Art, Science, and the Question of Convergence

Roniger-webTaney Roniger at The Brooklyn Rail:

While proponents of sci-art are given to citing the commonalities between the two fields (the primacy of curiosity and imagination, the thirst for disclosing the invisible) and their ostensive original unity, the impassable fact is that the two represent fundamentally dissimilar epistemological approaches: one that aspires to objective knowledge, and the other whose meaning derives from the production and transmission of tacit, or implicit, knowledge. While accuracy, precision, and discursive reason are indispensible to the one, the other tends to become sclerotic in their presence, relying instead on ambiguity, multivalence, and internal contradiction for its power. With such vastly different approaches to meaning, how can what’s essential to each remain intact in a synthesis?

The nagging question at the center of sci-art, then, is twofold. First, with the claim of “convergence,” is it really a synthesis of the two fields that’s being proposed, or something more like a complementary relationship? And if it’s the latter, what does each truly stand to gain from the partnership? On this there are some facile answers, but none withstands much critical scrutiny. On the side of art, the ostensive gains are clear: with its wealth of imagery, new technologies, and ever-more fantastical discoveries, science presents as an endless source of timely and relevant subject matter.

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