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A Course on Art and Science Delivered at the Universite de Provence Jacques Mandelbrojt In 1988, I ~ave at the Universite de Provence (Aix-Marseille) a 27-hour optional course on Art and Science to students who, in general, intended to become art teachers. My viewpoint was that of a practitioner in both art and science who has tried to create a general framework for his reflections on his practice. COURSE ORGANIZATION The object of the course was to describe the making of a painting or, more generally, a work of art, and to compare mechanisms underlying creation in art and discovery in science. This comparison has several motivations: First, artists cannot i~nore our essentially scientific and technological civilization. Second, art and science are the two main ways of expressing the natural world. Comparison of one with the other allows us to understand better how expres76 An/Scit'IHT Forum sion is achieved in each domain and thus can help us see what is specific to art. In particular, it is striking to sec that many of the ideas that are expressed over and over again by artists when they speak or write about their work arc not, contrary to what might have been expected, specific to artistic creation but rather are also involved in scientific discovery. For instance , the struggle of artists with the material they use while they arc trying to transform their pictorial ideas into artworks and the fact that their ideas evolve during this struggle can be compared with the relationship between theory and experiment in scientific discovery (scientists try out a theory, and experiment can force them to modify the theory). This struggle between the pictorial idea and the material used by the artist is well described by the terms of 'assimiFig . 1. Jacques Mandelbrojt, Iiquitex on canvas, 130 x 200 em, 1988. Iation ' and 'accommodation', which playa central role in the description of science given by Piaget in his theory of ~enetic epistemology. The fact that concepts of genetic epistemology can, as Pierre Mounoud and I suggested [I], be applied to art as well as to science should not surprise us if we remember their dual origin. On one hand, they come from a parallelism between the evolution of science and the way children acquire concepts (hence Piaget's work in children's psychology), in the same manner as a fetus is known to go through the diverse stages of evolution of man kind. According to Piaget, there is continuity between intelligence and the vcrv first reflexes of babies. It is clear that if such a parallelism can hold for science, it can be expected to hold fill' art as well. The other origin of these concepts is Piagets early experience as a biologist , which led him to draw a parallel between the way inu-lligence works and the way a living organism evolves so ,1S to be in biological equilibrium with its surroundings, hence the concepts of assimilation (the living organism assimilates the food in its surroundings) and accommodation (if the surroundings change, the mechanism by which the organism assimilates the food changes so as to adapt to the new surroundings). Again, if such a comparison can be made between the way science works and the relationships of a living organism with its surroundings, these relationships should just as well compare to the way art works. All these considerations suggest that creation in art and discovery in science can be fruitfully compared in detail [2]. SUBJECTS TREATED Opening the course with subject matter that I hoped the students would be able to relate to their own experiences , I analvzed and described the process of artistic creation from .1,\((111(.... \brult-llll (lit uu tist. phvsicistI. La (~rall(·ilk. Fralin', Rece-ived :! 1 St'plt'llIlwl I~IHH Fig. 2. Jacques Mandelbrojt, watercolour, 54 x 37 em, 1964. the point of perception and mental images, or, more generally, the initial pictorial idea of the artist, to the end point of the finished work of art and the way a spectator looks at it [3]. At each stage of creation there is a structuralization of reality. As mentioned earlier. this structuralization can be well...


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