The Art Of Innovation

Episodes

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Art As Protest2019100720210614 (R4)Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group, and the Science Museum’s Head of Collections, Dr Tilly Blyth, continue their series exploring how art and science have inspired each other from the Enlightenment to dark matter.

They focus on the anarchic and furious response to the devastation and trauma of the First World War by the 20th century’s most extreme art movement - Dada. It used noise, cut ups and chaos to feign the irrational and repudiate mechanised warfare.

As Ian reveals, the outrage at the senseless slaughter led many Dadaists to opt for violent and fragmented depictions of a mechanised society, expressed potently in the work of Berlin based Dadaist Otto Dix. His Card Players in which disfigured war veterans have their limbs replaced with contorted versions of prosthetic limbs, amounts to one of the most significant anti-war works by a German artist.

With an urgent need to turn around the ailing post war German economy, new efficient instruments of work for the many physically injured war veterans became a priority. As artificial limbs held in the Science Museum Group’s collection reveal, new multifunctional arms and legs literally plugged a worker into his work station like a semi optimised new part, leading many to question whether technological advance was a confinement, or a truly liberating force.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in partnership with The Science Museum Group

Photograph (C) Scottish National Gallery

Ian Blatchford and Tilly Blyth on the furious artistic reaction to WW1 mechanised warfare

How art and science have inspired each other.

Capturing Time2019100320210610 (R4)Sir Ian Blatchford and Dr Tilly Blyth continue their series exploring how art and science have inspired each other. They focus on photographic innovators of the late 1800s who used new advances in camera techniques to freeze time in the name of science, reanimate in the name of entertainment and seek new truths to human and animal motion.

At the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, Tilly examines part of the Science Museum Group’s extensive collection of photographs by photojournalist and arch showman Eadweard Muybridge. His ingenious photo sequences of stills of a horse in motion helped settle a bet over whether the animal’s hooves leave the ground at speed. He would go on to devise magic lanterns with counter rotating discs of his artistically modified picture sequences to recreate the effect of movement, to the awe and excitement of viewers across America and Europe.

Muybridge had little regard for scientific rigour but whilst on tour in Paris his methods were enough to intrigue scientists such as physiologist Etienne Jules Marey who, as Ian illustrates, devised a chronophotographic camera to achieve multiple exposures of athletes in one single plate.

Instantaneous movement had been finally captured for accurate scientific analysis and for art and entertainment.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in partnership with The Science Museum Group

Photograph by SSPL/Getty Images

Ian Blatchford and Tilly Blyth on freezing time in a speeding up world.

Celebrating Speed2019100420210611 (R4)Sir Ian Blatchford and Dr Tilly Blyth continue their series exploring how art and science have inspired each other. They focus on responses to a new love of personalised transport and the thrilling exhilaration of speed brought about by the humble bicycle.

As Tilly reveals, the exquisite yet simple design of John Kemp Starley’s Rover Safety Bicycle ushered in the 1890s Golden Age of Bicycles – an affordable means of social mobility for all. For a new movement of Avant Garde artists – the Futurists – the energy and velocity of the humble bicycle came to symbolise Italy’s rapidly changing industrial, emotional and moral landscape.

Ian visits London's Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art to examine Umberto Boccioni’s Dynamism of a Cyclist, in which man and machine appear almost as one. The bicycle became star propaganda for the Futurists, whose manifesto set out to challenge traditional society and instil a new disruptive order amidst a future based on technological advance, new freedoms and the ever accelerating pace of modern life.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in partnership with The Science Museum Group

Photograph (C) Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London

Ian Blatchford and Tilly Blyth on the Futurists' lust for speed in a new age of cycling.

Dyeing To Display2019100220210609 (R4)A 19th-century purple silk dress in the Science Museum Group’s collection, dyed with the first synthetic dye, is witness to the sheer power that new artificial colours had on turning clothing into an eye-catching art form. The accidental discovery by William Henry Perkin of an artificial purple dye from coal tar extract gave birth to “Purplemania”. It sparked a frenzy of activity among research chemists for more bright new colour dyes and in turn a new rigour in rationalising chemical reactions.

