Science-Art Interactions in Asia with Particular Reference to India

Coordinator: Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa


“Life itself is a beautiful interaction between art and science. You cannot escape this reality no matter what you say or do!”

While North America, Europe and Australia are basking in the glory of new wave science-art collaborations and reaping all the benefits that these interactions are bringing, there are some parts of the world that are relatively untouched by these happenings! Asia, to which the Indian subcontinent belongs, remains almost immune to the developments happening around the world in this arena. With the exception of China, we find very few science-art projects in the region. In a coordinated study for this paper, an attempt has been made to (a) find the extent of science art interplays in Asia, (b) seek reasons for the little interest on science based art here and (c) explore ways to correct the situation.

Some interesting observations:

Science and technology are being used in Asian countries mostly as tools rather than as themes to create art [1,2,3]! Art is being used more frequently in schools as an educational aid  to teach children Science in most of the countries here [4,5]. Art in the form of films and videos is also being used to propagate science knowledge among Asian communities [6]. Artists in the Asian countries where ‘science’ is being used as a theme (eg., Ecology) to create art are approaching it from a socio-economic point of view rather than dealing it as a pure subject [7,8,9]. Majority of the people who are venturing into the arena of science-art in Asia are from the field of science or artists who have scientific or technical backgrounds. Magazines and journals that are encouraging science-art and publishing articles on the subject also belong to the field of science and not art [10]!

Types of interactions noticed between science and art in Asia:

1. Creating art using Science and technology as tools(S&T assisted art) [11,12,13,14,15].

2. Creating art scientifically [16].  A few artists in the region are sensitive to the well-being of the environment and are using recycled or organic materials to create art. Some are also using eco-friendly printers, to have all their art pieces printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink [17,18,19].

3. Doing science-art (science illustrations- painting lab specimens and models in colours)[20].

4. Creating science based or inspired art (taking pure science themes and theories, connecting them to art and producing works based on them) [21,22] .

5. Scientific studies of the artistic processes [23].

6. Coming together of artists and scientists to solve some of the biggest technology development challenges in sectors such as health and the environment [24].

7. Approaching science by artists from a social point of view [25].

8. Using visual techniques like origami- paper art to teach science subjects [26].

Countries and the interactions happening in them:

In Asia, science-art interactions are mainly concentrated in China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, India, UAE, Iraq and  Israel. Interestingly these areas with healthy scientific backgrounds [27,28,29] are relatively high on the economic scales too in the region [30,31,32]. In other parts of Asia, except for instances of technology assisted art [33], there is no work based on pure science-art worth mentioning. As technology assisted art is ubiquitous in Asia like in the other parts of the world, I am not delving deep into the subject.

East Asia:
China: Although not as vivacious as the ones in the West, there is a vibrant activity in the Chinese science-art arena. Artists in China seem to have warmed up to the idea of science-art interactions and started working with enthusiasm to deal with projects based on the subject [34,35,36,37]. China is also conducting art-science symposia and international exhibitions regularly [38,39].TASML recently launched an International Artist Residence Program (TASML IRP) in collaboration with Institut Français, Goethe Institute (China) and Pro Helvetia which focuses on laboratory inspired artistic practice [40]. As another coordinator is discussing China’s science-art scene, I am not going deep into the details of interactions.

According to some of my Chinese artist friends the reason for these thriving science-art collaborations in China is the importance given by the Communist Government there to promoting science. The results could be seen in all areas [41] including art. An enviable economic growth combined with big art market boom in China seems to be fueling good funding mechanisms too for the artists to experiment with new tools and themes. Another important contributing factor could be artists there are more open to experimentation with Science. There is a sort of rebellion and new art movements are taking roots without any resistance in China [42].

