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Federal Research Center 
"Krasnoyarsk Science Center of the Siberian
Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences"

 Федеральный исследовательский центр «Красноярский научный центр Сибирского отделения Российской академии наук»

Federal Research Center 
"Krasnoyarsk Science Center of the Siberian
Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences"

Projects at the intersection of science and art. Is it fashion or an effective tool for scientific communication?

26 March 2021 г. FRC KSC SB RAS

Проекты на стыке науки и искусства — мода или эффективный инструмент научной коммуникации
Federal Research Center "KSC SB RAS" organized a discussion of the prospects for the development of scientific photography and art. Artists, science photographers, and science communication specialists discussed how research can inspire artists, whether there is any effect of an artist working with scientific images, and whether scientific images can become an effective tool for scientific communication.

In the Year of Science and Technology, the Federal Research Center "KSC SB RAS" became the organizer of the art exhibition "Objects and Structures". The exhibition was the first project of Krasnoyarsk scientists at the intersection of science and art. Two series of works, laconic photographs "Objects" and collages "Structures" based on the images of a scanning electron microscope, show how unusual the presentation of research results can be.

After two weeks of exhibiting works in a small creative space, the organizers received several invitations from local museums and exhibitions. Scientific and artistic “tours” have already been scheduled for six months in advance. But the organizers, of course, wonder whether it will become successful and understood among scientists, whether a creative rethinking of science will help to increase its recognition, and involve others in science?

“The exhibition has become for us a starting point to enter the world of art. We can say that the experiment was a success, because we received positive feedback and suggestions. But now you need to understand where to go further, how effective the chosen format will be from the view point of scientific communication. After all, we are concerned about the level of trust in science in society and promoting the brand of Krasnoyarsk scientists, ”says Yegor Zadereev, Candidate of Biological Sciences, head of the scientific communications group of FRC KSC SB RAS, one of the curators of the exhibition.

To answer these important questions, an expert discussion was organized. For Krasnoyarsk, and for the entire Siberian region, such an actual direction of art as science art is relatively new; therefore, authors of such projects and specialists in scientific communication from St. Petersburg, Moscow, Yekaterinburg and Krasnoyarsk were invited to participate in the conversation.

Art and scientific communication

Valeria Prokuratova, a public relations specialist at ITMO University's Center for Scientific Communication, believes that visual component is one of the important aspects of scientific communication, a promising tool for presenting, explaining and illustrating information. In scientific communication, it is possible to work with different forms of verbal perception. A prime example is multimedia science journalism, where text can be combined with photographs, videos, and animation. At the same time, the story is told in such a way that the audience learns to interact with scientific data, gets involved, and learn what scientists are doing.

“Visual is the basis which further develops into new practices and formats. One of the excellent projects illustrating this is a joint project with the D.I. Mendeleev All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Metrology in St. Petersburg. With the help of this project, our students wanted to show how scientists take measurements at night, because at other times they are disturbed by the noise of the subway. After that, the guys also came up with a video game about the future of humanity and role of metrology in its implementation. Today, visual methods of representation for scientific communication are a trend, ”noted Valeria Prokuratova.

Ekaterina Yudaeva, SMM manager of the Art & Science Center at ITMO University, notes that they created one of the first grounds in Russia, which provides an opportunity for the visitor not only to get acquainted with works in the direction of science and art, but also to become a creator himself. In this format, the visual component helps attract people to science due to its brightness and color. In most cases, there is some kind of interaction between the visitor and the art object (visual, verbal, physical). As a result, a person rethinks the scientific component.

“We attract people to science through a sense of beauty, aesthetics and something new and interesting. Here, communication between science and society takes place through the art tools. In these projects, people understand that science is not something terrible, but, on the contrary, beautiful and bewitching, ” concluded Yekaterina Yudaeva.

Talking about trends in the field of scientific photography and art, Anna Peplova (Moscow), manager in the field of culture and education, technological artist, underlines that that the role of images is changing now. If in the traditional representation, photography documents the world, then the modern artist uses hybrid forms associated with scientific photography rather than the photography itself. With the advent of new media and digital technologies, the image can be translated into different forms, for example, using artificial intelligence, and media installations, augmented or virtual realities are created. Such transformations give rise to interactive forms of relationships with the exposition. Such projects are quite widespread, and anyone can participate in them.

It should be remembered that the audience of projects that are born as a result of the interaction of scientists and artists is quite narrow. This is typical not only for Russia. The reason for this situation is in the peculiarity of the projects. To understand any contemporary art, one needs to be introduced into the context, read the explication, learn about the essence of scientific research and concept presented in the work of an artist.

