The logo of ICE-TCS is courtesy of Emilka Bojanczyk. Reykjavik University. Vísindafélag Íslendinga

Crossroads of Art and Science
Thursday, 21 August 2014, 17:00-19:00
Room, V1.01, Reykjavik University, Menntavegur 1

Organizers: Icelandic Centre of Excellence in Theoretical Computer Science (ICE-TCS), School of Computer Science at Reykjavik University and Vísindafélag Íslendinga (the Icelandic Academy of Sciences).

Event description

At the time I was attracted to pure science - physics - where you could speculate and be creative. It's equivalent to being an artist. If you get the chance, and the cards fall right, there's no difference. The intellectual play and spirit are the same.
- David Byrne (interviewed by Timothy Leary), 2000

Art and science are often viewed as very different, and somewhat antithetic, human endeavours, so much so that some artists happily profess ignorance of the basic methods and results of science and some scientists sneer at art. In 1959, this prompted British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow to express his view that "the intellectual life of the whole of western society" was split into two separate cultures---namely the sciences and the humanities---and that this was a major hindrance to solving the world's problems.

However, we can all mention key figures from the Renaissance and earlier times who were both artists and scientists. Is the breed of the Renaissance man a thing from a long gone past? The aim of this event is to provide resounding evidence that the distinction between art and science in modern society is fictitious. We will do so by showcasing three figures of polymaths whose work, be it artistic or scientific, benefits from the interplay of art and science.

Erik Demaine is a world-known computer science professor at MIT who, amongst other things, helped start the field of Computational Origami, but he is also an artist, some of whose work has been exhibited at the MoMA. He uses art to explore the feasibility of some of his mathematical ideas and mathematics to suggest artistic ideas, leading, for instance, to paper or glass sculptures.

Anna Hrund Másdóttir is an artist and a mathematics teacher who teaches mathematics to support her art practice.

Kjartan Emilsson, who is a mathematical physicist by training, uses artistic methods of working and thinking in his work as Principal Game Designer and Studio Managing Director at CCP in Shanghai, where he directs the innovation and implementation of core virtual world game designs for CCP Games.

The thesis underlying this event is that art and science are not antithetic, and that their cooperation can lead to powerful ways for solving scientific problems and to creating new art forms. As Nicholas of Cusa put it in his philosophy, and as Anna Hrund says in the title of her presentation, we are in the presence of a "coincidence of opposites". To quote Erik Demaine:
"One of our growing realizations over the years is that mathematics itself is an art form, and I think that's what attracted both of us to this area in the first place. [I]t has the same kind of creativity, the same kinds of aesthetics, that you get in art: You want a clean problem to solve, and you want an elegant solution to that problem. Both art and mathematics are about having the right ideas [and] executing those ideas in some convincing way, so in that sense they're indistinguishable." (See here)

McClellan Series (2013)


Media coverage

A radio interview with Magnus M. Halldorsson related to this event is available here (in Icelandic).
Please send comments and bug reports to Luca Aceto.