When Science and Art Become A Thing . . .

When Science and Art Become A Thing . . .

5:25pm Jul 25, 2014
Completed 3-D visualization of a pop song written by local artist, Scott Betz.
Laura Huff

SciWorks Radio is a production of 88.5 WFDD and SciWorks, the Science Center and Environmental Park of Forsyth County, located in Winston-Salem.

While we don’t always think about art and science together as a thing, the two can be very much entwined. Think about what you know about space. How much was inspired, or even shaped by films or TV? Even non-fiction science documentaries often use an artist's rendition of what we know to create what you see. And in the applied sciences, sometimes it takes a leap of creative genius to take a scientific concept and move it into a practical application. Much of the work at the Center for Design Innovation in Winston-Salem involves an overlay of art with science and technology in order to achieve its goals. I spoke with their Interim Director, artist Scott Betz.

I remember my father would come downstairs and I’d been watching seven or eight hours of cartoons just back to back. Some of my first art tools would've been an animation desk. I found a way to build my one light table to make an animation desk. And I was really interested in telling stories with art. I think that I benefit from having conversations with scientists and I'm wondering would the scientists have benefit from conversations with artists.

So what do you get when you give a prolific artist some cool technology to play with?

Some of the main technologies at the Center for Design Innovation is 3-D printing, and I knew I wanted to work with it. One of the things that I'm seeing is that 3-D printing has been used in the sciences, it's been used with engineering and medicine. What I don't see happening is that while 3-D printing is sort of an artistic media they use a lot of same terms in the bio-meds side of it, like bio-inks and substrates-- that sort of thing. I don't know that there are a lot of artists that are in the dialogue.

Scott came up with an innovative idea to mesh science and technology with his art.

The idea was that I would find a way to put the data points together to create a 3-D print. And I wanted to find out what would be the most creative way to generate that data. I know that my son is very interested in rock 'n' roll and very interested in music so I found a way that we could create a pop song. I started it and I let him have it for a while and he tried to make it cool, cause I’m just an old guy. I was trying to keep the data as interesting as possible. So we have one layer that's the song, and you might imagine there's a kind of speed in the song where there's different chords and those are different data points. But I was also trying to pull in from other areas, and so from social media I was taking all my my Facebook friends quotes and comments and posts And tearing them apart and creating a song that way.

With any project involving multiple parts, collaboration with other experts is key to getting the job done, and getting the job done right.

Then I had to use a lot of people in the community because I didn't have all the expertise to be able to make the 3-D print by myself. It's more than just hitting a button and sending it to the printer. You really need to understand the modeling side of it and you need to have a way for the machines to understand what it is that you built. I worked with an intern from University of North Carolina Greensboro. She came up with a tornadic kind of cone where the music, instead of being away from going from left to right, it circled and as the song progressed it moved up and so it looked a little bit like this tornado shape.

This experience stands as an example of why inter-disciplinary collaboration is important.

What I came away with was it's not the 3-D print that is the art. I really believe the art happened in a lot of the collaboration, the new interaction between people that I never worked with before. And as a process, it's going to yield other projects so much more readily because we've had this dialogue and this kind of discussion. I think that there's something about a process that when you have four or five different perspectives looking at the same process they might come up with quicker, better, more ingenious ways of applying that process. 3-D printing shouldn't really be set off all by itself. It needs to be in the whole sort of constellation of the pipeline of it. And so yes, we can. We can 3-D print. We can print out these wonderful objects; these objects that are created with tools differently than all the sculptural tools we've had in the past. But it really connects with all the other elements that are with it, and that's really what I find really exciting about 3-D printing.

This Time Round, the theme music for SciWorks Radio, appears as a generous contribution by the band Storyman and courtesy of UFOmusic.com. 

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