CliSAP: In this project, artists accompany scientific working groups for a span of several months. You’re the ones who initiated and coordinate the project – where did the idea come from?
Friedrich von Borries: I’ve been exploring the topic of “art as research” for some time now. The connection to climate-related work started with my exhibit “Climate Capsules,” which centered on survival following a climatic catastrophe. So combining art and climate research was a logical next step.
Simone Rödder: The idea was to give young artists the chance to forward their own development through interactions with science, while at the same time exposing scientists to new perspectives on the research they do. It was an experiment for both groups.
CliSAP: Has that experiment been a success – can we make art out of science?
Von Borries: It depends on how you view the relationship between art and science. The students haven’t simply illustrated the work that scientists do – that would have been boring. Instead the goal was to take a certain object from the context of climate research and then explore it independently using artistic tools. Artists are also researchers, and use artistic methods to pursue their own interests and theories.
CliSAP: So art and science aren’t so different after all. Are there further parallels?
Rödder: Both fields involve creative work, which is why the projects tend to be similar. You start with an idea, which you use to apply for funding. Over the course of the project, the idea may change completely, because new questions and findings have cropped up. And ultimately there is a deadline, which is usually fixed by an external party – a publishing date, which is usually preceded by plenty of night shifts and weekend work.
CliSAP: But there are still differences. Science involves evidence and arguments, unlike art.
Von Borries: Not only the methods used in art and science are different, but also the results: whether a piece of art is moving or not isn’t something rational, nor is it the same for everyone who views it. The relation between the work and recipient is far more important.
CliSAP: Was the project a success – for both sides?
Rödder: The purpose of this collaboration was to inspire both sides by taking them out of their comfort zones. And that’s exactly what happened: for instance, the artists asked why a certain color is used in scientific illustrations and not some other one, why a line in a graph goes one way and not another – these are conventions and habits that no-one ever stops and thinks about in day-to-day research. I was also very happy to see how respectful and how impressed the participants were by the “other side’s” skills, like the ability to make a film, or to operate a scanning electron microscope.
Von Borries: Of course, beyond the collaboration process, the artistic results were a priority, and I’m extremely pleased with them. Now we’re curious to see what the scientists have to say about the completed works.
The interview was held by Markus Dressel.