Art as a mode of enquiry

R.D.Brown, August 2000

early definition March 1997

I 'borrowed' this term from a 1970's book on Art and Science [ref 1] - where it seemed an appropriate phrase for locating art driven research in a design orientated discipline, which generally focusses on practical issues of Human Computer Interaction - user interfaces, graphic design etc.

The territories within the CRD research group - Psychosocial Design, Critical Design and the Active Media Group do however challenge the classical distinction between design and art - perhaps signifying a cultural shift as design becomes life-style and art is both commodified and popularised.

I have found that my research has pushed the boundaries of what is technically and conceptually possible.
A prime example being the desire to create "virtual unrealities" rather than simulating perceived reality
(see Leonardo article).
This motivation resulted in the creation of bespoke software orientated towards the simulation of real-time Dynamic Form.Traditional VR software with a history of industrial simulations proved innappropriate for this work, encapsulating a model of a Euclidean perspectival space containing static objects that were to be driven, walked or flown through.
[ref 2]

The production of unencumbered immersive experiences were important in the delivery of the artwork - transparency of interaction - the disappearing computer were its resultants.The MIT Fish thus became an important sensing technology in the development of gesturally responsive or body centric artworks.

New computational territories such as Artificial Life also represent a blurring of boundaries, giving rise to new interdisciplinary fertilisation -

Biology <-> Computational Science :: morphogenesis and emergence

Neural Simulation <-> Philsophical enquiry :: the nature of consciousness

The Biotica project thus became both artwork and research as new fields of enquiry led to new questions about both the nature of life (real or artificial) and the perception or cognition of the defining principles of "aliveness". The results of this research work are to be published as part of a series by CRD Research.


1.Rieser, Dolf; Art and Science.ed. John Lewis, Studio Vista/Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, New York 1972.

Paper at 3rd UKVRSIG Conference 1996:
Real Virtuality: the modulation of space, time and energy