The word ‘consilience’ was first used by William Whewellin 1840 in The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences to describe the coincidence of one class of facts with another. More recently, E. O. Wilson has made of us the term to describe the linking together of ideas from different disciplines into more comprehensive theories. In his 1998 publication Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, Wilson argues that methods employed in integrating the sciences could also be used to promote understanding and communication among the sciences, the arts, and the humanities, thereby fostering a better understanding of ourselves and our world.
In many ways, art and science are likely bedfellows. Both support a culture of experimentation that is inspired by curiosity, while attracting individuals interested in generating fresh ideas and forging new paths. Consequently, there is a discoverable history of unifying practices, practitioners, and organizations dedicated to artists and scientists dating back to the Lunar Society.
Photography has a singular place in this unfolding history. Invented by means of a scientific process that changed the nature of visual representation and thus, art making, our medium has been a natural means of blending the two disciplines since its advent. Moreover, photographers who have bridged this gap include such iconic figures as Eadweard Muybridge, Margaret Bourke-White, and Berenice Abbott.
In recent decades, new scientific developments have radically changed the manner in which we, as human beings, understand ourselves, down to our three-billion-letter sequence of DNA. Contemporary science permeates our culture in ways that are difficult for artists to ignore. And many artists have mined emerging concepts in neuroscience, nanotechnology, and astrophysics for their own practices. Likewise, the most revolutionary developments in science are often dependent upon the arts. Scientists have moved beyond human sensory perception, from subatomic particles that cannot be seen to alternate dimensions that cannot be visited. Art provides scientists with imagery and analogy and sometimes with a much-needed space in which to explore unanswerable questions and illogical ideas.
Consilience: Photographers Operating at the Intersection of Art and Science, currently on display in the International Center of Photography Library’s window, is a selection of 12 twenty-first century publications that celebrates the creative work of photographers operating at the intersection of art and science, including: Brandon Ballengée, Jim Bell, Mark Dion, Felice Frankel, Joan Fontcuberta, Clifford Ross, A. A. Ruiz, Madeline Schwartzman, David Maisel and Catherine Wagner, James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau, Adam Bartos, Michael Burton, Peter Campus, Robert Canali, Linda Connor, Olafur Eliasson, Vincent Fournier, Stan Gaz, Sharon Harper, Ian Harrison, Tim Hawkinson, Susann Hertrich, Golan Levin, Jason Lazarus, Charles Lindsay, Noel Rodo-Vankeulen, Phillip Scott Andrews, Greg Stimac, Neilson Tam, Ei Wada, Danielle Wilde, and Clemems Winkler. The photo book provides a comprehensive and accessible venue to explore these photographers’ unique practices.
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