Artists and Scientists

Like many, I read the popular books written by scientists because I genuinely want to learn about the world. Lee Smolin, Leonard Susskind, Brian Greene are some of the physicists I’ve followed, a few of whom I’ve met. In the town where I live there is a prestigious institute of theoretical physicists, and I’ve spent time there in conversation with very interesting people. It seems that the older ones are the most receptive to chatting with an artist, maybe because they have a history, a life with many interests, but also they have the time. Some have even attended my shows or come to hear me speak about my work. John Moffat is one of the best—a very creative scientist and also an artist who used to show with the Tachistes. But there remains a great gap between artists and scientists, and an imbalance of power. Even the most broad minded scientist finds it hard to see art as legitimate “research,” with results equal in value to science. The problem is likely that we look to science for what we need, and vice versa, and can’t expect either group to understand the perspective of the other. But that’s not quite true; I can stretch my mind to embrace the scientific point of view, but most of the scientists I know view art the same way as the general public—as high-brow entertainment, a “spiritual” alternative. Their ideas may be more sophisticated than that, but the actual results are the same.

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