29 July 2015 Volume :3 Issue :35

Science and Arts Shed Light on their Matter

Science and Arts Shed Light on their Matter
Academics and artists at a meeting in Durban.

Academics in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) have embarked on a project that sees artists and scientists working together in pairs to produce an artistic work inspired by a scientific concept. This project is being undertaken in collaboration with the artSPACE gallery in Durban, where the works produced by the artists and scientists will be exhibited.

This project was spearheaded by Professor Thomas Konrad of UKZN’s School of Chemistry and Physics and Durban-based artist Pamela Benporath, who are collaborating on a project. Konrad was inspired to pursue the idea after hearing a young artist explaining his exhibits at the gallery ArtSPACE that captured his impressions of artificial light and music. Karen and Claus Bradtke, the owners of the gallery, had previously organised an exhibition of scientists and artists in 2012 and were keen to feature an exhibit on the topic of light that resulted in another such collaboration.

Other participants from UKZN include Dr Giuseppe Pellicane, Professor Mark Tame, Dr Tanja Reinhardt, Dr Neil Koorbanally, Professor Werner van Zyl and visiting PhD student Benjamín Perez. Each of the eight resulting teams will have a wall in the gallery to utilise for their piece.

The project is making the most of the fact that 2015 is UNESCO's Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies and the pieces being produced by each pair are intended to speak to this theme.  They will make light and its physical characteristics comprehensible through presenting scientific concepts in aesthetically appealing ways to try and encourage more dialogues between the sciences and the arts.

Konrad believes that this project can provide a unique blend of science and art to produce a comprehensive picture of views on light in general and its artificial or technological use in particular.

He also hopes that this project will show visitors to the exhibition that there is a highly creative and fun element to science, with both art and science requiring lateral thinking in order for there to be results. He mentioned that the project may even spark off new ideas about light, both scientifically and artistically.

'Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, said there are three important questions: What can we know? What should we do? And what may we hope?' explained Konrad.

'Science aims to answer the first question, while arts try to answer the last. If Kant is right, it may be a good idea to take into account what we know in order to answer what we may hope for.  Ultimately, only arts and science together can give a complete picture of what we think about the world.’

The exhibition of the resulting pieces, called "Reflections on Light in Science and Arts" at ArtSPACE opens on Monday 10th August, with a soirée with artists and scientists and a brief talk on the subject by scientist Dr Hermann Uys from the University of Stellenbosch. It can be seen there until the end of August.

Konrad acknowledged support from the CAES College and the School of Chemistry and Physics.

Christine Cuénod

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