Hong Kong’s close association with both Britain and China (a special administrative region of it) has a positive impact on its science-art sphere. A symposium was held in Hong Kong in March, 2012 during an art and science festival, titled “Art and Science Symposium – Conjunctions of Artistic and Scientific Processes” [43] Microwave International New Media Arts Festival, in partnership with the British Council, hosted a unique art-science lab exhibition ‘Laboratory Life’ by the leading UK arts agency Lighthouse recently at Hong Kong City Hall. Works by 21 international artists, scientists and doctors, which are an exploration of bioscience and the use of medical technology is the important feature of this show [44]. A show by the artist Yim Wai Wai under the categories of “Pseudo-science” and “Pseudo-myth” is worth mentioning [45].

Science art scene in Japan is similar to that of India-very little activity in the area of actual science based art and more importance is being given to tech-assisted art [46]. More over, according to some journalists, whatever science based art created there is being done in a state of confusion!  [47,48]. A record of a hundred year old science-art pictures in Japan is catching the attention of the scientists in the region[49].

 There is a single report of artists and scientists coming together in Korea [50].                         

South-East Asia:
Recently one university in Singapore has conducted residencies that dealt with science-art [51]. Science-art museum of Singapore exhibits science and tech assisted art [52]. Artists in this region are mostly dealing with sci-art from the socio-economic point of view [53,54,55].

Indonesia is the best example to quote in Asia where science and art are combining to help communities and societies. Honf foundation there works as a forum to bring artists and scientists together to solve some of Indonesia’s biggest technology development challenges in sectors such as health and the environment [56].

South Asia:
The paintings of historical scientists in a Pakistani gallery are worth seeing [57].
In India, the interactions between art and science were very poor till recently but slowly picking up momentum now. Artists here are mainly dealing with technology assisted art. Apart from me- who deals with science-literature, science based art and science-art [58], Mr. Sukant saran, a physicist turned artist, too deals with the artistic side especially patterns of the scientific objects using digital art technology and photography [59]. Dr. Sharada Srinivasan, with the support of her institute (National Institute of Advanced Studies), experiments with dance and science interplays [60,61]. Mr. Sastry of Bangalore uses Origami paper-art to teach Math [26]. Prof. Promod Rai painted a few pictures of fungal spores, chromosomes and genes copying from text books (science-art) [20]. Mr. Basant Soni creates art using organic material [17]. Ms.Aditi Kulkarni ‘s background in Physics makes her experiment with digital and installation combinations. Construction of a site-specific installation that will employ kinetic sculpture, photography and moving images to create an immersive sensory experience is her specialization [62,63].

ViswaBharatiUniversity(West Bengal) –started by Rabindranath Tagore-is about to start music with science course from next year [64].

Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology’s (CCMB, Hyderabad) ex-director, Mr. PM Bhargava’s interest in art made him invite artists to do works on his campus. They have a big collection of art works now [65]. They had an artist-in-residence programme too when Mr. Bhargava was the director of CCMB [66].But when you see the CCMB art work display you will notice that after the interactions with the scientists not one artist created works based on science on its campus! [67] When I tried to find out the reasons for the same, I drew a blank because both scientists and artists I contacted couldn’t pin point them! The same situation is true for other encounters between artists and scientists in India. For example artists have been visiting Vikram Sarabhai space centre in Ahmedabad during art festivals organized there [68]. But these visits by artists to the science centers are not leading to any significant outcomes!

SrishtiSchool of arts (Bangalore) says it too deals with science-art but after checking their work, you get the idea that they deal mostly with science and technology assisted art like media art rather than pure science art [69]. Their ‘sci-art project’ looks like a high school science project rather than a science-art one [70]. One or two young artists in India are also trying to create science related art [71] but it is too insignificant to add here.

This aspect of science not inspiring the world of art in India is really startling. Because, the Central Government in India too gives top priority like the Chinese Government to promote Science education here. But still the results are not the same! The main reasons for the situation described above will be dealt with after mentioning about the interactions in other regions of Asia.

