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Ars Scientia: Student Reflections

A version of this post, authored by Marcus Prasad, originally appeared at belkin.ubc.ca/ars-scientia-student-reflections.

The Ars Scientia residency program began in May of 2021 to create meaningful and creative collaborations between the arts and sciences. Over six months, ten visual artists and physicists collaborated on projects and programs that bridged their own fields of interest, creative inquiry and research. Over the years as a student in Art History at UBC, I became involved in Academic Programs at the Belkin. I worked as Project Coordinator for the Ars Scientia research cluster, assisting with the conceptualization and facilitation of collaborative programming by the artists and physicists across the gallery, the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute and the Department of Astronomy and Physics. While keenly interested in interdisciplinarity through my MA research that brought together postwar American art and contemporary horror film with queer theory, the collaborations in Ars Scientia posed new questions and conversations for me. Through the residency, I witnessed unique and exciting approaches to interdisciplinary collaboration between arts and sciences, which formed organically and through a variety of approaches. In this series of online conversations, I chat with residency participants about some of the key questions, surprising intersections and lingering effects of the interdisciplinarity sustained throughout the six-month residency.

Though seemingly at odds, the Ars Scientia artists and physicists quickly found similarities across their practices, especially as they relate to large questions like how and why we exist in the world. When speaking with the four artists and physicists in this series, I was fascinated by how simply explaining one’s research to someone unfamiliar with the discipline can serve as an important reminder of why we’re doing the work we do. As such, the past year working on this project encouraged me not only to think past boundaries in my discipline of study, but how incorporating varying perspectives into our individual pursuits of knowledge can foster generative and helpful conversations.

The following videos consist of further conversations with Sarah Morris, Josephine Lee, Rysa Greenwood and Justine A. Chambers that reflect upon their six-month partnerships and the impact of interdisciplinary collaboration on their research. Programming in the first year of the project provided ample space for group work and collective thinking, including the Signals and Apparatuses symposium which took place on 25 November 2021. The Studio Reflections series explores the experience of the residency at an individual scale, and considers what questions remain as we enter the second year of the program.

Interview 1 – Sarah Morris

In this first conversation, Sarah Morris, PhD student at UBC working in MRI physics, discusses her partnership with artist Justine A. Chambers in the Ars Scientia program. With many unexpected points of connection, including both having backgrounds in dance, Sarah shares how working with Justine encouraged her to establish a link between dance and her research in the sciences.

Interview 2 – Josephine Lee

Josephine Lee, Vancouver-based artist and PhD student in Contemporary Arts at SFU, collaborated with Daniel Korchinski, PhD student in the Department of Physics at UBC. Working together to produce several glass-blown pieces with Vancouver Studio Glass throughout the length of the residency, Josephine talks about how working with Daniel revealed the varying approaches to pursuing objectivity in photographic documentation.

Interview 3 – Rysa Greenwood

Rysa Greenwood, PhD student at the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute who was partnered with artist Khan Lee, explains how the two of them discovered they were both interested in shapes and how they fill up space. While Rysa had been focused on the symmetry and perfect ordering of the material she works with, collaborating with Khan provided a perspective into the generative potential of asymmetry.

Interview 4 – Justine A. Chambers

In this final episode, Justine A. Chambers, Vancouver-based dance artist and term lecturer in the School of Contemporary Arts at SFU, talks about her partnership with PhD students in physics Sarah Morris and Luke Reynolds. With no expected deliverables from this residency, Justine shares that Ars Scientia provided an opportunity to define value through modes of being often overlooked by institutional thinking, like engaging in meandering conversations and simply spending time together.