Ideas from Subtle Technologies

I spent Saturday at the Subtle Technologies Festival, a conference about combining art and science.

The speakers showed all sorts of weird biological things, ranging from cells forming words to a baby elephant in an MRI machine. (Mostly they were making art using lab techniques or scientific research, but a few were using artists’ ideas to inspire or improve scientific or medical work.)

My art practice involves the other end of the scientific spectrum, but I did get a whole bunch of ideas for new artworks while my brain wandered in the lecture hall.

Some good quotes and ideas from the presenters and commenters:

  • “Artists are trying to see the unseen”
  • “To access and give visual form to internal states”
  • This bio-art is “moving beyond spectacle”
  • “Sight is privileged as a mode of understanding the world”
  • Converting medical data into sounds could “bring intuition back into diagnosis”
  • Many artists go to science labs, but few scientists go to artists’ studios
  • Artists want to show the scientific process that scientists find tedious
  • The replication method in art resembles the scientific process
  • Data creates distance from pain. The scientist “deeply immersed in complexity” compartmentalizes their emotions about the subject.
  • Planning and mindfulness (in preparing to do art or science) “allows you to be ready for the happy accidents”
  • The artist is not interested in scientific accuracy, rather in showing the impossibility of accuracy
  • “Is God a mathematician?  Is God a statistician?” [This was music to my statistician’s ears!]

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