Jun 15

When we decided to create the Artistically Irrational series, we hoped to catalyze the scientific process by bringing art directly into the place where we work and think.

Behavioral research is an indispensable tool for social scientists looking to understand and comment on the fascinating world in which we find ourselves. Controlled experiments allow us to measure and reflect on issues ranging from injustice to advertising, the taste of beer to medical conflicts of interest, and even social networks like Facebook or Twitter. Such experiments allow us to reliably test whether our intuitions about the world are true and figure out when, how, and why we are wrong. Art fills a similar void, filtering ideas and motivations through individual sensibilities, then taking the result and crystallizing it into something more or less universal. And although there are many differences between the worlds of Science and Art, both can provide useful social commentary. In fact, it is these very differences that invite a discussion between the two. We hope that, through this project, the scientific and artistic approaches can fertilize one another and expand the lines of communication between two fields that have so much in common but speak to one another so rarely.

The Artistically Irrational exhibition series is essentially an experiment in feedback loops. Each project begins with a discussion of social science research on a particular topic and a request for artists to express themselves through their art. Then, surrounded by the fruits of their labor, we get to further reflect on our research through their eyes, using their insights to enrich the meaning of our studies.

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Creative Dishonesty: Cheat Codes

The first show revolved around our research on cheating and dishonesty. After I spoke to a group of artists, they went back to their studios and put together their interpretations of our findings. They came back with a range of pieces exploring the nature of dishonesty – especially as it related to their own practices. Several artists investigated the moral status of artistic “borrowing” and the thin line between appropriation and flat-out plagiarism. One artist played with the idea of citation, which is virtually nonexistent in art but is a practice with rigid requirements in the sciences (see APA, 2010). Another considered how the mere label of “art” affects how we experience something, whether it is a flattened steel grid or a topsy turvy urinal. Other artists examined the spiral of bad decisions that can spring from one little transgression, and how moral reminders or cleansing rituals can help us correct our misdeeds and start over. Many explored the ways that we lie to others and ourselves, how we hold distorted worldviews and memories – and the rationalizations that go along with them.

All of these pieces revolved around an interesting finding of our research: the tendency of creatives to be less honest than non-creatives. As David Hockney said, “the moment you cheat for the sake of beauty, you know you’re an artist.”

A Sample from the Show:

(click on images for larger view)

Photos taken by Aline Grüneisen

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And because the Creative Dishonesty exhibit was such a success, we decided to host another art show, this time following the theme of social and economic inequality, wealth distribution, and what is so taxing about taxation. This exhibit, PoorQuality: Inequality has just been installed and will accompany me in the Center for Advanced Hindsight until August 31.

If you can make it, I highly recommend coming to our opening reception on June 22 from 6 – 10 PM.

For more photos and information about the Artistically Irrational exhibition series, see our website or contact curator Catherine Howard at artisticallyirrational@gmail.com