RTD info logoMagazine on European Research

Special Issue - March 2004

Tiede + Taide = two cultures

Science has long abandoned its quest for truth, and art no longer operates in terms of beauty. Science continues to perceive the world and attempts to understand it. Art translates and transfigures it. Art and science both involve thought, intuition, imagination, and research. But what do they have in common and what separates them? In Finnish, this very unusual language from outside the Indo-European framework, science is translated as ‘tiede’ (from the verb tietää, to know) and art as ‘taide’ (from the verb taitaa, to make something known). ‘Conditioned by their language, Finns are led to seek the connection between these two fields of human activity,’ explains mathematician Osmo Pekonen. Any politician, journalist or sponsor who pronounces the word tiede with any solemnity almost instinctively adds the word taide. When you practise or sponsor one, you should not forget the other.’

Has RTD info adopted the Finnish mindset? Is a Framework Programme or a Commission action plan about to be launched to research the relationship between science and the arts? Interactions between science and society are unquestionably an expanding European activity. Let us add, more simply, that this special issue responds to the desire of many readers to see science presented differently, as a vital component – just like art – of our shared European culture.

Working on this topic, you quickly become aware of its prolixity, if not banality. Art and science, arts and sciences – in the singular or plural without knowing exactly why – are constantly present in symposia, specialist reviews, lectures, and seminars. Clearly, these are areas in which exchanges and collaboration also offer European ‘added value’. The media unconscious has to exist and we are simply going with the flow, but is this sufficient reason for putting the clock back?

What spurs on our quest is the quality of the people encountered, the projects undertaken, and the places imagined. The question posed, in a different way each time, is that of the frontiers and areas of entente between these two universes, of what is specific to each of them and how they can enrich one another in a reciprocal way.

Each encounter opened up new prospects – avenues that had to be abandoned because a 44-page magazine [ http://ec.europa.eu/research/rtdinfo/pdf/rtdspecial_as_en.pdf ] has its limits. Ideally, we would have met and spoken with architects, evoked the relationships between music and mathematics, talked about how artists grasped new technologies and virtual space, visited science and technology museums, questioned the way education maintains the famous divide between scientific and literary cultures. But this would have required more space and more time, and we have been forced to cut short an investigation close to the hearts of scientists and artists alike.