Beyond Bifurcation: Thinking the Abstractions of Art-Science after A.N. Whitehead

Andrew C Lapworth

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The past few decades have seen the proliferation of discourses, practices, and spaces of what has come to be termed ‘art-science’. Employed in the social sciences as a loose umbrella term for a heterogeneous array of practices, art-science is typically seen to be united by a common attempt to explore and open up the liminal space between the methods, knowledges, and objects of these increasingly bifurcated disciplines. Pushing beyond the representational logic of interdisciplinary ‘communication’ that continues to frame social science engagements, this paper instead explores the implications of the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead for how we might rethink art-science as a space of ontological encounter that opens a creative interval in disciplinary habits of thought that transforms how the world appears. What Whitehead offers is an understanding of art and science as modes of thought which can enhance capacities to be affected by material relations and nonhuman forces in ways that orient thinking and perception towards other possible individuations. In particular, I foreground the concept of ‘abstraction’ as an important conceptual frame through which to rethink art-science encounters as ethical interventions in worlds of process that produce empirically-felt variations in the way experience comes to matter (Stengers, 2008). I flesh this out through an engagement with the Bristol-based nanoart collective danceroom Spectroscopy whose installations, I argue, creatively engage artistic (new media and technologies of visualisation; contemporary dance), scientific (the speculative concepts of the nanoscale and molecular fields), and corporeal (the intensities and forces of dancing bodies) techniques of abstraction in ways that modify our capacities for thinking and feeling the immanent forces and nonhuman agencies of emergent (nano-) worlds.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Number of pages12
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2015


  • Art-science
  • A. N. Whitehead
  • Process
  • Aesthetics
  • subjectivity
  • dance
  • non-representational theory


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