Art and Science on a Postcard 2020

by Jack O’Shea

I think it is safe to say that one of life’s great pleasures is meeting someone who is interested in your passions. Putting hard work and effort into something can often feel unrewarding, but when your enthusiasm is reciprocated there is arguably no greater feeling. 

On a windy Thursday behind the curtain of the Forest Café that artists and scientists alike enthused about their work. Mixers are always scary.  What if nobody likes each other and there’s nothing to talk about? However it soon became clear that the artists and scientists were more than compatible, and no matter how hard we tried we could not get anyone to participate in the mixer questions. The conversations were simply flowing too well. There were clay sculptures and fish bones being passed around as well as copious amounts of coffee being consumed. The art forms ranged from clay to AR programming and the fields of science showed similar diversity. That night there was truly a collection of crazy, brilliant minds sitting at the small tables of the Forest Café.  The artists had been matched up with a scientist each, based on the feedback given after the speed dating mixer and given a week to prepare ideas for their postcards. The week passed and we met at the ASCUS lab to put those ideas into practice.

The ASCUS lab was packed with paints, felt, clay, hairdryers, glue, card and many other materials. A video of one artist performance played quietly in the background as colourful pieces of card were painted and stuck onto a black piece of paper, representing amino acids. One pair made an AR postcard, that when you held your phone up, became alive with fish and turtles, a gentle marine themed tune playing. Charcoal was smeared all over the hands of one pair and another team pressed shells and rocks into clay to make stamps. Despite all the hard work that was being out into the postcards the conversation still flowed, everybody talking about their current work together. However it could be said that everyone in the lab bonded over a particularly difficult to open bottle of medium; it remains unopened to this day. As the session came to close the postcards were dried and photographed, ready for the exhibition.

We returned a week later to the Forest Café for the exhibition and panel discussion. The panel was made of 2 scientists and one artist, all coming to the conclusion that science and art require the same creative mind set, and that working together felt very natural. There was no sense that the artist had done all the work in creating the postcard and the overall experience was one of great fun. The conversation drew people from around the café in and audience members asked the panel questions.

 A satisfying end to a wonderful project.

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