‘The Art and Science of a Long-term Collaboration’ a paper by Alexa Wright & Alf Linney


Alexa Wright is a visual artist working with photography and digital media. She is a Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer at the Centre for Art, Research and Technology Education at the University of Westminster in London. Alexa has recently been awarded an AHRC/Arts Council Fellowship to work on a new project in the Centre for Auditory Research at University College London, where she has collaborated with Professor Alf Linney since 1998.

Alf Linney is a Professor of Medical Physics at the Centre for Auditory Research (CAR), University College. Over the past 25 years he has developed methods of applying computer graphics and augmented reality techniques to surgery. He had a long standing interest in the relationship between art and science and has exhibited his sculpture internationally.

“In this paper we consider some aspects of the historical relationship between science and art, and look at some implications of these historical precedents for contemporary art-science collaborations. From our experience we identify some of the important elements of a successful collaboration, including: creativity and risk taking; the development of a common language; external endorsement in the form of funding and public recognition. We look at a number of practical considerations that face scientists and artists working together and then present a range of issues relating to our own collaborative projects. We conclude that creative collaborative partnerships open up a space in which individual artists and scientists can gain a new perspective on their own work and together can acquire new tools to reflect on some of the bigger issues that concern us all.”


Full essay available at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/conversation-piece/Wright_Linney%20N_Cpaper.pdf



Notes/key points:

  • Art and science are often considered to be very different practices that rarely correlate or work in collaboration but the two disciplines share a lot of qualities and can be benefitial to our understanding of the way ourselves and the world works and our interpretations of these things. To quote, art and science share, “an underlying will to enhance human understanding and to extend our experience of the world”.
  • These practices share the ‘desire for the pleasure of understanding something new and of communicating this to others.’
  • “The portrait is the result of a standard laboratory procedure, transposed into the setting of the Gallery. Does this change of viewpoint alter our perception of the object, and of the techniques that gave rise to it?”
  • science and art are still stereotypically thought to be at opposite ends of the intellectual spectrum” – art is often not considered as intellectually or academically viable as it is often based around experience and response rather than analytical and factual content.
  •  “both artists and scientists must actually move between concept and experience, and therefore between the subjective and the objective”
  • “Goethe noticed that the nature of colour is influenced by the viewer – an observation that, one hundred and fifty years later, was also made by scientists” – the same conclusion but was found with different intentions and through different means.
  • The use of a common language can help facilitate both artists and scientists in collaborating together.
  • Art is more interested in asking questions and science is interested in finding the answers

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