What is "ArtScience"?

Artscience is the simultaneously imaginative and analytical process that underlies all creative thought. It is what takes place in the mind of a child, when, confronted with a closed door, she dreams of what may be beyond that door, figures out how to open it, then swings the door open and discovers. It is also what takes place in the mind of a creative writer, or artist, or scientist when, while chasing an innovative dream, he or she makes that dramatic creative leap that eventually leads to a work of literature or of art or of breakthrough science. Because we teach by transmitting information in specialized forms, and within specialized environments, we tend to encourage one aspect or other of creative thinking but not both. We encourage students to learn mathematical reasoning and analytical skills in a calculus program while we encourage imaginative thinking and visualization skills in a program of creative design. In this way, creativity, while it is the aimed at outcome of 20th century learning, is hard to teach in the classical way.

Artscience is most naturally discovered within environments that encourage experimentation of the kind that leads the child through the closed door or the novelist to write the work of literature. We think of these environments as laboratories, and it is with this in mind that we developed the Idea Translation Lab, with its international federating program The ArtScience Prize.

We dream, and realize dreams, through a creative process that mixes two ways of thinking that we often encourage, and exploit, in very different settings. The first is an aesthetic process – we embrace uncertainty and complexity, thrive in ambiguity, induce and pursue the logic of images. This aesthetic process especially thrives in artistic environments, like theater companies, or writing workshops, or perhaps a design studio. The second is an analytical process – we simplify a complex world, reduce its challenges to resolvable problems, deduce, pursue the logic of equations. This analytical process thrives in scientific environments, like a pharmaceutical company, or a bank. The aesthetic process being the substance of hypothesis, the analytical process being the substance of hypothesis testing, we fuse both when we create something new. We dream, and we analyze, we induce and we deduce, we embrace complexity and we simplify our complex world to a problem we can solve. This fused process is artscience.

Every lab, whatever its objective, might be thought of as an “artscience” lab to the degree that it manages to encourage a creative process that effectively blends dream and analysis, welcoming complexity while able to approach this complexity with testable hypotheses. Were it not for the specialization of knowledge, particular attention to this idea of “artscience” would be nonsensical. But it’s not. In recent years, laboratories where artists and scientists collaborate to produce unusual works of art and design have appeared in Cambridge, London, Los Angeles, Dublin, Madrid, Dresden, Copenhagen, Paris, and many other cities.