West Asia:
There seems to be an interesting interplay between science, art and literature in the West Asian region in the earlier centuries [72]. However, there is no strong evidence of this continuing into the present times as art and literature works based on science are very scarce. The tastes and the expectations in this part of Asia might have changed now. My Arabic artist friends analyzed the reasons for the same in this way: Artists in the West Asian region experiment with a variety of techniques and styles that have roots in their cultures irrespective of the current international trends. Recent rise in religious fundamentalism that gives more prominence to religion and culture based on it is one of the main causes for this decline in interest in science. Present day artists in West Asia really have no choice as Science as a subject has less prominence than other themes of art there. However, some rebellious young generation artists are trying to come out of the shadows of these fundamentalists and are experimenting with science. They already have a young, enthusiastic, US-returned Iraqi, Mr. Bilal Ghalib, who started some steam projects in the region [73]. We will have to wait and watch to know how much these youngsters will succeed.  Two positive aspects that can be observed in this region are: (a) schools in this region – especially in UAE – are trying to keep old traditions of science-art interactions alive [74,75]     (2) science-art work from socio-ecological view point is thriving here too [76]. Taking old junk accumulated over the years, and then turning it into sculptures using the engineering, design skills and imagination is one example.

Israel: The closeness between the US and Israel seems to have affected positively the science-art scene of Israel as it has a sound science-art interaction arena [77]. Some important examples: art obtained from sci- photos [78], science-art interactions in schools [79], hosting science-art exhibitions of artists from other areas of the world [80] and Israeli sci-artists participating in the shows in the US. An Israeli university is providing an MA course in Art Therapy [81].

Road blocks:

Identifying a problem is the first step to solving it”

In order to correct the situation of dismal performance of science-art interactions in this part of the world, first we have to identify the reasons that are responsible for it. Therefore, have a look at the picture of them I painted here….

1. Very few funding mechanisms: In continents like Europe, America and Australia there will be several funds, sponsorships, grants etc. to support art projects that cover significant number of artists. Therefore, artists there can experiment in any way they want because their monetary needs will be taken care of by these funding mechanisms. In India and most parts of Asia there are very few funds that can’t cover the needs of the art world here. And ‘low priority’ science-art projects have no chance of getting them at all! India’s art institutions rely on a handful of very rich private donors and major foreign foundations for funding, or fall back on government grants [82]. The problems of arts funding, according to experts in major arts institutions in India, are threefold. First, there is a general lack of distinction between art and culture. Second, more effective and efficient institutions are needed to create a network of philanthropy. Third, there is a need to attract funding from a wider range of donors. Ministry of culture, Government of India, spends a paltry sum on art and culture when compared to the amounts the government spends on health and education. In a developing country, the government should get its priorities right as it faces tremendous pressure to deliver on fundamentals first [83]. There are very few funding mechanisms in other parts of Asia too for fine arts. Even if a few exists [84,85] these are limited to funding only traditional art forms [86] and people who manage them are not willing to consider innovative or experimental art [87]. Artists here complain that science based art projects will never be considered for any art grants when applied for! Funds from the field of science are not forthcoming too as the money allotted for science and scientific research is very meager in Asia. When contacted by me, both Department of Science and Technology, Government of India and Ministry of Cultural Affairs confirmed that they have zero funds to support science based art! Some of the people who run these wings were even surprised to hear about this form of art because they got to know about it for the first time when I contacted them! After six years of unrelenting search, recently I found one art funding organization in India which told me that “it would consider proposals for funding science based art projects”! But the people who manage it stressed that they could only give a very limited amount of money even if these projects were approved. At the end of the conversation I had with them, I realized the amount they offer cannot cover even 25% of the cost of a single science-art project in India! And before artists receive even this little monetary assistance for sci-art work, they would have to face more hurdles in the form of convincing the funding agencies about the relevance of their work, answering questions like why they want to pursue this art form and not the traditional ones and agreeing to several of the conditions imposed on them which are very difficult to follow. Would any sci-artist face such a situation for a paltry sum? No! Need I say sci-artists here either have to self-fund to engage in science-art or forget it completely? This really limits working capabilities of these people in the region. There is another aspect to this problem: as artists who are into science-art face severe difficulties to have shows here [88] (most of the gallery owners here neither accept science-art for the shows they organize nor represent the artists who are into sci-art), they have to travel to the Western countries to show their work or have representations. Most of the artists here cannot afford it. The low values of currency of several Asian countries are one of the important hurdles here [88]! I myself have faced this situation. Even though my work was selected and I got invitations for several shows, biennials, fairs, conferences etc. in the West, I had to forgo several of these opportunities opened up to me to promote my work as the value of Indian rupee is very low and spending half-a-million to one million rupees for each show is not possible for anyone unless a sci-artist is a millionaire here. Getting sponsorships in India for sci-art shows is extremely difficult as cultural and scientific bodies don’t have funds and corporate sponsors don’t think these would benefit them in any way! With no hope of ever getting a grant or a sponsorship from anywhere, most of the artists have to carry their crosses themselves here. Therefore, the artists will have to sell their works to generate money either for a living or creating works and organize shows. They will have to face another road block here. Market seems to be the driving force for artists following only the traditional or decorative art forms. If the artists want to sell, their works will have to agree with the cultural conditioning of the art world’s bigwigs in the region. Cultural bodies, art galleries and collectors won’t patronize or accept works other than what they think is ‘real art’ or what art themes should be made of. And they are showing reluctance to rewrite the definitions of art at present. So experimentation is really a risky business for the artists here. Upcoming artists here have no choice but to adhere to the rules set by the big players. Old and well established artists can experiment but usually they don’t because their old way of thinking doesn’t make them accept science as one of the subjects for creating art. Although a few young generation artists in Asia are coming forward now to experiment, their work is mostly limited to taking the help of science and technology to create traditional and decorative art!

