Ordinarily, I’m quite impressed by the calibre of The Guardian’s Science blogs. This one is the exception that proves the rule. In the article, Jonathan Jones asserts that Science has surpassed art – citing the photos coming back from the Hubble space probe and comparing them to the likes of Damien Hirst, et al.
This heralded news comes about 13 years too late: Science surpassed Hirst on the 23rd September 1999 when Nasa’s Mars Climate Orbiter burned $125 million in an on-location installation piece entitled “Oops, Imperial System”! It is possible to find disasters in every field of human endeavour – you’d have to remove the “human” for it to be otherwise – we try not to dwell on the clangers.
The author then goes on to say:
Many projects today try to bring together art and science…
This is nothing new either, and it wasn’t new in 1766 when George Stubbs was laying bare the anatomy of Horses to a stunned public. It wasn’t new in 1706 when Ateliers the world over starting applying the principles of Newton’s Colour Wheel to their work. It wasn’t new in 1445 when Giovanni di Paolo rendered the Aristotelian understanding of the cosmos in his Creation of the World. In short, the communication of science through art dates all the way back to Lascaux. It’s a shame the author doesn’t know what a grand tradition he comes from.
I suspect there were a few people who suggested something similar in 1842 when Sir Richard Owen named Dinosauria, blissfully unaware that, in the following year, artist Joseph Turner would complete After the Deluge: an homage to Goethe’s colour theory. Is there room for both to inspire the public’s hearts and minds? You bet. Art may be experiencing what music went through in the 90’s but there was still great, under-appreciated music in that decade, and the inspiring news of Dolly the Sheep in no way eclipsed it. As long as great art can inspire people to become scientists, and great scientific discoveries can inspire people to pick up a paintbrush, there is no competition and there will always be both.