New Art/Science Affinities
by Andrea Grover, Régine Debatty, Claire Evans, Pablo Garcia, Thumb
Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University + CMU STUDIO for Creative Inquiry
, Pittsburgh, PA, 2011
190 pp., illus. 232 col. Paper, $45.75
Reviewed by Brian Reffin Smith
Most of us have too many ideas and not enough time. We perhaps tend to shy away from books that are surveys or collections of art or technique in our field, fearing distraction or disappointment. This would be a mistake were the book to help us see our own ideas from a different perspective, able to be realised in new ways. My definition of a good art show is one which makes me want to run home and do work, perhaps unrelated directly to the exhibition’s contents. ‘New Art/Science Affinities’ is a book that made me want to do new, and revisit old, things.
New Art/Science Affinities’ is jointly published by The Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University and the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry. It is a ‘sprint book’, written and designed in one intensive week by Régine Debatty, Claire L. Evans, Pablo Garcia and Andrea Glover, with designers Luke Bulman and Jessica Young of Thumb.
No space here to list the sixty-odd artists and collaborations covered, some well known, some not, and anyway that’s not really the point, which is that from postnatural history to Maker works, from politically infused digital art to rendering incinerator pollution visible by lasers, from tissue culture as art to real snails carrying real snail-mail, from hacking and subverting newsfeeds to Arse Elektronika (sic and LOL), the book is quite subversive, very stimulating, and perhaps slightly too skewed towards the natural sciences: one might have wished a bit more from collaborations with physics, mathematics, materials science or research qua research. As a ‘snapshot’ created on the run over seven days, it necessarily portrays a quite particular moment and choice. Still: an excellent read.
The design really is excellent - a most interesting and useful (and deeply subjective!) timeline of art and science intersections is printed on warm, yellowish paper that lends everything an air of retro and up-to-dated-ness at the same time, and I guess that’s about right. One does, as so often, miss an index; but given the draconian time constraints and the absorbing and provocative (rather US-centred, though trying not to be) timeline, it isn’t the end of the world in this case.
What’s more, if you don’t buy the book (available from Lulu but at 45.75$ !), you can download the PDF file for free (quite legally - they make it available in this form): just look for the title in a well-known search engine.