19 Aug 2019

Contemporary Feminism: A panel discussion about art and science

From Contemporary Feminism, 4:06 pm on 19 August 2019
L-R Kim Hill, Anne Noble, Huhana Smith, Siouxsie Wiles, and Rebecca Priestley

L-R Kim Hill, Anne Noble, Huhana Smith, Siouxsie Wiles, and Rebecca Priestley Photo: Mark Tantrum

From the conversation...

Prof. Anne Noble: There are cultural structures which do position science over here, and humanities and arts over there. There is this kind of imaginary divide.

Kim Hill: It’s not an imaginary divide, though, is it? It’s a divide that says that unless there’s evidence, then this cannot be true. Whereas in the arts, they’re saying, “we don’t care about evidence, imagine if this might be true.”

Prof. Anne Noble: Art and science are not the same. They’re parallel modes of enquiry that bump up against each other. They’ll argue. They’ll explode. There’ll be chaos. Science is not so comfortable with that because it’s always looking for certainty of outcome. And we do not invest I think enough in this space where we can have much more engagement of artists, scientists, humanities scholars together forming new kinds of questions to ask.

Dr Siouxsie Wiles: I disagree with the premise that scientists are looking for certainty. Maybe that’s true until you start doing experiments. And then you realise the minute you do an experiment, that not only did it not answer the question you asked, but it opened up ten other questions. And so actually, all you have done is realise how little you knew about the thing that you were starting to study. In getting to that understanding, you realise how little you understand.

Prof. Anne Noble: But that’s not the public perception of science.

Rebecca Priestley,  Anne Noble, Siouxsie Wiles, Huhana Smith.

Rebecca Priestley, Anne Noble, Siouxsie Wiles, Huhana Smith. Photo: Mark Tantrum

About the speakers

Dr Siouxsie Wiles MNZN

Wiles is an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland where she heads up the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab. She’s also a keen tweeter, blogger, and podcaster, and is a regular science commentator on RNZ and The Spinoff. Her book Antibiotic Resistance: The End of Modern Medicine was published in 2017.

Dr Rebecca Priestley

Priestley is an award-winning science writer and historian, and Associate Professor in Science in Society at Victoria University of Wellington. Her research spans the history of New Zealand and Antarctic science; science communication and public engagement with science in New Zealand; and creative science writing practice. She was the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Science Communicator’s prize in 2016.

Dr Huhana Smith

Smith is a visual artist, curator, and Head of Whiti o Rehua School of Art, Massey University. Her research combines mātauranga Māori methods with science to actively address climate change concerns for coastal Māori lands in Horowhenua-Kāpiti. She actively encourages the use of art and design’s visual systems to explore complex issues and make solutions more accessible for local communities.

Prof. Anne Noble ONZM

Noble is an artist photographer whose work spans still and moving image, installation and international curatorial commissions. She has undertaken three projects in Antarctica supported by arts fellowships from Creative New Zealand and the US National Science Foundation, and her most recent body of work explores the decline of the honeybee. She is Distinguished Professor of Fine Art at Massey University, and an Arts Foundation Laureate.

In association with City Gallery Wellington’s exhibition Semiconductor: The Technological Sublime