Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
I am Tanuja K. Munakala, I recently completed my BFA in painting, and as part of the dissertation, I chose the topic: ‘Reading Parallel Arts: Science Inspired Art In Contemporary Era’. It's based on Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa's science-art work.
I would like to thank Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa for sharing her views on this subject and also for permitting me to include her observations in this dissertation. She took time out in spite of her busy schedule and answered all my questions on this topic and guided me through out my research on this subject . Her articles assisted me in writing my thesis.
My dissertation is a broad insight into ‘Science inspired art’. I covered aspects such as – The History of ‘Science inspired art’, Contemporary Scene of ‘Science inspired art’ around the world and with a detailed section on the ‘science inspired art’ scenario in India with Dr. Challa's work as the main aspect.
I have posted the preface to the dissertation along with the interview of Dr. Krishna Kumari for your reading.
You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to view the complete text or any other of my other art work.
READING PARALLEL ARTS:
SCIENCE INSPIRED ART IN CONTEMPORARY ERA
TANUJA K. MUNAKALA
Apart from being passionate about art, I am interested in life sciences as well and keep an eye on any new discoveries or inventions taking place in this field. If scientists discover a new insect or find a cure for some disease, it excites me.
The main objective of this dissertation is to understand how I can integrate science into art to create a visually effective expression of societal issues with a purpose of bringing in a rational perspective. The objective is also to bring in awareness about this amazing art form which is practiced and respected very well in countries other than India. This dissertation gives an insight into how this parallel art has influenced artists in the past, and the exciting work being done in this contemporary era around the world. This dissertation also looks into the purpose of choosing this genre by the contemporary artists. A brief analysis of the artists, their work, along with reasons and measures for improving the state of ‘science inspired art’ in India, are also included.
In order to complete the dissertation, I had searched for the information available on the internet as information in the form of books was hard to find. Information about India was provided by the artist working in this field in addition to the articles available on the internet.
As this field is vast, this dissertation gives only an insight into the activities happening in this field, which gives an understanding to the artists interested in pursuing this genre and does not go deep into the scientific explanations.
CHAPTER III CONTEMPORARY SCENE OF ‘SCIENCE INSPIRED ART’ IN INDIA
In India, ‘science inspired art’ activities are miniscule. The interactions between art and science were very poor till recently but a little activity is being observed presently. Majority of the art fraternity is aware of Kinetic art, optical art and Art created using Technology such as digital art, video or botanical illustrations which are mainly for academic purposes, but the genre of ‘science inspired art’ is still new to India.
Some of the artists who are working in this field and activities going on in India are given below.
11.1 CONTEMPORARY SCIENCE ARTISTS IN INDIA
Dr. KRISHNA KUMARI CHALLA
Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa is a scientist, artist, writer, poet, activist and a network creator. She explores the relationship between Art, Literature and Science on her network, Sci-Art Lab. She communicates science through art and literature. She did one solo exhibition, “Cosmic Show of Science”, in Hyderabad, India in 2008, group shows in Hyderabad, Kolkata, Jodhpur, Goa and Jaipur in India in 2009, and a group show in Copenhagen (Denmark) in 2010. She participated in Izmir Biennial in May 2011 (Turkey) and in a group show in Italy along with Italian artists in the first week of March, 2011. She also participated in the first international science-art conference in Moscow in 2012 and exhibited her works.
Dr. Challa writes stories and poems too, she mainly writes on science, science-art-literature relationships, science-literature and science-art for her network. She is running a Science Art Blog, where you can watch videos and read some of her articles, blogs, poems and discussions on her network http://www.kkartlab.in.
She founded a network called SCI –ART LAB, which is an abode of science, art, literature interactions. Science communication through art and literature and other innovative methods, creative technologies, science – art collaborations, science based art, projects based on art – science/technology relationships, art-literature, science literature and the interplays at the confluence of science, art and literature.
There are more than 1200 members who chose different groups as per their interest. There is a dedicated group for science based art with members from all over the world sharing and interacting with each other.
Some of Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa’s Artwork. (Credit: kkartfromscience.com)
Cosmic show of science
29x19.6’’, oil & acrylic on canvas, 2008
31’’x20’’, oil & Acrylic on canvas, 2008
Universal Science, 18x23”, acrylic on canvas, 2011
Interview of Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa (K.C):
Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa had been too gracious to answer all my questions regarding ‘science inspired art’, her journey as scientist, science-communicator, writer, poet and artist and her analysis and suggestions.
1. Even today, there are a very few artists who are doing science based/inspired artwork in India. What made you to choose this field?
K.C: Well, I wanted to communicate science. What better way can even a child or an illiterate person understand it other than through art?
Another reason is when you are from a particular field, when you eat, sleep, breathe, think, defend, write, communicate and live it, you naturally paint it too!
2. What is the main objective of creating this kind of Artwork?
K.C: Science communication pure and simple.
