Here you will find information about training, production and funding opportunities available in the UK for those looking to explore science-art collaborations in their practice. This resource was compiled by Shaun May.
The field of science-art collaboration is an exciting and dynamic one. Starting with Helen Chadwick’s Unnatural Selection in 1996 and Complicite’s Mnemonic in 1999, the turn of the century saw an increasing number of visual artists and performance makers gravitate towards the sciences for inspiration and creative collaboration. This trend has developed into an explosion of exciting new work as the 21st century has progressed with little sign of slowing down.
At whatever stage of your career you are in, there is a wide range of opportunities for artists interested in the intersection of science and the arts. The Wellcome-funded Performing Medicine project, created by Suzy Wilson and the Clod Ensemble, is remarkable for its scope and ambition. Throughout the year, they run a programme of open workshops for people from any background, many led by internationally renowned artists. In addition, the group runs a series of courses and workshops designed to complement the existing curriculum for medical students at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Many universities in the UK allow for a combination of arts and science subjects at undergraduate level, for example Manchester Metropolitan University runs a combined honours degree in which you can study Drama and Psychology. However, it is really at postgraduate level that one finds a deep cross-disciplinary engagement – especially in visual art practices. Perhaps most notably, Central St. Martins runs an MA in Art and Science, which contextualises science-art collaboration historically whilst allowing the students to creatively engage with a range of scientific and medical ideas and practices. Central St. Martins has established strong links with the Wellcome Trust, Gordon Museum, Natural History Museum and Hunterian Museum that it draws on in the provision of this course. Similarly, the MA in Art and Design at Cardiff School of Art and Design has pathways in Art & Science and Ecologies, the former foregrounding the issue of science-art collaboration and the latter focusing on ecological art from a range of perspectives. Falmouth University has a similar MA in Art & Environment, which has an ongoing relationship with The Eden Project and the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute. More information on degree-level courses, including a comprehensive and searchable directory, can be found at www.ucas.ac.uk (undergraduate) and www.prospects.ac.uk (postgraduate).
There are three main organisations that support arts-science collaborations. Firstly, Arts Catalyst, which first started supporting such projects in 1993. In 2011 they opened a new project space in Clerkenwell, London, which they use for film screenings, exhibitions, workshops and symposia reflecting the groups’ core aims. They also publish a very useful list of opportunities for artists and Nicola Triscott’s blog is an excellent commentary on the global scene. Secondly, the CalousteGulbenkian Foundation, which started funding such projects as part of their Two Cultures Programme, with Sian Ede still working as a prominent advocate of science-arts collaborations. Finally, and the one which has risen to most prominence in recent years, is the Wellcome Trust. Although their scope is very specifically ‘biomedical’, they have been a very important source of funding for a number of notable companies – particularly in the last decade. The SciArts award has now been replaced by their Arts Awards, which has allocated considerably more money and widened the kind of artworks and projects that it will support. Another possible source of funding is Nesta, which has supported the work of interdisciplinary innovators (an example). Broadly interdisciplinary projects such as the Centre for Creative Collaboration may throw up occasional support or networking opportunities.
Opportunities for Production
All three of the aforementioned organisations offer not only funding, but also support in terms of a network and a respected platform for showing practice. The latter is also offered by a number of other organisations, including the increasing number of science festivals (for example the Edinburgh Science Festival) and a number of respected institutions including the Royal Society of the Arts, Royal Institution, the British Library and the Science Museum’s Dana Centre. Although they have traditionally been places where research is presented in the form of a lecture, and indeed this is still the main format for their events, it is increasingly common to find performances and exhibitions as part of their programme as well. This is arguably part of a larger trend in the sciences to bringing research to the wider public, as evidenced by initiatives such as Café Scientifique and Bright Club, as well as Prof. Brian Cox’s television, radio and live performance collaborations with popular comedians.
Beyond the UK
These organisations offer further support and information: