The Way Things Work: Art as Science, Science as Art

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University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
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The Way Things Work: Art as Science, Science as Art

The Third Annual Undergraduate Student Conference
Art History Department, College of Visual and Performing Arts
University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

Organizers: Lauren Scharf and undergraduate students at UMass Dartmouth's Department of Art History
Faculty Sponsors: Pamela Karimi and Thomas Stubblefield

Time and Place of the Conference:
Claire T. Carney Library, Grand Reading Room; University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
Thursday, April 10th from 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Light refreshments will be provided during the conference at no charge.

Keynote Speaker:
Dr. Kirsten Swenson, Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell: "Critical Landscapes: Art in the Anthropocene"

Special Panel:
A Conversation about collaborative efforts between scientists and designers at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

"Art has a double face, of expression and illusion, just like science has a double face: the reality of error and the phantom of truth." - Publilius Syrus.

What oftentimes appear to be two disparate fields—art and science—have, in fact, always been closely intertwined. Using linear perspective, artists and designers, such as Leon Battista Alberti and Filippo Brunelleschi, sought to observe the world in an objective and scientific manner. This mathematical system provided a straightforward formula for artists to be able to create the illusion of space and distance on a flat surface.

While the innovation of linear perspective has been an integral component of art from the Renaissance onwards, it was not until the computer age that the notion of art and technology once again resurfaced. In the late 1990s, artist and software engineer Char Davies developed two immersive virtual reality experiences, Osmose and Ephemere. Using computer and body monitoring devices, the two projects provided an opportunity for experiencing a life within virtual environments.

Cutting-edge scientific and technological breakthroughs have indeed augmented artistic initiatives. Sometimes the material qualities and visual dimensions of a technological or a scientific achievement are conceived as art. Otherwise, they have become sources of inspiration for artists. For example, microscopic photography, which is used as a research tool for cancer and neurological disorders, is displayed as art in the Koch Institute Public Galleries at MIT. In her ongoing project Stranger Visions, artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg translates discarded DNA found on city streets into 3-D portraits of the owners. Drexel University scientists and artists are collaborating by using 3-D printers to scan dinosaur bones and fossils. They hope to construct life-size replicas of these ancient animals, providing a more detailed and a much better understanding of how they might have moved and reacted to their environment.

It is with such collaborative efforts and symbiotic relationships between science and art that the separation between art, science and technology is gradually starting to fade away, destroying traditional black-and-white perceptions of art and design as creative pursuits, and science and technology as intellectual queries. Indeed, contrary to popular belief, the arts and the sciences are not diametrically opposed. Rather, one could not exist without the other.

The Art History Department of the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth seeks proposals for a student symposium on the topic of art, science, and technology. We are interested in papers and projects that address all aspects of the interweaving of these fields.

We invite papers from undergraduates as well as graduate students in all areas of the arts, sciences, and related fields (for instance, art history and visual culture, history of science, BFA and MFA programs, physics, astronomy, architecture, computer science, etc.) which will comprise a broad range of methodologies and media. Historical studies from all time periods are welcome. But priority will be given to modern and contemporary issues. We also welcome proposals on the presentation of one's creative artwork or design. Possible topics include but are not limited to the followings:

Traditional (e.g. the making of automatic tools and machines) and recent technological innovations (e.g. 3D printing)
Virtual reality
Generative or algorithmic art
Environmental art
The visualization of science
Photography and Astronomy and/or Microbiology
Digital visual culture
GPS and digital cartography
Sound art
Cutting-edge projects that combine art and science/technology

**Please submit a 100-200-word abstract to by Monday, March 3rd, 2014. Decisions will be made by March 10, 2014. Selected participants must submit their finalized conference papers by no later than Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

Submission Format: all submissions must include your name, institution, and a titled description of your project. Send a .doc/.docx, .pdf or .jpg file to

Please note: Due to budgetary restrictions, student participants traveling from far away must seek reimbursement for lodging and transportation expenses from their home institutions.

Questions? Please email Lauren Scharf at