A look at: Arts and science

In addition to researchers, the Centre for Science and Culture also regularly collaborates with artists. For example, Studium Generale produces “The Futurists” in collaboration with Het Nieuw Utrechts Toneel. This unique combination of interviews and theatre sees musicians and writers translate a high-profile researcher's vision into a theatrical performance within the space of a single day. During the Betweter Festival, visitors could walk through the colour cross, a work of art that challenged visitors to think about mental health. The colour cross was initiated by researchers at Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht and created by Florentijn Hofman. What can we gain from the intersection of art and science? 

As a scientist, you try to deduce reality using commonly accepted models and concepts. The question is, how do you come up with totally new ideas? Artists aren't constrained by any scientific protocols. Their focus on imagination and experimental thinking opens up new horizons that can inspire us as researchers. The writers participating in The Futurists managed to connect my abstract observations with a lived reality. They translate my research into a format that appeals to a broad audience. That's not something I'm particularly good at, and I don't really see the need to learn how to do this myself.

As I'm noticing at The Futurists, creators and researchers both get inspired when they meet and interact. Science reveals possibilities and sparks our imagination. On the other hand, we can do the same for science, because we're able to use free association and come up with unconventional perspectives. It's important to share our reflections on social and technological developments with the general public. Our world becomes a more interesting place when we allow different voices to join the conversation.

As a researcher, I think it's important to take an interdisciplinary approach. Still, it's hard to step out of your own discipline in practice. You know exactly where you want to go and how to get there. Working with artists and observing their unique approach to problems automatically inspires me to think out of the box more. Artists also have an ability to impact people on an emotional level, which really helps the audience to retain scientific information more effectively.

Text: Erwin Maas

Makers staan op het podium tijdens De Futuristen van Studium Generale
Photo: Ward Mevis


This article also appears in the third edition of the magazine Close-Up, full of inspiring columns, background stories and experiences of researchers and support staff.

Go to Close-up #3