Official publicity image for LeanerFasterStronger at Sheffield Crucible.
Some years ago I was researching neuropsychology for my play The Almond and the Seahorse, which launched Sherman Cymru Theatre in Cardiff in 2008. I became fascinated with the brain and read widely and avidly (a habit which continues today, as my partner is writing about cognitive science and performance). During my research period, I spoke at length with survivors of Traumatic Brain injury (TBI) and the scientists developing our understanding of how this essential organ works, longing for some sort of official collaboration.
Now, thanks to Chol and Sheffield Theatres, imove, the Cultural Olympiad and Sheffield Hallam University’s Sport Science Department, I have what I longed for.
Art/science collaborations often get negative coverage in the press, but this is due more, I feel, to poor reportage than anything reflecting actuality. I know I’m in the presence of lazy journalism when scientists are referred to as ‘boffins’ (often caricatured in the regulation nerd black rimmed glasses and white coats, with bubbling test tubes in excitable, spilling hands), whilst the flighty, histrionic, egocentric artists are invariably ‘bohemian’.
There seems to be an artificial schism, a suggestion that the disciplines are opposites and never the two shall meet – yet both I feel require imagination and form in order to conceptualise and understand, and the fruits of both are responses to the world – whether this is a tangible, ‘seen’ Universe, or otherwise (quarks and leptons; dark matter, anybody?).
The Artist-Scientist is one of the Jungian archetypes in mythology, representing curiosity and wonder, the ability to focus and improvise unusual solutions to problems. Perhaps the ultimate posterboy is Leonardo da Vinci, whose ‘Vitruvian Man’ attempts to bring together art, mathematics, and science, considering the size of the human body in its relationship to geometry and the writings of the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius.
One of my favourite quotations from the notebooks and letters of Leonardo da Vinci is his instructions on how to develop a complete mind: ‘Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses – especially learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else.’
Such vital words which could have been written for the first time today.
(to be continued)
The Almond and the Seahorse: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2008/mar/08/theatre