In the discussions we had on my network [88] and several other networks, most of the artists said that they didn’t want to do sci-art because (a) there were no funds to support sci-art (b) there was no market for this form of art (c) they didn’t think sci-art was actually ‘art’ (d) science was a difficult subject to deal with.

2. Reluctance of the people to accept new art trends: Dr. V.S Ramachandran, the well known neuroscientist who conducted scientific studies on the artistic processes, in his talks on interdisciplinary exchanges says continuity of cultures and old art forms since ancient times is one of the important aspects of the art world in Asia [89]. In Asia, culture and traditions are very deep rooted and longer lasting and therefore continue for generations passing through several centuries. These features are very crucial for the cultures here as they play an important role in preserving them. However, problems are arising because of the orthodox thinking that only the art that is handed over to them from their ancestors and well established art forms like decorative art are the “real art” and the new “strange science-art”  is not art at all. This is one of the reasons for this form of art not forming roots and getting established. Changes occur at a very slow pace in the Asian art arena as people take a lot of time to accept “new experiments”. Reluctance of the art related people to accept science based art as a form of art is a huge hurdle in Asia.

3. Education system: Art curators and art gallery owners (especially Mr. Nemiraj Shetty of Hasta Gallery, Hyderabad/ Bangalore) I had discussions with in India regarding the problem think the education system here is responsible for the type of situation we are encountering in this part of the world. According to them – the best and the most intelligent students here choose science subjects. Art is pursued by only not so bright and sometimes rebellious ones. They are not interested in interacting with science themes which they feel are out of tune with their nature. These people want to deal only with their emotions and the things they can relate to. In a way the artists in India are largely mentally disconnected from the science subjects! As art curators and gallery people are also from the same background, they don’t deviate from their way of working. People who are from the field of science like me can experiment and do works in the way they want. But majority of the scientists here are too busy and orthodox (“right belief” of sticking to their own field) to venture into the art sphere. Most of the scientists I spoke to gave lack of time as one of the main reasons for not pursuing any work outside of their field.

