A framework for the integration of art & science

Human endeavor in the realms of art, science, engineering and design had been -and still is- conducted within discrete domains of thought, making cross-disciplary work difficult. As result, the 'anti-disciplinary' hypothesis has come to the forefront as an alternative framework for intellectual and creative exploration in today's entangled world, and states that:

"knowledge can no longer be ascribed to, or produced within, disciplinary boundaries, but is entirely entangled"

This argument is at the core of the newly formed Journal of Design and Science (JoDS) from the MIT Media Lab, with its theoretical background and practical ramifications clearly explained in the articles published for the inaugural issue. I was positively influenced after reading them and felt compelled to make my own contribution with regard to the Krebs Cycle of Creativity (Figure 1) with a focus on the integration of art with science.

This essay is my attempt to expose my stillborn ideas to codify the types of creative expression that may lead to the integration of art with science in the near future. The time has come for the emergence of a 'creative science' and this essay intends to inoculate scientists with the spirit of art.

Figure 1. Krebs cycle of creativity described by Neri Oxman in her article "Age of entanglement" as inaugural essay for Journal of Design and Science.

Mapping the terrain

I have identified six domains in which the disciplines of art, science, engineering and design normally operate (Figure 2); and for the purpose of this essay they constitute the 'terrain' or 'space' available for cross-disciplinary work. They are:







Each of these domains have a defined set of characteristics that should be taken into account.

Figure 2. Calvino's mesh of creativity depicting the intersection of art, science, engineering and design with the six domains of human exploration. In contrast to Oxman's diagram, I've placed art in the creation domain instead of under perception. Co-existance of disciplines within a given domain is shown as a white square. The absence of 'science' in the creation and artificial domains is shown by white circles. The fields of synthetic biology, genetically modified organisms and artificial selection and breeding are gradually bringing science to co-exist with art, engineering and design in the artificial domain.

Creation concerns the material or physical manifestation of thoughts, is the domain where 'the thinkable is expressible'. In this particular context, creation is synonymous of communication because thoughts, which are of an intangible nature, are communicated to the world when expressed in its physical equivalent.

Transmission is when we disseminate the thoughts and things created by others. Transmission is the relay of information within and across generations. Culture belongs to this domain.

Artificial is the domain containing anything that isn't natural; whereas natural is the domain concerning the world that hasn't, isn't and won't be created by humans.

Perception is the domain in which humans sense the world around them and determine their behavior towards it. Perception changes with experience and thus is time-dependent. Perception involves interpretation and thus is subjective and uncertain.

Because truth can only be known, only perception involves partial awareness.

The concept of partial awareness is exemplified in the garden of the Zen Temple Ryoan-ji in Kyoto, Japan (Figure 3). The garden is composed of fifteen stones of different sizes that are arranged in five groups: one group of five stones, two groups of three, and two groups of two stones. The stones are surrounded by white gravel and there is no vegetation in the garden except the moss around the stones. The garden is to be viewed from a seated position on the veranda; with the stones placed so that the entire composition cannot be seen at once. When looking at the garden from any angle, the stones are arranged so that only fourteen of the boulders are visible at one time while the fifteen stone always remain hidden from the viewer. Tradition says that only through the attainment of enlightenment would one be able to view the fifteen stone. The garden was built around 1450 to 1473.

Figure 3. A photograph of Ryoan-ji garden in Kyoto, Japan

Science itself has experienced the paradoxical realm of nature at the particle level, where there is no certainty, only probabilities and statistical conclusions as it was formulated in the Harmonic Theory developed by Norbert Weiner, and the Uncertainty Principle established by Werner Heisenberg.

Knowledge is the domain concerning the search for certainty. To know is to be certain. Knowledge is then the search for true perception.

Traversing domains

In contrast to the placement of art in the perception domain as it occurred in the Krebs cycle of creativity exposed by Oxman, I placed art in the creation domain instead. By placing art in the creation domain, it is released from the constrain of time, so characteristically associated with perception.

