Recently I had the thoroughly enjoyable experience of checking out the interim show of the world’s first ever Art and Science MA course. Run at the Byam Shaw campus of Central St Martins by Nathan Cohen and Eleanor Crook, this programme brings together students from a variety of backgrounds for a 2-year long artistic investigation of the relationships between what in modern society are perceived as disparate and disconnected fields of study. They are now one year in, and the results are impressive.
I have had the privilege through my day job of interacting with this course and getting to know a few of the students. They are an eclectic bunch with a range of ages and backgrounds ranging from fine art to linguistics and anthropology. However, they are united by an interest in understanding and exploring the workings of our world through art. Topics touched upon in the interim show include visual perception, complexity science, autism, lost languages, processes of decay, fractals, amongst many other areas.
The first year has been a busy one, from what I hear. In addition to busying themselves with their artwork, they have had weekly philosophy lectures and visits to partnering institutions including The Wellcome Trust, The British Library, GV Art and the MRC Neuropharmacology Unit at Oxford. If interested, I’d encourage you to find out more about the course website.
Why do I find what this course is doing so compelling? After all, can’t artists who have an interest in science make art about science? Well, of course, yes. And many talented people are doing so. However, I think that this taps into something important that is happening in this area right now—a realisation that science can feed art, and vis versa. Training people to appreciate and understand both of these is brave and important in a world that is becoming (often for good reason) increasingly specialised. And many is the day that I wished that I could have joined the students in their daily activities!
As I know and like many of the students on the course, I’m hesitant to pick favourites amongst the bunch from the interim show—and after all they have another year left! But I would encourage you to watch this space—there are some magical things afoot, and I very much look forward to working with this talented bunch over the coming year.