4. Neglect by the people belonging to the field of science:  Surprisingly, while organizing local and international science conferences and symposiums at museums and scientific research institutions in Asia, traditional art is being given more importance and science based art is being ignored by the scientific community! I tried to convince some of the organizers of these conferences in India to consider science-art for the exhibitions etc. but was asked to participate in the conferences as a ‘scientist’ but not as an ‘artist’! When requested a few times to give me a chance to exhibit my work, people who organize science conferences and symposia here showed admiration and awe at my work, but still didn’t deviate from exhibiting traditional art in the shows arranged to entertain the international delegates! And they gave me a strange reason for this act of theirs: the people that are responsible for the ‘cultural shows in scientific institutions’ are from the department of culture and they don’t approve science-art! This is a sign of lack of co-operation between scientific and cultural bodies. Science world’s failure to convince the art world about the significance, relevance and the artistic values of science based art is a huge drawback. Some people belonging to both the fields of science and art here didn’t even know science based art exists until I told them it does! After hearing about my work sometimes people call me to confirm that I really create science inspired art and try to verify whether it is really “art” and not just “science-illustration”! There is a positive part too in my story: my work had passed several tests and been accepted by people from both the fields of art and science as science based work that meet the artistic standards here. But one or two swallows don’t make a summer! We need more of them to bring in the sunshine.

5. Rigid attitude of the art world: The thinking that sci-art should be limited to only people from the field of science [88] is one of the hindering aspects too. Majority of the people who are venturing into science based art in India are interestingly from the domain of science or people who have scientific backgrounds! A large part of the art world in Asia thinks that creating art is like a hobby and a relaxation process for the scientists and therefore, they won’t be serious in protecting the standards of art. Mixing art and science is being treated as a threat to the artistic values here. There is also a mind set here that subscribes to the idea that rich people in the developed countries do science-art, especially Bio-art, for fun and it is not suited for developing countries in Asia where artists depend on selling their work to individual collectors for their livelihoods.

6. Lack of understanding on how to correlate science and art: A few  people from both the spheres of science and art here told me that although they were interested in doing science based art, they didn’t know how to co-relate science and art and ‘culturize science’.  Some of them asked me to start a few courses and train them on how to go about it. At present artists in Asia are using technology to create art because there are courses to teach how to do this. People from both the fields also say the way science related art is going in other places of the world doesn’t match with their tastes as it is being created mostly not in the form of real art (that fits into their definition) but just as a glorification of science illustration or as demonstrations of scientific theories and phenomena [88] and therefore they are not interested in it. People in this part of the world want to learn how to create ‘science based work that has real artistic values.

7. Non-cooperative Media: Media in general in Asia was not forthcoming earlier in promoting science related art for the Mimetic effect [90,91] to take place. When I contacted the editor of a well known art magazine in Asia two years back requesting her to publish an article of Science-art to promote it through their journal, the editor asked me so many questions about the subject that took me a lot of time and effort to give replies to but in the end decided not to concede to my request as publishing the article doesn’t make the magazine more popular as this type of art is not well known in Asia! However, there is a silver lining to this dark scene. Some news papers that give preference to science [66] and science magazines and journals here are now coming forward to publish articles on science art interactions in Asia [92].

8. Lack of market: Artists and to some extent scientists too are not interested in creating sci-art in Asia because there is no real market for it [88]. ” What is the purpose of creating science art,” most artists here ask me, ” Just to help scientists in communicating science? What do we get in the  process of collaborations? Do scientists and the world of science only want to use us to send across their messages to the outside world?” Artists are not being inspired by the subject of science to create science-related art because of this reason. In the initial stages of my work related to science, although it was accepted as ‘art’, I was thoroughly discouraged by everyone in the art field in India by saying that nobody would support or buy my work here. ‘Who would want to hang a picture of microbes on the walls of their living rooms?’ was their argument. But to everybody’s surprise I have sold some of my works by creating my own market here and people are hanging science based art works on their living room walls too! I don’t think I need to say more here.

