Project Introduction

This project takes stock of the emergence, character, scope, and import of contemporary collaborations between scientists and artists found working together in laboratories, studios, and in the field. As a score of exhibitions and installations over the past ten years have testified, these have emerged to both engage public interest in the vital scientific, political, and ethical issues of our day and challenge long held divisions marked in C. P. Snow’s model of ‘two cultures’. These ‘hybrid’ projects have sought to raise awareness of how we modify and use human and nonhuman bodies, interact with and change our environment, and conceptualize humanity within the broader cosmos. Our project responds to these developments.

We focus on five examples of collaboration spanning, on the one hand, space exploration, computer visualization, landscape ecology, climate change, and biotechnology, and, on the other hand, dance, film, music, sculpture, and painting. At the most basic level, the project uses indepth interviewing and participant observation to determine what the collaborators are producing, why they decided to work together, and what impediments they encountered along the way.

As ethnographic research into their day-to-day interactions progresses, questions are answered in regard to: what institutional issues had to be faced; what political questions motivated or arose in the effort; and what philosophical currents link the collaborations. And not lastly: what lessons can be learned about how to best link the arts and sciences in educating diverse publics about these critical issues?