Art vs. Science

art and greatness

This is a guest essay by Timothy Chutes, and the third in a series of essays on Art, Science, and Technology. Read the first and the second.

Technology has been the great liberator for the arts, but the artists using these technological tools are at odds with the science behind the tools. While this is a generalization it does represent the vast majority of my interaction with the art community and represents the larger opinion of society. I have no doubt that if you did 'man on the street' interviews the overall consensus would be that art and science aren't all that compatible; art being emotional and science representing logic.

But this wasn't always the case. There once was a time where scientists and artists were peers and mentors. And before that they were one and the same, like Leonardo Da Vinci. So when did this divide start to happen?

The reasons can be traced to the late 1800's and early 1900's. This time period is important because science was beginning to offer us the technologically "advanced" society we live in now and postmodernism was developing in the art world. The conflict was simple; postmodernism was telling us that there is no objective reality and science was telling us there is an objective reality. I talk about this conflict as though it was a thing of the past, but sadly it's not as postmodernism is still the leading concept in the western art world.

The implication here isn't that getting rid of postmodern thought will solve the problem. With the exponential growth of scientific knowledge over the past century or so, it takes much more work to remain scientifically literate (let alone peer to scientists).

I know I sound overly critical of artists of today, but from a scientist's perspective I cannot speak; I find myself lucky to speak as an artist. Art utilizes a vast array of tools for communicating abstraction to speak on the nature of such things as love, life and death. It is now, in a time of conscious exponential growth of science and technology, that our once and future peers need the assistance of us and our cognitive tools to help discuss and integrate into the larger zeitgeist the seemingly infinite scale of existence, quantum mechanics, the singularity. Science is bringing the future; our job as artists should be to make sure society is ready.


I think that art and science go together very well. Art is kind of a science. Just my opinion but I think they are close.