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Building relations for transdisciplinary interactions

As part of the development process of the MA Art and Science programme at Central Saint Martins, it was necessary to establish relations with actors and institutions from different fields. Such relation-building strategy was seen as an integral part of the programme’s transdisciplinary approach to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM). In practice, these relations have led to collaborations through public-facing events and off-site activities between MA Art and Science students and diverse entities.

Because the MA Art and Science is based in an arts school, there has been a need to build relations with scientific institutions and professionals to enable students to interact with these communities. From a pedagogical perspective, the creation of a transdisciplinary collaboration network beyond the school has also been a valuable strategy to enrich students’ experiences, enabling them to engage with diverse audiences through artistic projects, gaining visibility and building a professional network.

The local environment has been an important asset for the creation of such collaborations. The location of Central Saint Martins campus in Central London has facilitated relations with institutions such as the British Library, the National Gallery, the Science Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Wellcome Collection, the Crick Institute, the Gordon Museum of Pathology and the Royal Society, amongst many other institutions.

As part of the MA programme’s transdisciplinary interactions, the students have conducted projects like the ‘Encounters between Arts and Science’ exhibition in 2013, producing artworks that explored  the interface between art, science and the British Library’s collections and building. Another project partner has been the UK Government Office for Science. For instance, in the ‘Tracing Wastelands’ exhibition, students debated, scoped and illustrated the “Transition from Waste to Resource Productivity report” through their works. Since 2019, there has been a collaboration with the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) with annual visits in which students have had the opportunity to to learn more about CERN’s discoveries, experiments and innovations. As a result of these visits, students have produced exhibitions in London and Switzerland with pieces that contributed to public engagement on CERNs’ activity.

Another international activity offered to the master students consists in a one-week retreat at La Joya, an artistic residence for international artists set in an ‘off-grid’ rural upland farm in a natural park in Spain. In this unique environment students work together, spending time outdoors and in studio spaces to explore art and ecology using a wide range of materials and creative methods. 

The collaborations conducted in the framework of the master studies have contributed to create a forum and space in which students can debate, experiment and develop new perspectives. In some cases such interactions have extended the scope of a specific project and students have engaged in new collaborations with the institutions. From a broader perspective, the network created through the MA Art and Science has shown a successful strategy to trigger students to embrace diverse challenges, gaining insights into the relationships between different ways of thinking and problem solving, and learning how to present ideas and engage with the public through their works.

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