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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Scientists, artists come together at festival

Published: April 30, 2010
Section: News

The “Art of Science … Science of Art” event Wednesday opened the 2010 Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Arts. The presentation featured artists Daniel Kohn, Guhapriya Ranganathan, Jessica Rosenkrantz, Christopher Janney and Nancy Selvage, and two scientists, Professor James Bensinger (PHYS) and Professor. Elinor Karlsson of Harvard, who spoke about the intersection of these two disciplines in their work.

“Often when people think about aesthetics, they think of aesthetics as the realm of the arbitrary,” said Kohn, who often works on his art in collaboration with the Broad Institute for Genomic Research. He opened the event by contextualizing the connection between art and science.

Kohn said he enjoys applying meaning, often scientific meaning, behind the visuals he creates. For him, a canvas is a universe where the artist must create, but also follow, a set of rules. While art is an examination of the laws of this universe, science is the study of the laws of our own universe. Kohn explained that this realization allowed his work to become playful: once he knew the rules, he was able to move around inside of them more easily.

“The sort of intention of looking at the world and trying to respond to it and trying to account for our experiences in it, and to pass that on to others, so that they can respond to it,” he said, is what both art and science are all about.

Ranganthan, a successful artist with a college education in engineering, on the other hand, creates pieces that directly connect to science through their content. They are based on “science, spirituality and movement.” Her art displays neurons, synapses and other electrifying body parts.

One of her series, called “Recombinations,” is based on “the very idea of passing information from one generation to another,” she said. The death of her grandmother and