3. What medium do you choose and is there any particular reason for choosing the same?
K.C: In the beginning I used oil paints, because they are easy to handle for untrained artists like me. Later on I experimented with several other media too.
4. You have also looked towards philosophy and mythology in relation to science in your work. How do you approach your work? Do you first pick up any scientific theory and try to find similarities in mythology and philosophy, or is it the other way round?
K.C: How to deal with the roles of religion and cultural conditioning of minds while communicating science is what is bothering people of science like us. Educating whole families, groups, educationists themselves can get the desired results rather than targeting isolated individuals. This is because psychologists found that simply preaching the message of evidence doesn’t persuade people. The strongest opposition to climate change theory comes from people who have a good general understanding of science, but also a cultural antipathy to modern climate theory. And that the issue wasn’t knowledge, but culture. If people belong to a group — such as a religious group whose members reject evolution — then members of the group will value that sense of belonging more highly than scientific evidence. The key to success is not to disentangle the science message from the cultural baggage, from their feeling of who and what they are as individuals. In other words, finding neutral language is a key, and so is a common context.
By affirming rather than denigrating countries' cultural identities, we can achieve more success. In this context I want to tell how I am dealing with this problem. Please look at my art work "Sacred Life". I used both traditional art that denotes our culture and religious beliefs to spread the message of conservation. Everybody who saw my work here approved it whole-heartedly and embraced the idea. And not even one person criticized my work till now!
First I choose a science theme. Then I try to connect it with religion and culture I was born into for the message to hit the bull's eye.
5. Any project that you start as a scientist/science communicator/science-artist, do you simultaneously create artwork based on that?
K.C: ‘Culturizing Science’ is an extremely difficult thing to do. Connecting two to five different subjects (science, art, literature, theology, philosophy) using a single theme eats your brain like a termite eats wood. You will face several of difficulties! Because science is mainly based on facts and other subjects on fiction, beliefs, personal views, metaphors and intuitions that science finds difficult to accept.
If you are just creating works to show aesthetics of science like most people who deal with science around the world are doing right now, it is very easy.
But while communicating science, balancing science and art is extremely important. It is like a tight rope walk over a deep valley! You cannot just pick a science theme and create ‘real art work’ based on it.
So, ‘no’ is my answer to your question. Only if I can connect a science theme with art in a proper manner, I will go ahead with my work.
6. Have you done any collaborative work with other scientists and artists?
K.C: No. Mainly because of the difficulties involved. My goals are different from the ones of others. Although several people have shown interest in collaborating with me, I couldn't get time to go ahead with the projects.
I am an extremely busy person and work according to my convenience.
7. There is exciting work being done outside of India. Why do you think there is hardly any science-based art scene in India? I did read the article you wrote about Asian and Indian scenario. I would like to know if you see any change today from the time you wrote that article.
K.C: No, absolutely none whatsoever! People here still find it difficult to connect science with art.
8. Could you suggest a few Indian and overseas artists and scientists who are working in the genre?
K.C: You will find several of them in the group "Science based art" on Sci-Art Lab. You have to join it to read the articles. This group is closed as I am writing a book on the subject now.
9. What do you think about the art scene for this genre in Hyderabad?
K.C: Apart from me there is another artist - a dancer - who collaborates with a neuro- surgeon. She gave programs based on 'neural mechanics' but when I contacted her and asked her how she approaches science, like what dance mudras and steps she uses to convey science messages, she couldn't give me a reply. I found this strange. When you are using science themes, I think there should be clarity both in thought and presentation. Otherwise how would people understand the messages you are conveying?
10. How is the response for your Work both in India and overseas?
K.C: There is tremendous response for my science based art from people all over the world. However, I must add that in India people still don't understand it in the way it should be understood.
11. What are your on-going and future projects?
K.C: There are many plans but I will go ahead with them only when I find time and if and when I get some sponsors.
12. What is your opinion about the future for Science-based Art in India? What suggestions can you give to the aspirants who would like to choose this genre?
K.C: Our country is a bit slow in accepting things that are 'novel', 'major' and 'futuristic' - especially if they are associated with a subject that depends a lot on grey matter.
One should have tremendous patience, will-power and courage to withstand a slow and difficult process. One should also have deep love and understanding for a subject like science. Only if an artist thinks she/he has these qualities, she/he should enter the arena.
I have been enlightened with the fact that art itself is a powerful medium and when science and art merge, it creates wonders and has a bigger impact on society at large.
Art can do something that is much harder to achieve through science alone. In a culturally diverse country with a majority of young people like India, inculcating scientific temperament is the key to bringing rational thinking, tolerance, understanding and peace. Art is a very strong and effective medium to bring in that change.
MY ART WORK
One of my ‘science inspired art’ works.
Through this work, I am trying to say that in our society everybody is busy to outsmart each other to prove their superiority which is so superficial. In reality, whether it is a unicellular organism or a multicellular human, nature, (read God) created us to play our part. Nothing is big, nothing is small. Everything, if broken down, is made of cells, and DNA is life.