SciArt Center Art Residency Program Week 14 – originally published on 12/21/18
Continuing in the theme of balancing the structured scientific method and free play (as Darcy writes about this week), I keep struggling with letting go. I strive for scientific accuracy, yet sometimes you need to decide what to keep and what to leave out to gain clarity. Sticking to the original image makes me feel in control, while venturing off with making my own imaginary connections (which are totally possible in this context) feels like throwing in the towel. And then balancing all of this with the concept of composition and making the image visually pleasing… Letting go is difficult…
In science, “bias” is a dirty word. The same goes for Photoshop. Altering data and being selective in what you pay attention to leads to direct risk of being very subjective and failing to see the real picture. You can get carried away with trying to fit everything you observe into a picture that you have already formed in your mind. It is quite dangerous.
Darcy previously wrote about creating models from observations. While it may be important for understanding difficult concepts, you cannot grow too attached to your model. Unfortunately, there is also a factor of consistency. A scientist may keep publishing papers proposing a certain model of a disease or natural phenomenon. And then suddenly they come across a piece of evidence that contradicts their initial thinking. What do you do in such a situation? Well, if you publish the new data as it is, you will be accused of being inconsistent, which will make people question all of your research. Who would want to do that to themselves? So people try to find a way to slightly alter their models to accommodate for new evidence. But is that the right way of going about it?
When I was in graduate school, my advisor used to jokingly say that bias is a sign of knowledge. That it allows you to use your experience to observe what otherwise may not be obvious. While it may be true that a trained eye will see what others would not, the “beholder’s share” needs to be consciously controlled.
So where does this lead us and how is it relevant to art? How do we gain clarity and not leave out important details? Who is best at judging what is important and how will you know if something important is missing?