"Time? Time doesn't matter"

said Joan Miró, suggesting that imagination transcends time and creativity is outside time. He described his art as "self-exteriorization force".

<<< 'Recordando a Miró' (2015) by Martin Calvino.

"The matter of art is beyond time"

said Wassily Kandinsky who described his art as the product of "inner necessity".

Art also intersects the artificial domain because the product of creative expression is derived from thought processes, and when reaches true perception it also intersect the domain of knowledge.

The pursuit of scientific inquiry fluctuates between the domains of perception and knowledge. Science is concerned about the natural world and has as one of its main activities the transmission of information (dissemination of discoveries mainly in a given field through scholarly publishing and conferences talks).

From the diagram we can observe that science is absent from the creation and artificial domains in which art, engineering and design already co-exist. This means that for science to effectively 'bridge' into art, engineering and design, it has to transit through the creation and artificial domains. Efforts in the field of synthetic biology, genetically modified organisms, and artificial selection and domestication are clear examples of science transiting towards the artificial, were it started to co-exist mainly with engineering and design disciplines, and in a lesser extent with art as well.

Bringing art & science together through the 'creation' domain

How science and art can be brought together in the creation domain? I propose we follow the steps that the inventors of abstract art took during the early 1900s.

"When I was struggling desperately to liberate art from the ballast that is the world of objects, I found my salvation in the form of the Square"

-Kazimir Malevich-

We need to liberate science from its current form.

What the inventors of abstract art understood was that the absence of a concrete object, at the time the representation of nature, gave rise to a dislocation of perception since the artist alone determined the criteria by which he operated.

Similarly, in order to bring art and science together we need to liberate it from its current form, the equivalent of 'the object model' in abstract art.

Liberating function from its current form

A new form of conducting and communicating science needs to be invented for a successful integration with the arts to happen.

Here I propose three main avenues in which to start implementing new forms that integrate art into daily life science activities:

(a) use of art to display patterns found in data to communicate in visually engaging forms

(b) use of art as complimentary mechanism (in addition to scholarly publishing and talks at conferences) to communicate scientific findings to mainstream society

(c) re-structuring of academic departments and science labs to incorporate artists

These will be explained in detail on a separate post. For the time being, let's start to imagine the incorporation of artists into laboratories to work along scientists. Artists will be in charge of creating and producing art exhibits, theatric plays and short films among others, as medium to communicate scientific discoveries in non-scientific ways to the general public. Art used in this manner will inoculate science with greater appeal and capacity for understanding from the general public.

Furthermore, the artistic communication of scientific results to the general public could be used as mechanism to raise alternative sources of funding from the ones traditionally applied to.

Whereas a universal theory of 'creative sciences' may not be feasible, a universal experience is no only feasible but necessary if we come to recognize that what unites us all is the creative power of the mind.


Joichi Ito (2016). Design and science. Journal of Design and Science: http://jods.mitpress.mit.edu/pub/designandscience

Neri Oxman (2016). Age of entanglement. Journal of Design and Science:


Danny Hillis (2016). The enlightenment is dead, long live the entanglement. Journal of Design and Science: http://jods.mitpress.mit.edu/pub/enlightenment-to-entanglement

Flo Conway & Jim Siegelman (2005). Dark hero of the information age - in search of Norbert Weiner the father of cybernetics. Basic Books, New York

Georges Raillard (1989). Miró. Portland House, New York

Ramon Tio Bellido (1988). Kandinsky. Portland House, New York

Gaetan Picon (1977). Joan Miró - Catalan Notebooks. Skira Rizzoli, New York

Herbert A. Simon (1969). The sciences of the artificial. MIT Press, Cambridge

Ryoan-ji from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryōan-ji

About the author

Martin Calvino is a digital technologist artist and holds a PhD in plant genetics. His artwork can be viewed at www.martincalvino.co

Keywords: Martin Calvino; digital art; science; ArtScience; STEAM; creativity