Artists and scientists alike endeavor to understand the world around us. Although art emphasizes expression and communication, while science tests and proves ideas, both originate in observation and curiosity. As the curators of this fourth volume of the Tilt West Journal, we are less concerned with distinctions between the two disciplines than with their shared potential to inform and inspire, to instill a sense of wonder, and to address some of the most pressing social and environmental issues of our time. In this exploration of the Art and Science theme, we highlight myriad ways that the arts and humanities intersect with science in both artistic practice and scientific research. In these pages you will find examples of art inspired by scientific ideas, art created through cross-disciplinary collaboration, and art that blurs the boundaries between the two fields.
In contrast to conventionally held conceptions, artistic work and scientific work are actually quite similar. Both scientists and artists make advances through processes that involve experimentation, creativity, problem solving, and rigor. While many of the contributors to this journal identify as artists, they cannot all be so neatly categorized. The work of a data sculptor is featured alongside progenitors of the eco art movement; an artist working with an interdisciplinary network of researchers speaks to the emerging field of ocean memory; and a filmmaker writes about her dual identity as both an artist and a scientist.
Creative practitioners often respond to or critique the world around them, so it is not surprising that many are engaging with scientific themes in their work, especially now, when pressing issues like climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic are at the forefront of our everyday lives. This volume includes responses to the dual crises of drought and wildfire in the Western United States, addressed through both installation art and poetry. Works by a visual artist, an animator, and an Indigenous rapper explore ideas of brokenness and adaptation in relation to climate change. We examine social justice issues raised by human migration, the disproportionate impact of industrial pollution on communities of color, and the dark legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. We feature a visual essay by an artist who has made work by mutating daisies. An Indigenous-led performance group explores our complex connection to nature in our urban environments. A collection of outdated computers and other “dead media” in Boulder, Colorado is brimming with potential for hands-on experimentation, while reducing the impact of e-waste. And in an interview with the directors of an artist residency program at a scientific research field station in California’s Sierra Nevada, we invite you, the reader, to consider the potential for similar initiatives in your own region.
Art and science permeate our society. We hope you come away from this issue with an expanded view of their emerging intersections, and we hope you are surprised, delighted, and inspired by the innovative work we have shared.
Alana Quinn, Sharifa Lafon, Joel Swanson, and Brenton Weyi
Art and Science curators and issue editors