Christian Grajewski: Acting at the intersection of art and science

It has become normal, natural even, to consider creative subjects as the antithesis to scientific ones.

Anecdotally, a scientist is revealed within the book club: “You mean you’re from KB?” Or the public’s transfixion on a certain Mancunian physicist, permanently wonderstruck yet with an affinity for the keyboard.

Despite the humour behind the fallacy, it seems this has morphed into a serious issue requiring government intervention and specialised institutions. The American National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine released a joint report back in May, “The Integration of the Humanities and Arts with Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Higher Education”, supporting the rejuvenation of art- science initiatives.

More locally, Edinburgh’s own Summerhall hosts the ‘Artiscience’ library, a self-coined term for promoting art and science. The noteworthy charity brings art and science together, with some exceptional workshops if you want to try your hand at laboratory techniques such as microscopy or growing cell cultures. Exploring the changing art-science landscape, artist Christian Grajewski describes his view on the intersection of art and science and introduces his new adventure into the world of sciencefiction:

“317 years after humankind’s extinction, the OUREA reaches herfinal destination, the planet Aion.”

Christian Grajewski is the artist behind an intriguing new concept art for a science fiction novel he is creating with colleagues while on sabbatical. The creation particularly resonates because of its emphasis on reality; Grajewski stated, “my main thoughts were, where are the humans going to live […] what would we take with us [and] how [would we] store it?” He used the engineering requirements of such a transport and continued on to wonder, “how could all of that look as simple, but interesting, as possible”. Ourea, the art’s namesake, were the progeny of Gaia, the personification of Earth in Greek mythology, and fashioned from Gaia’s own body. “The OUREA is the biggest construction humankind has ever build, so I found [that] the meaning fits pretty well”, Grajewski went on to explain.

Trained as an automobile industry designer, Grajewski has already been exposed to engineering inspired art or, if you are so disposed, art inspired engineering. Swiftly getting to the crux of the matter he wrote, “In my career, I had the most fun when I could work with an open-minded engineer. Both sides have to respect each other because both are bringing things to the table the other party can’t think of.” It seems the most enticing aspect of science meeting art is the unpredictable possibilities that can be realised when people with different skill sets, motivations and mindsets collaborate.

There seems to be a modern resurgence in scientists themselves turning to art as nurturing for innovation. For example, last year London’s V&A museum hosted its very first engineer in residence, Julian Melchiorri, who developed the ‘Man-made Leaf’. Professor David Goodsell’s cell illustrations also come to mind for exploring the structure of biomolecules. When questioned about similar inspirations, Grajewski rather naturally referred to the iconic concept artist Syd Mead who contributed to sci-fi classics such as Alien, Blade Runner and Tron. As a fellow designer in the automobile industry, Grajewski remarked, “the things [Syd was] able to create […] in a time long before the world was connected is just outstanding”.

Perhaps it is time to let go of the rigid academic system stemming from questionable Victorian era education. As Grajewski’s favourite Einstein quote goes, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” Are the seeds being planted for the return of the polymath? Keep up to date with Grajewski’s work on his website, www.christiangrajewski.com.

Image: Futurilla via Flick

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