But as Tilly reveals, many in the artistic community, such as the influential Arts and Crafts movement rejected the garishness and impermanence of artificial dyes within the Victorian culture of conspicuous consumption. They sought to influence wealthier individuals with a more modest palette of fast dyes, and in so doing helped condition our reaction to the subtleties in walking the ever important tightrope of taste.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in partnership with the Science Museum Group

Photograph (C) The Science Museum Group

Tilly Blyth explores the impact of synthetic dyes on trend, turn-out and taste

How art and science have inspired each other.

Forms Of Knowledge2019100920210616 (R4)Sir Ian Blatchford and Dr Tilly Blyth continue their series exploring how art and science have inspired each other. They focus on a unique encounter between 20th century artists and their discovery of a collection of 19th century mathematical models, once used to illustrate a new world of complex spherical geometry.

As Tilly reveals these “ruled surface” stringed models, now held in the Science Museum Group collection, as well as being educational tools had their own aesthetic appeal. For the Constructivist artists, such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, they were inspiration for new imaginative and abstract sculptural creativity.

As Ian illustrates, with a visit to Hepworth’s 20 ft Winged Figure in central London, this abstract art that embraced new forms, materials and ways of constructing, became highly symbolic of the functional value for art in society. There was a strong desire for a new sense of certainty and common currency in both science and art, during the turmoil of the interwar period.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in partnership with The Science Museum Group

Photograph by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Ian Blatchford and Tilly Blyth on encounters between sculptors and stringed maths models

Humans In The Industrial Machine2019100820210615 (R4)Sir Ian Blatchford and Dr Tilly Blyth continue their series exploring how art and science have inspired each other, focussing on anxieties of production control in the industrial age.

LS Lowry’s A Manufacturing Town, along with his many other Lowryscapes, are famously ambiguous in his desire to put the Manchester industrial scene on the map. But the repetition, routine and the gaze of the factory clock is hard to escape.

Tilly examines an early 19th century attempt at production control – the Park Green silk mill clock, one of whose two clock dials dictated the worker’s working hours by being directly tied to the line shaft of the mill’s water wheel – offering relentless, structured repetitive control, much as Lowry’s painting reflects.

But rather than pressing workers from behind, could industrial efficiency be improved by easing difficulties which might confront them? Tilly examines the impact of early psychological recruitment tests that were gaining traction at the time Lowry began his famous Lowryscapes. The tests may have acknowledged that humans weren’t machines, but the ultimate goal was improved productivity.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in partnership with The Science Museum Group

Photograph (C) The Science Museum Group

Ian Blatchford and Tilly Blyth on anxieties of production control in the industrial age

How art and science have inspired each other.

Imagining Matter2019101820210625 (R4)Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum, and the Science Museum’s Head of Collections, Dr Tilly Blyth, conclude their series exploring how art and science have inspired each other. As science has become more theoretical and conceptual, how can art explore scientific thinking in areas that exceed the limits of what we can conceive?

From photomicrographs of Einstein’s chalkboard used during his lecture on the Theory of Relativity , to blowing up a shed and suspending its charred remains around a lightbulb, inspired by the scientific concept of Cold Dark Matter, the imaginative art installations of artist Cornelia Parker are testament to the way artists can suggest ways of thinking about scientific ideas that in themselves seem abstract and complex.

As Ian and Tilly conclude - from the revelatory light at the centre of Joseph Wright’s Enlightenment painting of the orrery (in Episode 1) to Cornelia Parker’s central cosmological light on what is yet to be known, the ongoing dialogue between science and art is proof they are part of the same rich culture, driven by a curiosity, a creativity and an imagination that is common to both.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in Partnership with The Science Museum

Ian Blatchford and Tilly Blyth on imaginative roles artists play in conceiving the cosmos

Patterns From Atoms2019101120210618 (R4)The thousands of visitors to the 1951 Festival of Britain were greeted with textile designs on wallpaper and furnishings that had come from atomic scale images created by X ray crystrallography. Images of compounds such as insulin and haemoglobin informed almost every aspect of the festival décor. It was the result of a unique collaboration between textile designers, manufacturers and scientists.

