Art and science are often described as two different applications of human perspective or even characterised as opposite perspectives of the human experience. Yet it is precisely because of the human perspective and experience inherent to both art and science that I find their duality questionable. Art flourishes in the subjective and science persists in maintaining itself in the objective. But can we really go beyond our human subjectivity? Can we really, being human in all the imperfection that this implies, attain reality or truth? Or are we in fact creating useful constructs that help us navigate the world by organising it into theories and rules that approximate reality and provide a workable version of truth?
Science is constantly being re-evaluated because, by its nature, it builds on the knowledge we have in order to grasp or create new knowledge (Is knowledge out there to be grasped or do we create knowledge? A question that probably warrants its own discussion…). Therefore, how can something that is continuously changing be the authority on an objective immutable reality? How can a variable be fixed into stillness?
We have developed tools, methods, approaches to capture and/or create an objective image: removing ourselves from what we are measuring and casting a neutral eye upon it in order to produce data that will inform further scientific advances and influence practice. Yet, whatever this practice is, it will likely be a practice that is intertwined with human life in some way – so why wouldn’t we embrace subjectivity in science if its end result is precisely to understand and/or improve human experience?
Is there even such a thing as an objective reality? And if there is, can we understand it objectively? Some would say that there is a single reality, some would say that there are multiple ones. Some would say there is a factual reality that exists independently from us, some would say that reality is a social construct which is entirely dependent on us, and others would say reality is both or something in between. Some scientists would also say that it doesn’t matter whether there is one reality or more, or none, because what matters is how people perceive and create reality so, as long as a phenomena is defined as real, it is real in its consequences (Thomas Theorem).
Thus can human beings attain reality and can we understand reality, or anything, truly objectively? Even if scientists remove their lived experience or personal perspectives from their research, they are still co-constructing reality by deciding what to research, by looking at material with a certain focus, by using a certain methodology…so they are partly constructing the data – even if they are collecting it from an external objective reality that arguably exists independently from them. Isn’t that, then, what art does too?
Art and science are founded on the same characteristics: wonder, curiosity, exploration, experimentation, thought, reflection, ideation – a process of understanding, discovering, creating. Art and science may be described not as different matters but as different ways of navigating matters; disciplines both concerned with understanding and/or creating reality that each use different methods to achieve this.
I suppose that, by saying that I question the duality of art and science, what I am really saying is not that I cannot conceive what differentiates them but rather that I resist a dichotomy and choose to see them as one complex ecosystem rather than two opposing systems or even two parallel systems.
In that choice, I see the opportunity of another path weaved out of the first two, one that isn’t restricted by our self-inflicted norms and constructs assigned to art or science, one that traces the equilibrium between the two, one that cares little for the differences between art and science and instead dances with both or either and explores what lies in between, at the clashing points, at the complementary points, at the harmonious points, at whatever lies beyond the points. Where the path leads: I do not know. Where the path leads: I do not wish to know. Where the path leads: I wish to explore – and not be bound by boundaries that need not be.