Фотограф, специалист по связям с общественностью Красноярского научного центра СО РАН и сокуратор выставки Анастасия Тамаровская рассказала о том, как родилась идея серии «Объекты», ставшей основой проекта. Перед ней стояла задача воплотить в изображении такие сложные тематики, как органическая химия, магнитная физика, генетические исследования в сельском хозяйстве. При решении этой задачи автору нужно было показать научные направления, но придумать новые образы, запоминающиеся символы. С одной стороны, они должны быть понятны и узнаваемы, а с другой — нести новую для зрителя информацию.

Photography Art

Anastasia Tamarovskaya, a photographer, public relations specialist at the Krasnoyarsk Science Center of SB RAS and co-curator of the exhibition, told how the idea of the “Objects” series had been born, which became the basis for the project. She was faced with the task of embodying such complex subjects as organic chemistry, magnetic physics, genetic research in agriculture in the image. When solving this problem, the author had to show scientific directions, coming up with new images and memorable symbols. On the one hand, they must be understandable and recognizable, and on the other hand, they must convey information which is new to the viewer.

“The first thing that comes to our mind is stereotypes. But this is a trap. It is important to find new images, to change our idea of the world. In general, only new things seem beautiful and amazing to us. In our photo project, we came up with the idea to show scientific directions through objects. It is such reinterpreted scientific symbols and images that can subsequently penetrate into popular culture through science art. On the one hand, photography documents the facts, but on the other hand, it adds emotions and new meanings to them, ” says Anastasia Tamarovskaya.

Irina Bilay, head of the Krasnoyarsk Nuclear Energy Information Center, told about her experience of interaction between photographers and scientists. For two years, within the framework of the Scientific Photocross project, she organized excursions to the scientific laboratories of the city. The organizers were interested in how photographers reflect on science. At the same time, as Irina notes, at first there were fears that the creative eyes of artists would focus on the conditional reverse side of the situation. After all, people from the creative environment are often close to the themes of chaos, and the reinforcement of certain gloomy ideas. So, during the very first excursion to the laboratory of the Krasnoyarsk State Agrarian University, the attention of the cameras was focused on preparations of anomalies in the development of animals, parasites, or diseased organs, preserved in formalin.

In the end, the project turned out to be extremely successful. After visiting a dozen scientific laboratories at several universities and at the Krasnoyarsk Science Center, a collection of photographs was created. The selected works were exhibited at the Krasnoyarsk Book Fair.

“I was pleased to see people’s response to the results of our creativity, or see them reading explanations when they encounter something incomprehensible. In this project, we viewed the photographers themselves as translators of the popularization of science. Moreover, after each excursion, they write about what they saw on social networks, and post stories, ” emphasizes Irina Bilay.

A photographer and artist from Yekaterinburg Natalia Podunova shared her experience and thoughts on the interaction of photography, art and science. In her opinion, there are not so many projects for combining science and art in the professional photographic environment. At the same time, she believes that this direction of artistic photography has great potential.

Science as a muse

For an artist and architect from Krasnoyarsk, Aleksey Shidlovsky, the visual world of science is a source of inspiration. He is sure that some of the things to be found in them are impossible to come up with. For example, in his "Structures" project, Aleksey worked with images from a scanning electron microscope. In this case, the artist gets what the eye cannot see at all. The device analyzes the interaction of electrons with the surface, and only then converts the language of electronic signals into images that we understand.

“You can draw what is inspired by science. It is very strange that until now, in the 21st year of the 21st century, many people believe that science is something gloomy and incomprehensible. Science is fun and infinitely beautiful. It is not easy to reflect on scientific data and make a creative product from them, being an artist, it is very interesting for me, ”says Aleksey Shidlovsky.

Nina Robachevskaya, an art critic and curator of exhibitions, told about her first science art project in Krasnoyarsk. Then, in 2018, a team of Krasnoyarsk art critics and specialists in the field of culture received the support of the Presidential Grants Fund for the All-Russian exhibition "Union". At first, people of art and science seemed to the organizers to be speaking different languages. But in practice it turned out to different, and there were much more points of contact than it might seem at first glance.

“For three weeks, “Union” became a space for dialogue between art and science. This merger exceeded all our expectations. Then, in such a short time of the exhibition, we were visited by about twelve thousand people. I believe that the future belongs to the science art projects. After all, both of these spheres - science and art - ultimately produce what remains in eternity, ” concluded Nina Robachevskaya.

Source: Science in Siberia