Introduction

These web pages represent a snapshot of an ongoing project which attempts to form a new working synthesis between art and science. The work is based around recent developments in complex systems theory and, specifically, a new general understanding of living systems. What I believe, and hope to demonstrate, is that much is to be gained in developing these ideas by forming an hybrid approach which draws on both scientific and artistic practices.

Such an approach is not really new, however. As Jamie James argues in his book 'The Music of the Spheres' it is only since the industrial revolution that art and science have become so separated into the 'two cultures' we have today. It was science's success and usefulness for technology that had it singled out by industrialists and the military and given single-minded practical purpose. Prior to this, the approach taken, for example, by Pythagoreans, during the renaissance, or by natural philosophers towards the world was a holistic one that combined both understanding, aesthetics and a spiritual dimension.

Central to this work is a new and developing theory of living systems founded in the ideas of systems theory developed over the course of this century. At the heart of these ideas are the relationship between organisation, form and process, and the realisation that many seemingly different systems share similarities in these respects. According to these ideas, cells, organisms, colonies, ecosystems, companies, cities, economies, nation states and many other aspects of and sub-systems within these, can all be seen as alive, or part of one greater living system, given the name Gaia by James Lovelock.

In all these systems the shared features include a network organisation having circular causality, or feedback, the self-maintainance of the system in a critical regime of behaviour known as the edge of chaos, and fluid and fractal characteristics of organisation, form and process.

What I am attempting with this work is to treat the subject of living systems as a whole by simultaneously developing a theoretical understanding, using it to build computer models, and using the models to create art. The resulting art is non-representational, having an 'abstract organic' aesthetic to reflect and confirm the general nature of the theory on which it is based. My aim is to develop models which distil something common to the workings of, for example, both a plant and a city and use them to make art which captures and expresses the essence of both, but represents neither specifically.

There is currently quite some interest in the idea of bringing art and science together, and several organisations are sponsoring projects including the Wellcome Trust's 'Sci-Art' scheme, the Gulbenkian Foundation (who support this work), and The Arts Catalyst. Much of the generated work focuses on bringing artist and scientists together to work on a common theme, making art about science, or making art with science and technology. One point often raised, however, is that this is quite an imbalanced relationship with science and technology giving more to art than the other way round.

My own work, however, tries to integrate art and science into a single, balanced approach, a consequence, I feel, of the very nature of the subject of living systems. In this sense, Jasia Reichardt's 1970 exhibition 'Cybernetic Serendipity' provides an historical reference point. This exhibition presented a hybrid art/science exploration of computers and cybernetics (feedback and control in man and machine) which gave a strong sense of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

This web site is itself a hybrid art/science piece. It consists of a network tour through the theory and imagery around the art itself which uses hyperlinks and juxtaposition to suggest ideas and associations.

 

Click on images to follow links.