A Case Study On Being Both and Neither: Self-Organizing Art-Science Collaborations Functioning Outside Institutional Structures

Coordinator: Ruth West

This case study presents the experience of two large-scale self-organizing art-science collaborations that arose outside of institutional structures while functioning effectively and productively within academic environments. Collaborators included artists, researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, and spanned the disciplines of new media arts, bioinformatics, computer science (vision and graphics), engineering, proteomics, comparative genomics, metagenomics, english literature, calligraphy, 19th Century naturalist illustration, visualization, music composition and data sonification. In each case, the working process evolved over several years and included external consultations with subject matter experts, as well as collaborators that joined the core group for brief periods for specific purposes. Both groups shared the over-arching goals of creating work that contributes simultaneously to the realms of art and science while retaining discipline specific rigor, to investigate the nature of interdisciplinary collaboration, and to explore how artistic practice and aesthetic experience can nurture scientific discovery while simultaneously exploring, articulating and instantiating new cultural forms. The collaborations developed work presented in arts/cultural venues as well as publications presented in scientific and arts conferences. Lessons learned include evolving group identity and structure and towards an integrative and iterative co-creative working process. Challenges include establishing reciprocity in hybrid practice, shifting roles and identities when bridging disciplines, facilitating communication, and funding and sponsorship.