WET KUNST: Response by NCAD Sculpture Year 3 & MFA students to SURFACE TENSION

NCAD: Wet Kunst

Running from the 13th December to the 18th December, Gallery 2, Science Gallery

In September a democratic dialogue began in which Year 3 NCAD sculpture students began to engage with the Science Gallery in response to the current exhibition; Surface tension: the future of water.  As an exhibition which is topical, challenged and varied, it is inevitable that a worthy reply will reflect this challenge.  The artists involved have responded with a true sense of enquiry and experimentation with a willingness to learn from an unfamiliar field. The show is varied in form, topic and breadth and is a brave response and enquiry into such fertile and unmapped territory.

On the one hand, we have Science, at first glance an empirical system based on definitive views of reality and understanding the physical world, very much based in fact. On the other, in Art, we have what has traditionally been seen as a “free space”, an area of playful inquiry and metaphorical rather than material gestures, questions rather than solutions. In this model, Science and Art appear enemies. One, ever the dreamer, expressing our desires, our inner creativity or daring to create an image of a perfect world.  The other, trying to understand the world we already live in, and improving our lives thusly.

One of the problems with the reconciliation of art and science is that Science has been viewed by the Art community as a linear, almost modernist narrative with rhetoric of progress. In art the focus has shifted away from “grand narratives”. We now think of concurrently occurring myriad histories. Similarly, art may be seen as aimless or pointless with no real-world consequences and no basis in fact.

When we look beneath the surface of these commonly held views, they do not stand up to inspection. In scientific study there has always been a sense of freedom through knowledge, experimentation, and a sense of wonderment about the world we live in. Rather than categorising and measuring, they are frequently dealing with the unknown and the unknowable, the limits of knowledge. In the words of Vladimir Nabokov, the novelist and lepidopterist “The greater one’s science, the deeper the sense of mystery.” Art, on its part, has long been concerned with real world issues and the challenge of making something of consequence to the world, especially today. Both share a strong sense of work through research and discovery and a sense of play. In this light, instead of opposites we should think of science and art as a set of narratives with much in common. Close neighbours that often converge and have much to offer each other. Two independent and equally valid forms of creativity with methodologies and skills to share with one another.

 It is with this in mind that NCAD sculpture enters the Science Gallery with Wet Kunst.

Mick O Kelly


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