9. Ignoring Asia by the international bodies working in the science-art arena:  Well established art science bodies at present are limiting their work to some specific science-art happening areas of the world. Collaborators’ act of concentrating on those regions of the world where the happenings are more vivacious and ignoring other places is too causing severe imbalances. One should highly appreciate the work of Hackteria which is trying to remove these imbalances, bring the benefits of science-art interactions to the developing countries of Asia as well and help the people in the way it should be done here. [93]

However, I have observed some imbalances at the local level too. When I asked the groups of people from other parts of the world who had collaborated with the local art bodies in India in science art projects whom they had collaborated with and in which part of the country their work had happened, to my surprise, all the four gave me the name of a single art school in Bangalore! And the artists and the scientists in rest of India don’t even know these collaborations are taking place in their own country! Why the international collaborators are ignoring other cities and towns and art or science bodies here and creating severe imbalances at the local level remained an unanswered question! I have noticed a similar situation in China too where all the science-art projects and collaborations are taking place only in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Chinese from other parts of that big country have no knowledge about these collaborations! [88]

10. Inability of Sci-art projects to show immediate and positive results that last longer: In the developing countries of Asia, work has to be associated with development and it should have immediate and longer lasting effects for the governments here to recognize, get interested and allot funds for it. Despite all the positive noises made, at present science-art projects undertaken around the world are unable to work and show results in the way it should be done in Asia[101]

11. Well established sci-art organizations’ refusal to accept and recognize the work done by people in Asia:  It is not fair to say, “We will recognize your work only if you people do ‘our type of work’ based on our set of rules”. People in Asia are doing their work in the most unfavourable and difficult conditions without any encouragement and support. It is not proper to compare climbing Mt. Everest with a walk in the park (pray tell me, which one is more thrilling?!). Standards and work ethics differ from place to place. Although ‘science’ in science based art is universal, the associated ‘art values’ are regional in nature. People have to understand this to appreciate the science based art of different regions. The variations based on different cultures make science-art very rich. This aspect will be a huge contribution of art to the field of science and the work based on it. The indifference and criticism from well established sci-art bodies drive the sci-artists in Asia deep into a shell hindering and stopping the sci-art projects to take root and establish here.

Lessons Learned:

“Life without problems is like a school without classes. You don’t learn your lessons”.

1. In a tradition-respecting region, you cannot expect immediate and positive responses to your new experiments. Change will be slow and innovative concepts will take time to get accepted. One should have patience to wait and unrelenting vigour to work on the minds of people.

2. In  developing parts of the world sci-art movements should be associated with the progress of people and should be able to show immediate and longer lasting effects to get people, academies and governments interested.

3. Both artists and scientists should be able to self-fund sci-art projects in developing countries and therefore must be prepared for both hard work and slow progress (climbing Mt.Everest!).

4. The pioneers in less developed regions should not expect much in return for their efforts and should be able to cope with indifference and lack of funds and be able to absorb shocks from the developed world in the form of criticisms. They should try to do whatever they can despite all the difficulties to promote science art interactions.

5. In Asia, art standards are very high. Anything and everything will not be accepted as ‘art’. Science-artists here have to meet these high standards to enter the art world, get established and achieve success. They should be able to both communicate science and preserve the artistic values of their cultures through their work.

6. To remove imbalances at all levels one should try to collaborate with people from different regions – not one particular place.

7. Instead of complaining that other people in your region are not coming with you, help create interest in science-art by removing obstacles in their paths by way of starting courses, writing articles and books and bringing awareness. Create a strong and big network of friends to popularize sci-art.

8. As the fund flows are very low in developing countries, here one should find ways to get maximum benefits out of minimum resources.

9. Instead of waiting for others to help you, try to help yourself by creating your own market.

10. To overcome the inertia created by the science-art scene in Asia and move forward, people here should interact vigorously with the fast ticking sci-art regions of the world.

11. One should be very active in both creating science based art and promoting it to get established and recognized.

12. You should strongly love the culture and creative part of science and believe in your abilities to withstand all the obstacles and go against the tide and live the dream of a polymath.

Suggested Actions:

 “If you show people the problems and show them the solutions they will be moved to act”

1. Media in Asia: Media in Asia has a huge role to play in creating awareness amongst scientists, artists and general public about the benefits of science art interactions. Promoting aggressively these interactions in the region by the media is highly recommended to make the people in Asia consider, accept, follow and reap the benefits they bring. If some people start creating science-art in this region, the mimetic desire catches up with others too if they come to know about it and they too start doing it! If somebody values it, others too start valuing it [90,91]. And it’s pretty easy to transmit the value and use it positively. This is happening in the West right now, as several artists and scientists there are into science art. Why, I even think this mimetic desire was responsible for the overwhelming response got for the call given by the Leonardo network for submitting the white papers!

Using the influence of the number of cumulative adoptions – the number of people who already did science art or bought sci-art will have on the probability that there would be a new adoption of sci-art in that area as the phenomena are contagious – to promote science based art both for creating and marketing it [94] can only be done with the help of media.

 2. Artists: (a) Scientists take cues from the art world – especially from the artists during the collaborative work – while deciding what art part of their sci-art work should be like. Therefore providing the right values and standards of art to the scientists by the artists is important for the scientists to properly co-relate science and art to create good science related art. (b) Artists should develop deep interest and jump on the bandwagon of sci-art with creative work instead of trying to just cling to it by changing the names from landscape art to geo-art and wild life art to eco-art![96] They should also stop doing ‘sensational stuff’ and concentrate on real ‘developmental work’. (c) Instead of complaining that the world of science is trying to exploit them through collaborations [97], artists should use their creativity to do “marketable sci-art” and not just ‘science-illustration type of work’ so that the collaborations can benefit them too.

3. Art critics: There are various categories in science related art [98]. Critics should first learn all about them, try to distinguish one from the other and judge the works accordingly. They should not criticize sci-art works using the parameters of ‘standard art’ which would severely demoralize the artists who are trying to venture into the world of science.

4. Scientists: Scientists should not try to take science-illustrations, lab specimens and models directly into art galleries without first turning them into ‘art’ pieces because this is attracting severe criticism from art critics and curators [99]. Science can be brought into the domain of art only after co-relating both the subjects. Science and art are like oil and water and you need special skills to mix them. If scientists don’t develop these skills they will fail to do justice to their subject and worse of it all they will have to face the music from the art critics and refusal from the art world like it is happening in several parts of the world. People of science should also convince the art world that they would take the artistic values and standards seriously and try to protect them while creating science based art. Scientists should concentrate more on inventing innovative art science based technologies to help societies in developing countries. Mere creation of science based art doesn’t suit present day conditions and the developing world [101].

5. Educators: Science art interactions cannot survive for long in a confused and unorganized state. There should be a methodical and knowledgeable atmosphere for it to grow and flourish. Educators must help in creating such an atmosphere.  Educators can also help by starting useful and viable courses on the ‘creation of science related art’ and art science related technologies.

6. Industry: Industry in Asia should thoroughly encourage and support science-art interactive research dealing with science and tech based creative technologies as these might help in cutting costs and boosting the production in the developing countries.

7. Scientific organizations/ organizers of international science conferences/symposiums: Scientific organizations in Asia should include science-art exhibitions and talks on benefits of science–art interactions in their itinerary to promote it along with traditional art. In order to do this they should have healthy deals with the cultural bodies.

8. Organizers of Art and science shows, fairs, Biennials should encourage sci-artists from the developing countries by giving concessions and fee waivers to them.

9. Funding agencies: If the amount of money available is very less, funding bodies can still provide money to science artists and get it back too! This is how it is possible: They should collect works from the artists after providing assistance to create marketable science based art, sell the works and get their money back. Trade – not ‘only aid’ – helps in creating good quality work. This also helps both in the promotion of and creating market for this form of art.

