research. I guess I'll just show up and see what happens next.