Art and science

Reactions logo cropEven the most fleeting visit to the Museum here will reveal the intricate marriage of science and art that the building embodies. Designed by Irish architects Deane & Woodward, the Museum was also influenced by the Victorian art critic and intellectual John Ruskin, whose ideas – and those of the Pre-Raphaelites – promoted art as a form of investigation, a serious study on scientific lines.

As you look around the building its intricate carvings and the careful selection of materials confirm that the design really was a serious investigation of the natural world, resulting in a beautiful piece of architecture.

OUM architecture

Although science and the arts are often seen as the pursuits of opposing camps – one a strict process, the other a free creative expression – the truth of course is that they are intertwined. Science and technology influence and prompt artistic practice, and some of the greatest scientific work is the result of a piece of creative and imaginative flair. Rather than two separate cultures, science and art instead sit on a spectrum of different ways of investigating, and reacting to, the world around us.

Marcus du Sautoy's talk, The Secret Mathematicians, at the Museum of Natural History on Monday 17 March

Marcus du Sautoy’s talk, The Secret Mathematicians, at the Museum of Natural History on Monday 17 March

Taking this idea, we decided to present a set of events and activities that would explore science and the arts during National Science and Engineering Week and the Oxfordshire Science Festival. It’s called Reactions and is being hosted across all four Oxford University Museums – here, at the Ashmolean Museum, the Museum of the History of Science, and the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Siobhan Davies Dance presents a talk and children's workshop at the Ashmolean

Siobhan Davies Dance presents a talk and children’s workshop at the Ashmolean

Running over a whole week, from 15-23 March, the fourteen events in the Reactions programme all address or reflect the connections, opportunities or perceived tensions between science and the arts, some directly, others gently. There’s something for everyone across the week, from a lecture on mathematics and art by Professor Marcus du Sautoy, to a science of pollination dance workshop for children by Siobhan Davies Dance at the Ashmolean, to the live reconstruction of a capybara skeleton by evolutionary biologist and broadcaster Ben Garrod at the Museum of Natural History.

Nathaniel Mann, composer in residence at the Pitt Rivers Museum, presents a performance on Thursday 20 March

Nathaniel Mann, composer in residence at the Pitt Rivers Museum, presents a performance on Thursday 20 March.

The Pitt Rivers Museum is presenting a performance by its composer in residence, Nathaniel Mann, exploring the science of voice disguisers; and sound artist Ray Lee talks about his fascination with the hidden world of electromagnetic radiation and sound waves, demonstrating the science and philosophy behind his unique installations and strange instruments at the Museum of the History of Science.

Award-winning science filmmaker Sally Le Page offers workshop for A level and BTEC students. Contact education@oum.ox.ac.uk to book

Award-winning science filmmaker Sally Le Page offers a workshop for A level and BTEC students at the Museum of Natural History. Contact education@oum.ox.ac.uk to book.

There are family events too – the Wow! How? science fair here and at the Pitt Rivers, and Crystals Day at the Museum of the History of Science.

The full programme lists everything else that is going on and gives links to booking pages for any bookable events. Hopefully you’ll find a few interesting and perhaps thought-provoking things to see and do during the week, all hosted in buildings and collections that themselves reveal many different reactions to the world, both natural and man-made.

Scott Billings - Communications officer

One response to “Art and science

  1. Pingback: Oh the ‘Capy-drama’ | More Than A Dodo·

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