Art & The Scientific Method

Art & The Scientific Method

Lately I have been on an artist journey of some sorts. These past few weeks have given me the opportunity to recharge my batteries and probably think a little too much. My last post focused on embracing imperfection and the idea that, in one way or another, we are all artists. Though we may not all do “artistic” things, I believe that we must go about our lives with a creative and purposeful mindset. That in a way, our entire lives are fantastic, artistic performances communicating messages we find true and important. However, after dwelling on it further, I had to ask, as an artist, where was science in my life? What about the “harder” end of the intellectual spectrum? If I were to live an artistic life, full of emotion, irrationality, and mistakes where did logic and calculation fit into life’s equation?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that in some ways all I did was science. In a surprising revelation, I realized I was actually a scientist claiming to be an artist. Recalling the many science lessons throughout my years, the only concept that really took hold was the inevitable, first-day-of-class lesson on the scientific method. Remembering the process, I began to realize that my life was indirectly dedicated to it. My days are spent trying to make sense of the world around me. Observing trends and testing my findings as I best could, I was a scientist of some sorts. So how could this leap in perspective and identity happen? I had come to the conclusion I was neither a true artist or hard scientist.  Actually, I was someone who had convinced himself that he was an artist only to realize he actually embodied the scientific method more than anything else. Identity crisis? Not quite, but it did raise a few interesting questions.

Life: The Greatest Performance Of All

The more I thought about it the more it confused me (queue welcomed disorientation). As I began to pick up the pieces of my previous mental model, things began to click. (Now understand, this is just the current theory and model, if things go right, it will probably change; I would be worried if it didn’t.) What I began to realize was that I was a scientist deconstructing the world around me, reverse engineering the norms I saw while taking notes on my observations. In some ways, this entire blog is a scientific/artistic journal. I began to break down everything I could. Once all unquestioned and easily accepted notions were wiped clean, I saw a blank canvas. Then it hit me, here was my chance to be artistic. I could create new mental models, new truths, and new ideals as I saw fit. Here was where the artistic spirit took control. I was an artist, looking to say something and in my own way change the world around me. I had a message to get out and I had unlimited mediums to communicate it. My own life had become the ultimate medium for artistic expression. Life, in itself, had become the greatest performance piece of all. What was I going to do, say, and challenge with this stage? Art was supposed to be purposeful after all right?

The duality of the scientific and artistic process was incredible. In an oddly religious way, I was “in this world, but not of it.” On the outside looking in, I analyzed, hypothesized norms and cultural values by putting the scientific method to work. I was a social scientist looking to make sense of the space around me. Once I had a clearer picture of it, I realized it was my duty, as an artist, to destroy it, burn it down, and start fresh. It was then that I had become the artist I previously thought I was; the one I yearned to be. I had seen what was taken for granted and where logic or emotion had taken us in this infinitely complex world. After surveying the land, I could see the “weak” points in the system, the areas that needed to be challenged the most. Only then was I ready to do my artistic duty and deliver disorientation. If I were to do society a favor, I would have to challenge a norm, imperfect it, embrace it, then set it free. Though art and science may not often work well together, I found this process to be totally encompassing, clear, and beautiful simultaneously. Beginning with the scientific observation then finishing with the artistic disorientation, I have to ask, are we scientists, artists, or both? What observations can we make and in an artistic, purposeful way, change the status quo? Can we really blend art and the scientific method for the better of humanity while we dance on this grand stage of life?

Thanks for indulging me. Indulge me further with your comments.


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20 responses to “Art & The Scientific Method”

  1. MichaelEdits says :

    We all readily accept that art cannot be all about substance, but somehow we aren’t so quick to accept that it can’t be all about style and only style. It needs both. It must inspire, provoke thought, and never be boring. To do all that without science is as impossible as doing all that without creativity. How much art is in your science, or science is in your art, will differ based upon its creator. Every creator is different, and every creator’s balance between the two is different. But creating “art” without science is as ludicrous as creating art without art.

    • Dan Fonseca says :

      Very cool Michael. That makes perfect sense. I can not help but think that there can sometimes be “low order” art and “high order” art. If you want something inspiring and thought provoking, I can see where science must come into play. Is it an absolute however? Maybe all great artists know this but this was a first thought for me, one never really hears about art and science overlapping. In the school system and our media diets, they are usually two different worlds. Maybe we should change that? Thanks for indulging me and weighing in!

  2. Papi says :

    Dan, a truly amazing post. You are honest, genuine, and unafraid to put yourself out there. I enjoy observing the evolution of the processes you go through as you try to make sense of the world, how you fit in, and how you can impact it for the better. It is a source of inspiration.
    Keep at it.

  3. Lizzie Austin says :

    I’m so glad you brought this up (the whole science vs. art issue…but why is it an issue is the first place? Different story for a different time). I agree with Michael in that art and science need each other in order to function in a way that will make change. In an obvious physical sense, painters couldn’t paint without the science of paint-making, just as scientists could never make breakthroughs without ingenuity and creativity. Pavlov stumbled on classical conditioning when he was studying canine gastroenterology. When posts like this make us think, we can see that both art and science are working together to make change through paintings and petri dishes. Why place a limit on what we can learn or achieve by making us choose art OR science, never “and”? Even more importantly, why should we limit the imaginations of younger generations demanding that there be a divide between Science and Art. A limit on the imagination is the beginning of the end. Let us not confuse intelligence with wisdom. Even Einstein said, “imagination is more important than knowledge.” Thank you so much, Dan, for starting this conversation.

    • Dan Fonseca says :

      Lizzie thank you so much for your contribution. I totally agree we need to understand we live in a world of greys and not simply black or white. Art and science should be a blended idealogy and not as separate as our school systems make them out to be. Thanks for your two cents :)

  4. Franziska San Pedro says :

    Hi Dan,

    we can’t be without either one and one does not exist without the other. You are quite a philosopher (and so am I), so your post makes perfect sense to me!
    If you take meaning from either one -well wait a minute, how is that possible? Everything has meaning, it is a basic state that everything has whether liked or not.

    How can you decide on one? That in itself is not possible, so why have this discussion (addressing this question to the people that it may concern)? If you decide on one you are only half alive -I guess- because you ignore reality (not YOU, talking to the system)?

    Franziska San Pedro
    The Abstract Impressionist Artress

    -because if color is an illusion then it doesn’t matter anyways

    • Franziska San Pedro says :

      …and I think it’s all just a big misunderstanding between left- and right-brainers, lol

    • Dan Fonseca says :

      Very interesting Franziska. If everything has multiple meanings and we all have our different perspectives, then what is the truth? How do we know what is what if that same thing means something completely different to someone else? Maybe thats what good art should do right? Give everyone a different picture and meaning in their own mind. It is when they share how they think of it in discussion that will impact themselves and others around them as well thus changing the meaning entirely. Hopefully the process continues over and over again too in a fantastic, artistic cycle. Wow… Thanks for bringing that up! Not that I am 100% that made sense.

      • Franziska San Pedro says :

        Don’t you worry, I got it (and my brain is wired like a 70s computer -that made no sense, did it? lol)..

        The only one thing I know for sure is that everything has meaning, just different meaning in the eyes of the viewer, “no meaning” does not exist. The truth is the complete answer to the last two questions that we still don’t understand -neither with the help of science nor with the help of art: “what is time and space?”

        Got it?!?

