‘How to Enable Science/Engineering to Arts & Humanities’ or conversely ‘Collaborative in Spirit-Only: Keeping an Open Mind on Collaboration Across Disciplines’ or ‘How to Make a Scientist Run-Like-Hell from An Artists’ Collaboration Inquiries’

Coordinator: Krisanne Baker

I saw your call for papers and it struck me as funny – particularly because as a science-based artist making award-winning work specifically about water quality, availability, and rights for the past seven years, I’ve yet to find one scientist with whom I would gladly collaborate. Not that I am being picky – I can’t afford to be picky – since there are ultimately no takers to my offers of collaboration.
So here’s my real life scenario –
I presented my work at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute through the guise of the Woods Hole Film Festival – my true desire was to talk to people at WHOI and find a collaborator. My film, ‘Upstream to Downstream (In Our Bloodstreams)’, was shown as a preliminary to the feature film ‘Upstream’ with the same concept but in lengthy documentary form about Dr. Sandra Steingraber’s struggle with early onset cancer and exemplifying my theory of
‘what we do upstream matters downstream’. Mission One: Accomplished.

Mission Two
At the finish of our films ensued an empassioned Q & A session; so much so, that after forty minutes, the Q & A was called to a halt by the film festival crew, who needed to wrap things up for the evening. During this period, I made a plea:
“I’m not just some crazy artist making films about my paranoias. I am a concerned citizen who values scientific research, and I use it as the basis of, and inspiration for the film you just watched. A long list of foreign chemicals that are ever-present, in municipal drinking waters growing in the past eight years from 33 to close to 300, in babies umbilical cords has been the inspiration for this film. The images I put together hopefully speak to these joint concerns of both scientist and artist. Typically when faced with a science report of data and graphs, people just turn away and won’t read them. Are there any scientists in the audience tonight who wish they could put some visuals to their data? So I try to make images that relate these scientific concepts and put them into short digital videos which are self produced. These shorts I see as a public service announcement – or at the longest – an info-mercial – for our Attention Deficit Disorder culture.”

Despite incredible conversations and being in the right place at the right time, I’m still finding scientists, even the ones who gave me their cards as potential collaborators, never get back to me after I get home and send a follow-up e-mail inquiry. I mistakenly thought when someone gave their card, that they truly were interested – Mission Two: on hold . . .

I’ve even resorted to submitting my films to science film festivals to try to gain some credibility with the science community. ‘Upstream to Downstream’ is currently playing in Australia at the Scinema Festival of Science Film and Conference. So, despite my best efforts of introducing myself and my work and conversing oh-so-knowledgably on the subject at hand, my conclusion is that the people with the data are afraid of the people with the visuals. Let’s face it: your time is precious and my time is precious, but as an artist, I’m used to not getting paid for very much for my time. I know, I should have gotten my first degree in Marine Biology, instead of art . . . [sigh].
So here’s my funny scenario
Step One:
Show ‘em what you got.
Show the visuals that you believe convey some or most of their concerns
[These can be excerpts from your previous or current works in still image or video image format –
warning!: steer clear of any piece of art that contains sense of mystery or could be categorized as
‘probably drug-induced’.]
Step Two:
Talk about your paranoias and anxieties that are not conspiracy-therory related
[Make sure not to mention any close relations with therapy ties;
List each concern documenting with a before & after type comparison – scientists might accept these as theorums & results sans controls;
Speaking of out-of-control . . . don’t appear passionate . . . try to keep voice monotone]
Step Three:
Invitation to Collaborate –
[try to keep under your hat the fact that you do all of your work with no outside funding
when people find out you do this work for free – they really question your sanity!]

Offer to put their visuals together as a short video documentary, or for the really adventuresome scientist . . . an (gasp) experimental film.
Offer that you are cognizant in presentation formats for potential public broadcasting and internet savvy.
Should the scientist/engineer be without ideas on visuals, offer that you will put together some sample visuals to underscore their data, and then will seek feedback on efficiency of content/content for finalization modifications.
Remind the right-brained crew not to shy away!; that their genius combined with the left-brained crews’ visual brilliance may forge new insights in the general populists’ minds of our current culture.
So If I don’t assume the stereotypical ‘dry’, ‘boring’, or ‘analytical’ about scientists, can I hope they won’t assume the ‘flighty’, ‘crazy’, or ‘unstable’ about me? I think we both grew up reading National Geographic . . .
Respectfully submitted with a smirk,
Krisanne Baker, Maine Ecological Artist and Educator

The Delicate Balance of BlueGreen Algae – the video portion alone of a multimedia presentation based on the little known importance of bluegreen algae as the foundation of our food pyramid 2011


Upstream to Downstream (In Our Bloodstreams) 2010 – This is the film I referenced in the abstract ‘How to Make a Scientist Run Like Hell . . .’


Content Aware Anxieties (with narration) 2012 most recent based on the dangers of fracking


World Water Cris(e)s: Potential Effects/Cumulative Effects 2009