Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Creative encounters: Investigating the potentials of art and science collaborations
by Sullivan, Tamara, M.A., Northern Arizona University, 2011, 116; 1505026
Abstract (Summary)

At a time of such instability with respect to climate change impacts, art and science collaborations have the potential to inform wider audiences of important ecological research. The intent of this study was to assess successful models of collaboration between artists and scientists in order to inform my own work with the Cottonwood Ecology Group at Northern Arizona University. The thesis had two components, an installation focused on community and ecosystem genetics and a written critical reflection on the process and challenges of forming art and science collaborations.

The installation, entitled Networks, encompassed key elements of the Cottonwood Ecology Group's research which focuses on the interactive effect of genetics in cottonwoods, community structure, arthropod diversity, plant defensive chemistry, and evolution. This means that particular community phenotypes are interacting and creating community feedback loops that affect the individual expressing those traits. This is cutting edge ecological research, and it shows the cascading effects of climate change on an ecosystem phenotype. Community and ecosystem genetics increase the understanding of ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling and evolution, as well as providing insights to applied issues such as how to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem function when faced with climate change, genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) and exotic species invasions.

Contemporary art movements driven by autonomy and market values have not strongly supported artists in theory or practice to enable a proliferation of interdisciplinary and collaborative work. The written component focuses on the importance of creativity in relation to both art and science and discusses new frameworks in the contemporary art world such as dialogical and relational aesthetics in order to provide a method for assessing process-based artwork. This thesis also presents a literature review that examines Mel Chin's Revival Field and several of Mark Dion's works, specifically Tate Thames Dig, as examples of successful intersections between art and science. Their work informed my own practice particularly with respect to creating ecologically focused artwork that maintains a strong aesthetic value. Through art and science collaborations, the arts can re-ignite their role as a rich cultural mechanism and work to raise consciousness about important scientific research, propagate questions about climate change and environmental degradation and the respective impacts on social institutions.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Curtis, Kimberley F.
Commitee: Skabelund, Shawn R., Whitham, Thomas G.
School: Northern Arizona University
Department: College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 50/04M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Environmental education, Sustainability, Mass communications, Science education
Keywords: Art, Collaboration, Interdisciplinary, Science
Publication Number: 1505026
ISBN: 9781267115027
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