Biochemical Society and MAAS engagement day

What happens when a group of artists plan a day of activities for a group of scientists? 

If you had peeped into Central Saint Martins’ MA Art and Science (‘MAAS’) studio on Tuesday 27 February 2018, you might have experienced this strange union. From ‘show-and-tell’ to a ‘poetry before lunch’, ‘tai-chi and yoga’ to the ‘sensory studio’, when MAAS students invited members of the Biochemical Society into their world, there were some surprising outcomes. 

The day kicked off with tea, biscuits and a (strictly timed) one-minute introduction from everyone involved using an object that best describes their work. Each artist and scientist could either pick their own object or someone else’s to aid their introduction, which led to some amusing interpretations of certain items. 

This was followed by an exercise that involved mixed groups of artists and scientists answering non-specific questions, such as: ‘What shape does your work take?’ and ‘Would unlimited time and resources enhance your work?’. As expected the artists and scientists explored the questions from different perspectives according to their work. Both disciplines, however were equally dubious of the latter question, revealing shared conscientious and cynical attributes. 

Poetry before lunch was next, which pushed everyone out of their comfort zones. With each member of the group writing a line of each other’s poems, this quickly escalated from a contemplative task into a myriad of eccentric narratives.  

After a delightful vegetarian buffet, the group jumped straight back in (literally) with afternoon yoga and tai-chi, to get the energy (and food) moving. 

This was followed by the ‘sensory studio’ workshop. An artist was paired with a scientist; the artist was blindfolded and asked to feel an unknown object; the artist described this to their scientist partner using descriptive rather than literal language; in response, the scientist sketched their interpretations of the object onto some paper. Subsequently, this was repeated using different smells with the scientists blindfolded and artists drawing. The results and interactions between the pairs during the activity were surprising, as many of the artists had an investigative approach to the exercise, whereas the scientists tended to use figurative language. 

After some ‘free time’, the group gathered to reflect on the day’s creative discourse. The intrigue and effortless conversation between the artists and scientists was noted, and further collaborative, experimental activities were planned.   

All in all, as the session concluded with the group mingling over wine, the disciplines of art and science – which are often considered counterparts – felt like old friends.