“If there is an art-science, what does it look like? Most importantly, what does it enable us to do that we couldn’t do otherwise?”
With a background in studio art, new media arts, microbiology, psychology and cross-appointed in four UNT colleges, West is on a mission to find questions that require interdisciplinary collaboration and build communities of practice that can address those questions. She also runs UNT’s art + science lab, inviting students to collaborate on interdisciplinary teams and projects in various stages of development.
For West, combining art + science is “an exuberant, thoughtful, difficult, complex engagement” that asks questions like “how to create new ways of seeing, new ways of knowing, new ways of being, new ways of making, new ways of experiencing.”
To illustrate this point, she notes that infinite decisions made by people dealing with data – what resolution to take a picture, whether to save it, “how we’re going to collect it, how we’re going to store it, who’s going to have access to it” – is all based in what we think we’ll get out of that process: What we think we are able to know.
“Every scientific instrument, everything we view that’s digital, we make choices,” West says. “If you extrapolate that out all the way through every scientific experiment, every surveillance tape, what you get is this observation that ‘How we are seeing things – the choices that we are making about what we can know – are continually pre-determining what it is we can see and know.”
“So for me I think the biggest question of our time is this, ‘How do we look for what we don’t know we’re looking for?’ And that’s where art-science comes in.”