by sandsmith50

Where did June go? I think it is always a bit of a quick month; one minute you are enjoying long evenings, finally realising that you really can go the whole day without wearing a sweater and then before you know it the nights are drawing in and if you haven’t got a tan yet you will need to go abroad to get one. Sigh.

To add to the usual disappointment of an accelerated June there was the usual disappointment of England’s early exit from the World Cup. It was strange the way the press seemed to start laying into them once they were actually out; I think the initial analysis which suggested they played quite well against Italy and Uruguay and (in retrospect) Costa Rica was about right. England may not have got as far as they did in South Africa but they were a lot less painful to watch.

As a result of all this football this was quite a quiet month in terms of cultural activity. But there was one real highlight which was a half day conference on physics and art.

Now I have some serious doubts about Sci-Art, it tends not be good art or good science but I suspended my doubt as one of the speakers at the conference was Conrad Shawcross. I had seen one of his pieces, Slow Arc Inside a Cube I, at the Heywood and loved it. It is inspired by the work of the crystallographer Dorothy Hodgkin, and reflects on how sometimes we see nature by the shadows she casts. It seemed like rather a good way into teaching about Bragg Diffraction, although it is a different mechanism, it helps to give a sense of what the scientist is trying to achieve, often something that we neglect when teaching abstract concepts to children; the Everest like – because it’s there – seems very unsatisfactory although the intellectual effort required does seem to have parallels with climbing mountains (I usually get stuck in the foothills).

Anyway, I thought it would be really interesting to hear Conrad talking about his work. And indeed it was. Gratifyingly, he, like the other artists, talked about their work with passing references to the physics involved. But I think the physics context meant that they talked about their whole body of work rather than individual pieces; and to me there seemed some similarities between the intellectual journeys that they had followed in pursuit of artistic realizations with the journeys of scientists trying to establish a theory. There is some underpinning belief about the right thing to do, which is not necessarily entirely rational, and this drives them to overcome a series of obstacles in order to bring the thing to life.

Other speakers included:

David Batchelor Really interesting on the pursuit of colour without form, I particular liked the pieces made up from old shops signs.




Adam Pritchard Going from bursting paint bubbles to kinetic pieces using viscous goo.


Gratifyingly for me, it seemed that the artists relied on technical teams in a similar way to the way that scientists rely on technicians. This isn’t just gratifying because these days I like to find technicians in everything but also if you look up a definition of technician as well as what I guess is the more common usage:

–           a person who is trained or skilled in the technicalities of a subject.

You will also find

–          a person who is skilled in the technique of an art, as music or painting.

One final comforting thought that came from the conference was that in these days of bid data there is now a role for art in helping to visualise the data. I was left hoping that one day the language of science might be art rather than science (then I might have a chance of understanding it).

So many rants in June against referees, tourists, politicians but I am choosing to vent my spleen at the idiot cyclists who feel compelled to move in front of you at the traffic light (as they will obviously be faster than you are) but in doing so get to a position where they can no longer see the traffic light so don’t move when the light goes green. Idiots! I am sure there should be a way of changing the lyrics of this song to make them fit; something like and things have learnt to cycle that ought to walk?

I rediscovered these from a great compilation ‘Scared to get happy’ that I was given as a recent birthday present. Expect more 1980s pop jangles coming soon (very soon)

And then something a little more current (?)