University of Hertfordshire

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Science-art collaborations fall into a pattern in which art serves science simply as public engagement. When public engagement is the sole focus, neither the scientist's nor the artist's thinking is transformed by the process of collaboration. By contrast, this research project aims to find new ways of seeing and understanding within the science of virology, within art practice, as well as producing models that resonate with a wider public.
Dr Forrester-Soto and Dr Jelinek are both interested in the complex mechanisms of evolution and find it alarming how little this is understood by the general public. We are interested in the relationship between organisms and their environments. Jelinek uses ecology and evolution as metaphors in her analysis of the role of art in society, and this collaboration would help to deepen her understanding and further the analysis made of art and its context. Forrester-Soto believes that engaging in this collaboration will help her to see her field in new ways, and thereby enabling different solutions to world health problems. She is deeply interested in finding a language to explain to a wider public, beyond fellow scientists, the mechanisms of viral evolution. The impact beyond academia will be on increasing a general understanding of these salient scientific concepts.
We propose that a deeper engagement with metaphor will lead towards novel synthesis and therefore new perspectives, both for the artist and the scientist. The questions at the start of this research project are: Can we find metaphors that enable new and deeper understanding in virology? What happens to scientific understanding of viruses if we use novel metaphors to describe relationships between virus, vector, host and environment? Can art practice and the experimental play with materials, in the context of an engagement with the humanities and social science curriculum of the contemporary critical artist, lead to new knowledge in science?

Layman's description

This research project aims at finding new methods for understanding the science of virology by self-consciously producing metaphors through creative, artistic play with materials, including both physical materials and words. These new metaphors will not only produce artworks and help to enable a wider public understand key scientific concepts, such as evolution and ecology, but the new metaphors may also further science by furnishing research scientists with new concepts to think with. We aim at true interdisciplinary collaboration, in that, the scientist and the artist will model a genuinely scientific and artistic collaborative endeavour; one in which the researchers work together across both knowledge sets. In order to achieve this, the two researchers will begin by reading each others' papers and those in related fields, which, on the art side, includes the history of science, philosophy of art and social anthropology. On the science side we will proceed differently because science is jargon-filled, so the artist will encounter concepts in virology via an in-depth discussion of core virological concepts with her co-researcher, building on an A-level understanding of biology. In a process of questioning, Dr Forrester-Soto will be called upon to read widely across science, answering the naive but pertinent questions posed by Jelinek, in such a way as to create a narrative. This narrative, we believe, will aid both public understanding and that of scientists in related fields. Forrester-Soto will also create a map of the field, integrating unknown or undigested but important new research.
Short titleSeeking Metaphors

ID: 17827747