Tilly examines the evolution of the Festival Pattern Group, who would weave a fine line between good design and scientific credibility. As the Group’s molecular patterns on wallpaper and clothing held in the Science Museum Group’s collection reveal, a new window into an invisible molecular world now opened up to the public, a world which previously had only been visible to scientists. Whilst it was all part of the Festival’s post war “tonic to the nation” it rendered the atom benign in an era of cold war anxiety about the excesses of science. It also raised the cultural profile of crystallography.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in partnership with The Science Museum Group

Photograph courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum

Tilly Blyth on atomic design d\u00e9cor at the 1951 Festival of Britain

How art and science have inspired each other.

Patterns Of Thought2019101720210624 (R4)Sir Ian Blatchford and Dr Tilly Blyth continue their series exploring how art and science have inspired each other, from the Enlightenment to Dark Matter. They examine whether the digital computer, that simply follows a series of logical steps, can produce original art without the creative and emotional intention of a human.

Ian visits Longplayer a piece of music created using an algorithm designed by ex Pogues musician Jem Finer. It will play for a millennium, without repetition, ending on December 31st 2999. The algorithm that defines Longplayer allows the music to be composed in real time according to simple rules. It’s music that plays with ideas of human and physical time

Over 100 years before the digital computer age, Ada Lovelace made a significant intellectual leap by suggesting a computing machine could be used not just for numerical expressions but to manipulate quantities other than number, such as musical notes. As Tilly reveals, it goes to the heart of questions about whether, in the future, anything as a mundane as a piece of computer code can generate music and art that’s genuinely creative without human input.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in partnership with The Science Museum Group

Photograph (C) LongPlayer Trust

Ian Blatchford and Tilly Blyth on computer creativity and sonic art produced by algorithms

How art and science have inspired each other.

Plants On Paper2019093020210607 (R4)Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group, and the Science Museum’s Head of Collections, Dr Tilly Blyth, continue their series exploring how art and science have inspired each other from the Enlightenment to dark matter

They focus on new ways of illustrating scientific knowledge in the mid 19th century through early photography and print in the blooming world of botanical science.

The desire to take emerging technology and try something new is evident from the first photographic images of plants in a print book: Ian examines botanist Anna Atkins’ stunning and detailed hand printed images of algae held in the Science Museum Group’s collection. Her “cyanotypes” were created by placing specimens of seaweed directly onto photographic paper.

Artist and scientist appear as one, but tensions arise in the desire to create images of plants that are both scientifically useful yet aesthetically pleasing. As Tilly reveals, botanical illustration continued to thrive from a growing need to advance botanical science through the shared drawings and print engravings of skilled naturalists, such as George Worthington Smith. His detailed illustrations for the long running Gardener’s Chronicle ensured new discoveries reached a vast discerning and diverse readership.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in partnership with the Science Museum Group

Photograph by SSPL/Getty Images

Ian Blatchford and Tilly Blyth on capturing and publishing images of the botanical world

How art and science have inspired each other.

Polaroid Perceptions2019101520210622 (R4)Sir Ian Blatchford and Dr Tilly Blyth continue their series exploring how art and science have inspired each other with a focus on the Polaroid snapshot.

Edwin Land’s invention of near instantaneous photographs without the need for a darkroom, opened up an exciting new chapter of artistic expression and turned the snapshot into a way of exploring human perception.

As Tilly reveals, Land’s pioneering research lab at Polaroid was a convergence of art and technology. It led to new insights into how we as humans perceive coloured objects under many different conditions.

Land’s experimentation closely paralleled artist David Hockney’s foray into Polaroid photography in the early 1980’s His “Sun on a Pool Los Angeles” is a composite of 77 Polaroid snaps from different close up positions of the same scene. As Ian illustrates, Hockney set out to manipulate time and space in an attempt to turn a scene captured instantaneously by a camera, into one which more realistically reflects how we see in real life.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in Partnership with The Science Museum Group

Image reproduced permission of David Hockney Studios

Ian Blatchford and Tilly Blyth on shaping artistic landscapes through Polaroid snapshots

How art and science have inspired each other.

