Interdepartmental, or the involvement of many departments or classes, is the main focus of INTD 288: the exploration of the art of Steve Prince. From the beginning I found it difficult to see the connections between art and other subjects of study, especially within my major in STEM. However, as this semester evolved and more professors presented how their departments correlated to art, I began to alter my outlook. Many colleges debate the need for interdisciplinary courses. Some argue that a systematic course schedule with classes that pertain to a desired major is better, while other schools, mostly liberal arts colleges, enforce the need for students to take general education courses. On one hand, students get frustrated when they are forced to pay and take courses that aren’t involved with the track for their major. On the other hand, many debate that outside courses often apply, and facilitate a greater understanding, towards their field of study.
With the present push for STEM programs and advancement, many education centers see a decline for funding in the arts. This drive has established a hierarchy within the various departments, leaving many asking, why is one field of study held in a higher accord in comparison to another? With a society obsessed with the race of progression, we often forget the beginnings of our education and the roots that began most of these studies. Science is defined as “the methodical study of the physical or material world.” What is more interesting is the synonyms of the term. The first three to appear are art, discipline, and education. Presently, not many STEM majors would describe science as a form of art.
With this definition, many forget how the study of science was established. Science originated in art, as many people during those time periods were illiterate; simple drawings were used to get people’s ideas across. Throughout history, advances in science mirror the advances in artistic development, making them interconnected. Early Botany was rooted in diagrams of different species of plants and fungi. Anatomical depictions appeared in Da Vinci’s notebooks with intense details to the skeletal and muscular network in humans. Later in time, in 1876, Willard Gibbs’ performed work on the Theory of Free Energy. Physicists and chemists during that year focused on the dynamics of change, creating the field of thermodynamics. Artists mirrored this advancement by portraying an interplay of order, disorder, and energy in an artistic sense; one example is Van Gogh’s Farmhouse in Provence painting. His painting displayed swirls of energy merging with the sharp outlines of the farmhouse showing the chaos and entropy in the world. Another artist influenced by the advances made in science is Janet Saad-Cook, who intersects space, time, and light with her “sun drawings”. By using metals and coated glass, she creates reflected images that responds to light and the passage of time.
A novel by Joe Moran continues this idea of science evolving through other departments of study as he investigates the need to make courses interdepartmental. Moran theorizes that “a more productive interdisciplinary space might be constructed by examining the ways in which scientific ideas extend beyond the area of specialist inquiry and form part of culture: and how they interact with ‘non-science’”. Later, he connects Darwinism to social constructs; “survival of the fittest”, coined by the British scientist and philosopher Herbert Spencer, created the fusion of biology and social thought on colonization and evolution. So with all of these examples of science reciprocity with other forms of study, why are we continuously segregating courses? Also, how does this class reinforce the idea of bring interdepartmental?
INTD 288 allowed for most departments to come and lecture about how their study influences art. For example, Olympia Nicodemi demonstrated the influence of mathematics upon the proportions and scale of artwork. Professor David Levy spoke on how philosophy sometimes influences artists and vice versa. All of the guest speakers elaborated how Steve Prince evokes the interconnection of studies within his work. Focusing on the scientific influences, we see how Prince draws from the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and connects it to cellular processes. Our cells will respond to stress by apoptosis (cell suicide), adapting their membrane size, or activating particular cellular pathways to alleviate the strain. This idea is mirrored in the prints under the Katrina Suite.
In the Suite’s first piece, Katrina’s Dirge, the eyes of the viewers are directed to the center of the paper, where massive horsemen are buckling to the ground from carrying a heavy casket. We also see that the street signs bearing the names of Desire and Melpomene, “housing projects where people die quick, violent deaths, as well as the slow, social death of finding themselves outside of the protection of the legal system”, as Prince describes. This is correlated to cellular apoptosis as cells will perish under too much stress, just as the people of New Orleans did under hurricane Katrina. Also, from his work titled Second Line I-IV, depicted spirits emerge from the four horsemen’s mouths; a metaphor for respiration as the horsemen follow with their second line.
So why are science classes segregated and dismissive of other subjects like art? STEM courses involve almost every aspect of other disciplines, like how philosophy and business tie in with patient care. Or how the arts are involved in therapy and restorative procedures. Through this class, that idea was made evident, especially through the many guest speakers. I hope that interdepartmental courses become more common in education’s future and influence an appreciation of other studies, not a hierarchy.