The third item on my list of ideal-typical reasons why museums want to bring art and science together is that art is a great cross-disciplinary integrator. The argument goes like this:
As culturally established factories for the production of meaning in the knowledge society, the humanities have a strong disciplinary function. In other words, our research practices tend to lie within the disciplinary boundaries of pre-established conceptual power-games (philosophy, sociology, political science, history etc.). Such games are keeping our universities orderly and are holding professors and students safely away from the scandal of real global problems. (I guess Slavoj Zizek could have said this.)
And here is where art comes in. Thinking about biomedical laboratories and practices in aesthetic terms can help us raise our awareness of seeing biomedical objects phenomenologically, seeing them outside pregiven disciplinary boundaries. Instead of explaining objects in terms of disciplinary conceptual structures and narratives, museums ask their audience to engage with the objects in a bottom-up process, thereby providing opportunities to formulate new questions about the biomedical world (cf. Daniel Miller’s book, The Comfort of Things, on this).
[the next post will be about art and scientific citizenship]