Saturday, March 10, 2007

Scott: for Susan-before you go-and Suzanne for now

From: Jill Scott
Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2007 13:26:14 +0100

Dear Susan and Suzanne,

Just a thought and hopefully we can extract some parts to share now in relation to SECTION 2-the artists in labs section or pick it up another time!

I dont necessarily want to put a spanner in the works but one of the things I would have liked to bring up in relation to this section is
the obvious gender imbalance in the hard sciences and the problems women artists might encounter in such environments.

In Europe as elsewhere it seems that entirely new creative approaches as well as relational and societal impact assessments are sorely needed to entice women to become more interested in the hard sciences. Last year, our artists-in-labs project team conducted a gender survey with Arts Catalyst ( in London and The Art and Genomics Centre in Amsterdam ( Differing attitudes towards creativity seem to be the cause of an enormous gender imbalance in many Northern European countries, especially in biological systems, biotechnology, computer science, physics and engineering departments (The Helsinki Group on Women and Science.

Of course, in relation to this science and gender discourse, the science writers in the US are leaders in the field. For example, in Evelyn Fox Keller’s book ('The Century of the Gene' (2000 Harvard University Press) she proclaimed that the few women who are engaged in genetic research always provide a much "more creative social approach". The science question in feminism has also been raised very thoroughly by Sandra Harding (1986). The Science question in Feminism. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press) Harding clearly states: "Perhaps we should turn to our novelists and our artists for a better grasp of what we need, because they are professionally less conditioned than we (scientists) to respond point by point to a culture's defences of ways of being in the world." She claims that artists who acquire solid information about science bring very sensitive issues to the public for scrutiny.

Currently we are in the process of forming “ARTSACTIVE”, a worldwide Art and Science Network (, which can explore solutions to the issue of shared creativity by training more artists in science. Perhaps, we can also harness the potentials of trans-disciplinary practice to involve women in more creative approaches to science.

If mature women artists were trained in scientific fields, could they produce mediated art and design works that emphasise the creative potentials of scientific inquiry?

Could these artworks then be distributed to art departments in secondary schools, where alternative role models are sorely lacking?

Cheers and love to hear both your comments?

Prof. Dr. Jill Scott
Institute for Cultural Studies,
University of Applied Arts

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1 comment:

roger malina said...


Let me pick up on your gender question which is part of a much deeper one about how scientific laboratories and science institutions in general are 'connected" to the societies that they are part of.

Staying on the artists in labs topic, the UK artscouncil with Leonardo co sponsorship has placed 5 artists in the Space Sciences Lab at UC Berkeley.

Of the 5 artists 4 were women ( one was a wife husband team).

The lab itself is dominantly male,
but not the science education group that served as "broker' for the residencies.

The selection juries were gender balanced.

It is my observation that in the art and technology community in general there are numberous outstanding women artists and scholars= yet when they work with the science instutions we are faced with organisations that are dominantly male especially in the management levels ( and tenured faculty )

It would be naive to think that these cultural diffrerences dont affect the way that art science collaborations work in laboratory contexts

and in the bio sciences- so much of the discussion bears on the nature of life and our responsabilities towards life forms, that as we talk about visual culture and the biosciences there must be gender differences in approaches

roger malina