Protecting The Earth2019101620210623 (R4)The landmark BBC TV drama Edge of Darkness by creative screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin, became a gritty but nuanced thriller, exploring many powerful themes that dominated cultural and political life in the early 1980’s - from the secrecy of the nuclear state, to the hopes and fears unleashed by the growing tide of global environmentalism.

As Tilly Blyth reveals, the spiritual and scientific inspiration that gives the drama its much lauded spiritual and mythical quality arises from the Gaia hypothesis by maverick scientist James Lovelock. His controversial concept of the Earth as a system in equilibrium, divided environmental scientists. But as Tilly discovers, through the Lovelock archives held in the Science Museum Group collections, Lovelock’s “Daisyworld” model of the Earth’s ability to regulate itself, gave the hypothesis a growing degree of credibility. Edge of Darkness would embrace this power of Gaia leading to a poignant and dramatic climax, and become one of the most critically acclaimed TV series of the decade.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in partnership with The Science Museum

Tilly Blyth on a new awareness of a fragile Earth in the mystical drama Edge of Darkness

How art and science have inspired each other.

Reaching For The Moon2019100120210608 (R4)Nearly a century before the Apollo astronauts first captured close up images of the lunar surface, similar detailed photographs had appeared in a book by artist and engineer James Nasmyth. Ian unravels the extraordinary creative process Nasmyth went through. He made meticulous drawings from nightly moon observations though his 20 inch telescope, from which he moulded in plaster detailed recreations of the lunar surface. One of his carefully crafted models in the Science Museum Group’s collection is testament to the sheer amount of scientific detail Nasmyth fashioned, and went on to light and then photograph.

It’s no secret Nasmyth’s artistic creations were highly contrived. But intriguingly, as Ian reveals, at a time when this new era of photography offered science an objective untainted eye, it’s Nasmyth’s very contrivance that led to universal praise for their accuracy and authenticity. It was to prove a pivotal moment in the history of scientific imagery and kick-started realistic renderings of other worlds.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in partnership with The Science Museum Group

Photograph (C) The Science Museum Group

Ian Blatchford on James Nasmyth\u2019s compelling images of the lunar surface

How art and science have inspired each other.

Supersonic2019101020210617 (R4)Sir Ian Blatchford and Dr Tilly Blyth continue their series exploring how art and science have inspired each other. They focus on one of the earliest artistic attempts to convey the science and dreams of breaking the sound barrier.

As Ian reveals, transport artist Roy Nockolds’ Supersonic was one of the first abstract images to be commissioned by the aviation industry. It’s an insider’s view of the otherwise secretive post-war research into supersonic test flying that was taking place at the Royal Aeronautical Establishment in Farnborough.

The ultimate challenge of being able to handle a supersonic plane at all speeds was largely met by refining the aircraft wings. As Tilly illustrates, a scale model used to test the effects of wind speeds is held in the Science Museum Group’s collection and is testament to the technological endeavour that would lead to a new era of supersonic travel, and the most iconic aircraft design of the post war period – Concorde.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in partnership with The Science Museum Group

Photograph (C) The Science Museum Group

Ian Blatchford and Tilly Blyth on iconic imagery in the race to break the sound barrier

Wonder Materials2019101420210621 (R4)Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group, and the Science Museum’s Head of Collections, Dr Tilly Blyth, continue their series exploring how art and science have inspired each other from the Enlightenment to dark matter.

They focus on a new post-war age of ambivalence in the relationship between art and science through a 1951 parable about the drive for new artificial textiles and the dangers of scientific hubris.

The Ealing comedy the Man in the White Suit presents Britain seeking to relaunch itself as a high tech nation. It stars Alec Guinness as Sidney Stratton, a divisive chemist with the personal aim of making an indestructible synthetic fibre. It’s a potential boon for consumers but would deal a deathblow for the textile industry.

As Tilly reveals, the film reflects the mixed reactions to new synthetic substitutes for silk and cotton. It warns of the dangers of narrow minded scientific hubris, and shows how art can effectively address some of the big challenges we face in developing socially responsible technologies.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in partnership with The Science Museum Group

Photograph by LMPC via Getty Images

Ian Blatchford and Tilly Blyth on industrial change captured in The Man in the White Suit

How art and science have inspired each other.