The worlds of Science and Art have a rich pedigree in collaborations that have revealed the complexities of life to new audiences, capturing imaginations and translating forms and concepts into visually powerful artworks and illustrations. Over the past 25 years the digital revolution has helped develop programmes and platforms common to both cultures, and with an increasing awareness of the value of interdisciplinary research, fuelled by organisations such as the Wellcome Trust, artists and designers have been seeking out ways to explore how science can expand and create new contexts for their practice. In recognition of this evolving opportunity the British Science Association created a new section in 2016, Science and the Arts, to encourage dialogue and support new initiatives. The section will build on the experience of members of the London LASER and LENS groups based at the University of the Arts London.

The Science and the Arts Section organised the following events for the 2017 British Science Festival:

Art and science collaboration: an ecology of practices
Together, art and science allow us to sense and create meaning from our surroundings. Director of the Arts Catalyst, Nicola Triscott explored the idea of both as components of an “ecology of practices” which encourage investigation of critical world issues beyond the gallery and laboratory. How can this approach improve our interpretation of reality?

Trust me, I'm an artist: displaying resistance
Attendees explored the ethical issues that arise when art meets science and examined the consequences of artistic projects that nudge up against the newly possible. Debated questions included can and should artist Anna Dumitriu exhibit fragments of DNA that cause antibiotic resistance in infectious diseases, what are the risks associated and who should be accountable?
Presenters included Anna Dumitriu, an artist whose work fuses craft, sculpture and bioscience, and Leena Hassan, a researcher at Brighton and Sussex Medical School studying antibiotic resistance.
Panellists included Tim Henbrey, Head of Project Delivery at Science Gallery London, and Simon Waddell, Gail Davey, and Bobbie Farsides, researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

President 2017: Nicola Triscott, Arts Catalyst
President 2016: Professor Rob Kesseler, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London 

Rob Kesseler is a visual artist and Professor of Arts, Design & Science. Formerly NESTA Fellow at Kew and Research Fellow at the Gulbenkian Science Institute, Portugal, since 2000 he has collaborated with botanical scientists and molecular biologists in an exploration of the living world at a microscopic level. Reflecting the way in which the natural world migrates into many aspects of our daily lives, his images are translated into a wide range of contexts and media, ceramics, glass and textiles, video, and photography. Employing a variety of imaging processes and styles, from digital photography and scanning electron microscopy to spontaneous ink drawing, he has evolved a sophisticated coordination of hand, eye and intuition. Extending this long and illustrious history of artists working with flowers and plants, Kesseler’s work reveals a hidden world lying beyond the scope of the human eye producing work that lies somewhere between science and symbolism, in which the many complexities of representing plants are concentrated into mesmeric visual images and objects. He exhibits internationally and has published an award winning series of books on Pollen, Seeds and Fruit. In 2010 a monograph of his work, Rob Kesseler Up Close, was published by Papadakis.

 Recorder: Heather Barnett, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London 

Heather Barnett is an artist, researcher and educator working with natural phenomena, complex systems and biological design, often in collaboration with scientists, artists, participants and organisms. Using diverse media including printmaking, photography, animation, video, installation and participatory experimentation, and working with living materials and imaging technologies, her work explores how we observe, represent and understand the world around us. Current work includes ‘The Physarum Experiments’ - an ongoing ‘collaboration’ with an intelligent slime mould – and a series of collaborative experiments connecting social, biological and technological readings of collective behaviour.

Heather has held Research Fellowships at the University of Sussex and the London School of Economics, and consulted on arts, health and science projects for organisations such as Willis Newson, the Science Museum, and the Wellcome Trust. As Artist in Residence, Heather has worked with diverse organisations including L’Autre Pied Restaurant, Infoterra Remote Sensing Company, and Poole Hospital Pathology Dept. Commissions include the Postgraduate Medical Institute (Anglia Ruskin University), Flow (Guy’s Hospital Cancer Day Unit), Small Worlds (The Museum of the History of Science, Oxford University) and The Other Flower Show (Victoria and Albert Museum). She is Course Lecturer on the MA Art and Science at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, a Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellow, and chairs London LASER, a regular talks series exploring art and science.