10. People who are venturing into science-art : (a) In their eagerness to promote science-art interactions, people are trying to equate science with art which is not correct according to several critics who are averse to the idea of these interactions – alienating these skeptics more. This is not the right way to develop science-art interactions.  Science and art are separate subjects[100] and we need different ways to deal with each one. The processes of scientific thinking and artistic thinking resemble each other at basic levels where the lines are somewhat blurred but go their distinguished ways as you proceed further. If the approaches are similar, science and art would have evolved into a single subject and wouldn’t have become two special subjects they are. We must realize we can only bring these two subjects and people working in them together, build bridges, learn from each others knowledge and reap all the benefits the interactions bring. Any other approach will give more ammunition to the critics of these interactions. (b) Clarity is needed with regard to the direction science-art and science based art movement (if it is one) should take in the future. Do we want to integrate this form of art with the mainstream art or do we want to keep it as a separate entity? If we want to integrate our work with the main stream art, we should be able to convince the art world about the artistic values and the significance of our work. If we want to keep it as a separate entity using it only as a communication tool, artists may lose their interest very soon and science-art will have to limit itself to science-illustration, lab models and technology assisted art which may stunt its growth severely. Science-art interactions should be able to facilitate real progress of the human kind(c) Both scientists and artists should check the parameters especially- the depths- fully before venturing into each others’ fields. Balancing science and art is very important in science based art without compromising science communication and artistic values which should be acceptable to both the communities as the right approach.

11. International bodies working in the sphere of sci-art: International bodies can help (1) by creating a market for science-art (there is scope for sci-art market promotion with regard to museums, educational institutions, scientific institutions and auction houses; one can even sell appropriate work to private collectors too like I do; auctioneers can be requested to consider sci-art too), (2) by rewarding the sci-artists with  prizes for creating good sci-art and new technologies especially in regions like Asia, international bodies can generate interest in science among the art communities  here, (3) by arranging large scale collaborations between art-science bodies from the most happening parts of the world and the scientific and artistic ones in Asia (they should not forget to advertise vigorously about these collaborative projects so that everybody in this region comes to know about them), (4) by thoroughly encouraging people and the bodies who are daring to venture into this arena in Asia despite all the odds, and promoting the work done here by mentioning it in their articles/books/talks etc. (for this to happen the international bodies should treat the sci-artists in Asia as only collaborators and not as competitors – how can the latter group compete with the former one anyway?!) (5) by asking  prominent and well established art science bodies to erase the indifferent attitude towards the less developed science-art interaction areas,(6) by helping in developing funding mechanisms that can come to the aid of  the people who are dealing with science-art interactions in Asia, (7) by organizing science-art specific global shows and fairs in Asia, (8) by promoting development-oriented sci-art projects in Asia, (9) by creating a true international body representing all the countries to oversee all these activities [95].


Abstract: While North America, Europe and Australia are basking in the glory of new wave science-art collaborations and reaping all the benefits that these interactions are bringing, there are some parts of the world that are relatively untouched by these happenings! Asia, to which the Indian subcontinent belongs, remains almost immune to the developments happening around the world in this subject. With the exception of China, we hardly find any science-art projects here. Moreover, the few science-art interactions that are occurring are concentrated in China, India, Singapore, Indonesia, UAE, Iraq, Israel, South Korea, and Japan. Interestingly these areas with healthy scientific backgrounds are relatively high on the economic scales too in Asia. If we search for science-art interactions in this region, we mostly come up with science and technology assisted art rather than pure science art. This paper discusses the reasons for the dismal performance of science art and science based art in relation to the dynamics of the art world mechanisms in this region and suggests ways to remove the road blocks to make science based art flourish here.

Acknowledgements: I sincerely thank my friends across Asia from both the fields of art and science who preferred to remain behind the curtains despite helping me in collecting data and analyzing it. My heart felt gratitude also goes out to all the members of Art Lab network whose unrelenting support made this paper come into existence.






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