GÄA: HOLISTIC SCIENCE AND WISDOM TRADITION
Gemma Anderson, Serena Korda, Delfina Muñoz de Toro and Abel Rodriguez
16 FEB — 18 MAY 2019
*Founded in 2016 by Artist Gemma Anderson and NHM Scientist Gavin Broad, the Art and Science Interest Group (ASIG) at the Natural History Museum is a bi-monthly forum that fosters a community of Scientists and Artists who are interested in the field of ‘Art/Science’. ASIG provides a programme of Invited speakers at each meeting, who share practice and ideas and excite new conversations in the group.
This session developed out of our interdisciplinary project involving an artist (Gemma Anderson), a cell biologist (James Wakefield) and a philosopher (John Dupré). The overall goal of the project is to develop better ways of representing biological processes. It also continues earlier work by Anderson (2017) on drawing as a way of knowing. As Wakefield will argue, the decline of drawing as a practice in biological research has had deleterious consequences for some aspects of biological research.
In the first stages of the project, Anderson and Wakefield have worked together to produce images of mitosis, the process that is the central research topic of the Wakefield lab. The aim was to produce a two-dimensional image that somehow represented the full sequence of transitions involved in mitosis. A method was developed that translated Wakefield’s understanding of mitosis into an image in which the vertical dimension represented time, and a number of features (colour, thickness of line, distance from the centre, etc.) represented crucial aspects of the mitotic process. A number of different images have been generated, representing different organisms with differences in their processes of mitosis. The process of producing these images and its rationale will be presented in fuller detail during the session.
The outcome of this activity has been a series of images, which we refer to—for reasons that will be obvious on seeing them—as mitosis pots. These are, perhaps needless to say, very different from familiar textbook depictions of mitosis. The causal connection between features of mitosis and features of the mitosis pots gives us confidence that the images could be used to represent common features and specific differences in mitosis, though it is also clear that such use would require a degree of training. We shall discuss the costs and benefits of introducing such images into the practice and teaching of biology. Preliminary exploration of this question has involved soliciting reactions from other scientists.
We feel that a standard format of three 30 minute presentation representing distinct disciplinary perspectives would not do justice to the interdisciplinary nature of the project. Instead, we propose three brief introductions to aspects of the project by each of the participants, followed by more detailed presentations of the first completed sub-project, which is collaborative work by Anderson and Wakefield. We will allow some time for discussion at the conclusion of each part of the session. Dupréewill also chair a concluding 15 minute discussion session.
Details of how to book will be added to this page soon.
From anatomical studies to the biomorphism of surrealism and the abstractions of Klee and Kandinsky, the biological realm historically provided a significant resource for numerous artists while many scientists like Haeckel and Hooke produced works of artistic merit. This course focuses on the twin themes of morphology and drawing through an exploration of intuitive and experimental drawing methods. The aim is to develop and share new ways in which drawing practice can enhance morphological insight, specifically within the contexts of art and the natural sciences. Central to this is Goethe’s concept of morphology, which he defined in 1792 as ‘the study of form and formative process’ (Goethe and Naydler 1996) combined with a narrative of the development of ‘drawing as a way of knowing’ in my own artistic practice.
The path of the course arcs from observation to abstraction as a range of morphological drawing methods will be tested through a series of practice-based workshops using drawing as a method to investigate in diverse contexts; from fieldwork and microscopy to classification and simulation. We explore the relationship between art and biology through artists, scientists and thinkers such as Goethe, Klee, Waddington, Thistlewood and Mundy. As part of a wider cultural movement in Art/Science and STEAM, this course will highlight historical and contemporary of practices towards the development of independent investigations in Biology and Art.
‘I have left this class with a reinvigorated perspective on Biology and Nature in general. I find myself more attentive to forms and similarities among plants, especially.I also plan to exercise a lot more care and precision with my drawings. Our discussions on bias and our practical exercises on drawing from observation, made me realize just how extremely DIFFICULT it is to accurately capture an organism on paper, and how much skill it takes to be keen at observational drawing, being able to distinguish and incorporate details, patterns, textures, and lines in an unbiased and informative way’.
Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College, Iowa, US
April 12, 4 p.m.
‘Artist in residence Gemma Anderson will introduce her work at Grinnell in the context of the current collaboration with biologist James Wakefield and philosopher of biology John Dupré on the Arts and Humanities Research Council project Representing Biology as Process (2017-2020). Dr. Anderson has collaborated on a number of innovative art/science projects including Hidden Geometries with the Mathematics Department at Imperial College London; Isomorphology with the Natural History Museum, London; and Portraits: Patients and Psychiatrists (Wellcome Trust Arts Award 2009) in collaboration with psychiatrists and patients at Bethlem Royal Hospital. Co-sponsored by the Institute for Global Engagement and the Biology Department’.
The grant application for the project “Representing biology as process” has been awarded funding. The project, based at the University of Exeter, will be led by Prof. John Duprè, with Dr. Gemma Anderson and Prof. James Wakefield as co-investigators. The project will run for three years until 2020.
‘Beyond Impact: Drawing as a way of knowing in Biological Sciences’, Keynote Lecture, ‘Creativity in Science Teaching’, Society for Experimental Biology, Charles Darwin House, London, 12-14th December.
Artist talk by first artist-in-residence of the Northern Ireland Science Festival, Gemma Anderson. Gemma talks with Niccolò Tempini, at Naughton Gallery from the exhibition ‘Drawn Investigations from Art and Science’.