Editorial: Sharing common ground: Art, science and technology

Collaborations across arts, science and technology are growing. It appears that the more that non-arts academics become involved with artists, the more they see how art can provide deeper insight into their own disciplines. Health care students view art to develop greater patient empathy; high schools students engage with science by considering art forgery; dance is reshaping the study of neuroscience; and artist in residence programs are becoming de rigueur in many of the world’s leading science laboratories.

Creative arts can engage public interest in scientific findings that are difficult to convey by traditional communication means, but this recognition can spawn unfortunate presumptions of how arts, science and technology should collaborate. Some view the arts as an in house science communication service with scant regard for how interdisciplinary partnerships can contribute to advances in artistic research or practice.  Here we  encounter the risk that contemporary art transforms ‘from a cultural industry to a wellness industry’ as pointed out by Ian Haig or see the ‘artist as research subject’ approach evolve into the ‘artist as lab-rat’ exemplified by Gottfried Schlaug’s study of The Brain of the Musician[i].

Fortunately, many academics are shaping multi-disciplinary collaborations with an understanding that projects need to benefit all involved. As a recent book, puts it academics are ‘recomposing art and science’[ii]

Developments in science and technology are shifting how artists themselves approach their practice. New art forms are emerging to push the boundaries of what is art, and where artists work, and digital technologies in particular are transforming ways of working. Unfortunately, not all of our systems have caught up.  Australian law has failed to fully consider the impact of digital disruption on creative practice and the ghost of CP Snow seems to continually hover over Australian Government research funding policy.

In this edition of NiTRO we touch on these issues as we explore the connectivity between art, science and technology.

Oron Catts (UWA), outlines the ethos of SymbioticA and its fascinating work that shifts public, institutional and government thinking away from the arts versus science dichotomy;

Svenja Kratz and Anita Gowers (Tasmania) highlight how SymbioticA has catalyzed a host of exciting science-art projects across the country, including an ongoing collaboration between the Tasmanian College of the Arts and QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation;

Oliver Smith (Sydney) uses specific examples to show how collaboration between arts, science and technology is providing a satisfying and successful platform for new products, artworks and ideas;

Robyn Sloggett (Melbourne) considers the elegance of mathematics and the contribution that science has brought to the art-science relationship as she notes the similarities, but also important differences between them;

Frank Millward (Newcastle) takes a poetic approach to the question of the relationship continuum that exists between science, technology and art;

Jessica Seymour (Utrecht University of Applied Sciences) looks at the changes that digital disruption have brought to the life of a creative writer;

Kim Vincs (Swinburne) explains how technology is extending the capacity for artists to contribute to broader knowledge bases through a practice based research 2.0 model.

As technology, science and arts collide, so the legal framework impinges upon the artistic work that emanates.  Fullbright Scholar Patricia Aufderheide (American University) discusses how Australian intellectual property law has failed to keep up with the advances in creative production that digital technology has facilitated and Kylie Pappalardo (QUT) reminds us of the complexities that surround artistic creation in academia with a useful primer on the key issues in this ‘messy and complex’ area.


[i] Schlaug, G. (2001). The brain of musicians. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences930(1), 281-299. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2001.tb05739.x/full

[ii] Hediger, I., & Scott, J. (Eds.). (2016). Recomposing Art and Science: artists-in-labs. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG.) - https://www.degruyter.com/view/product/466945