art and science

Jens Alfken alfken at
Sat Dec 7 14:34:30 EST 1996

In article <32A219DD.62E8 at>, "101544,3500"

>do you think that art and science have anything in common? Are you
>probably someone doing both? let me know what you

People may be interested to know that there actually is a science lab
that has
its own "artist in residence". The lab of Alex Rich at M.I.T. is
involved in
structural and molecular biology. For several years now the lab has a
relationship with the sculptor Joe Davis. Even though he didn«t always
an official position (the administration doesn«t quite understand why a
lab needs an artist) he essentially has become a full member of the
lab. So
what does he do ? For example he is using scientific material to do
art.  He has created artistic plasmids (Ever thought about how to
display plasmids and 
bacteria in an exhibition ? Well Joe found out that you better not
because for "safety reasons" the exhibition galleries do not like
genetically engineered organism on their premises). Other parts of his
work deal with ways 
to take the genetic code, but not use DNA to encode it, but a variety
of other
So has all this had an effect on me as a scientist ? Not very much. But
I guess
Joe and the way he took the tidbits of scientific knowledge, took them
apart, and
reassembled them in new ways has led me to be more flexible in how I
think about
scientific ideas and be more willing to have a go at novel ideas. I
guess the
difference is, that Joe is unspoiled by years of scientific training,
whereas I 
learned to many dogmas. So what have art and science have in common ? I
more often than not we are both tinkerers. It«s like having a box of
legos and
asking yourself : what can I create with it... let«s see what happens
if I do...

Jens Alfken

alfken at

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