  5. Gavin says :

    Hey Dan, cool post! I’ve been thinking about this idea for a bit and I thought you posed the question well when you said, “Beginning with the scientific observation then finishing with the artistic disorientation, I have to ask, are we scientists, artists, or both? ” Most of my thoughts revolve around language, but when I engage with a difficult question I have, I try to think of the ‘art’ and ‘science’ as two modes of perception, and you phrased it well: artistic disorientation and scientific observation. I think Goethe said it well when he wrote about these two modes of perception. “Science arose from poetry–when times change the two can meet again on a higher level as friends.” I wrote a little about something similar after reading a book that partly dealt with how the language we speak may have an influence on how we see the world if you want to check it out:

    keep up the good work

    • Dan Fonseca says :

      Very cool Gavin. I am really enjoying that Goethe quote, I think it speaks well to what was attempted to be communicated in the post. These comments have really begun to make me think about the school system and this quote has only furthered that. Why are these two fields so separate in our school systems? It should not be so black and white and instead a world of greys. Art and science should overlap more in the public school system. I think that could help keep students interested in both worlds and closer to the truth of its nature. What do you think? Thank you for stopping by, really appreciate it :).

  6. Carrie Knific says :

    Dan, I love this.

    I’ve spent a lot of time ruminating on a tangent of this myself. I’ve probably blabbered on about this to you back in college, but a mentor once told me to balance the left and the right brain. With this whole-mindedness, you can get the most out of your life, professionally and personally. Since then, I’ve tried to synthesize (or remain aware of the synthesis) or creative and analytical in my every day life. But you make an interesting point: the line between science and art is blurred– if there really is a boundary there at all.

    The way I see it, the art is passion and the science is practice. Find someone who is in love with what they do and ask them about how it is done. Odds are, they will tell you that there is an art to it. There is an art to building fences. There is an art to programming machines. There is an art to making sandcastles. But we need to learn the method before we master the craft. The process of science can lend to the beauty of art in any form; artistic inspiration can lead to new processes, which someone else will learn and love.

    We can’t have one without the other, but really, they are one and the same. Unfortunately, not everyone will understand or believe this, which is why we are taught that there is a finite difference between art and science in the first place.

    • Dan Fonseca says :

      Very cool Carrie! When I wrote this I really enjoyed thinking about these two ideals and the spectrum they lived on. What I have no yet flushed out and have been thinking of as of lately is the idea of “quadrants.” We have always heard of figure heads in their perspective fields talk about how their field is everywhere. Science/math is everywhere. Art is everything. The political is now personal. Life is sanctified. As if they are the lenses of life, we travel the world looking at it through empirical, creative, political, and religious perspectives. I am curious to explore the spectrums and blurring of each. I wonder how they will all play out.

      I do really enjoy the idea you bring up of synergy. How can the parts be greater than the sum? Its a question of innovation I guess. Good way to live life though :)

      Another rant… Thanks Carrie! How are things with you though?

      • Carrie Knific says :

        Keep on rambling, Dan! There are some great thoughts within you :)

        I am doing great.. still looking for a job but I am excited: last week, a crappy internship (which I quit), a dream, and an epiphany, all within a few days, has thwarted me into a new direction. Instead of trying to validate myself by getting A job, I need to focus on getting the job I truly WANT. I was leaning toward public relations for a while because that’s what I’ve had the the most exposure to and, therefore, I figured that would be the easiest. I was interviewing for tons of jobs that I knew I would hate. But then I remembered what I decided to pursue before I even left the college microcosm: advertising account management. In my frustration over not having a job, I felt desperate, and searched for a job based on my resume rather than my dreams. On my quantifiable skills rather than my natural abilities. That’s like job searching for your past rather than your future.

        It sounds really simple, but it is easy to get crippled and clouded by the pressures of the job market these days. If you have found your calling, keep following it!

        • Dan Fonseca says :

          So true. We often are too quick to subscribe to society’s norms. We build our aspirations around it instead of truly understanding who we are and what makes us happy. Keep up the good work and let me know if I can be of any help :) Cheers!

  7. art girl says :

    i totally understand this. i’m working on my science final. the final is to pick a hobby, and to turn it into science. but what most people don’t realize is that with most things, especially art, you can’t have one without the other. btw: dan i am totally a fan of ur blg now!

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