EXPERIMENTS: logic and emotion (and the misuse of “intuition”)

Last night we attended a dance performance of EXPERIMENTS, where Logic and Emotion Collide, a collaboration between dancers and  animal behavior scientists and ecologists. the piece is the product of a collaboration initiated in 2007 by dance choreographer Gail Lotenberg who approached Mark Winston, professor of biological science at Simon Fraser University and director of the Centre for Dialogue to establish a collaboration involving scientists and dancers. the goal was to focus on the scientific processes involved in animal behaviors which later on turned into a study of dancers’ behavior.

Once again the issue of collaboration arose: what dynamics are involved? who’s benefiting from this collaboration? what conclusions can be evinced from this sort of collaborative experience?

it appears that dance helps pinpoint new details to expedite scientific research.

An element which was, I think, misunderstood during the discussion of the dance piece (and unfortunately reappeared like a meme throughout the symposium), was the idea that art brings “intuition” to science. When I hear the term, I cannot help but thinking about instinct and intuitiveness, which makes me cringe a bit. I have no doubt that art can humanize the practice of science (and EXPERIMENTS is very mindful of this aspect): to make a huge generalization, science comes across as a cold quest for exactness and precise measurement.

However, art, and in this particular instance, dance, is not about intuition and spontaneity at all. if we want to call it intuitive, then also science is often made of intuition. As Cara Siu, one of the dancers, noted, dancers are as meticulous and rational as scientists: their body has to be constantly adjusted or they’ll face continuous injuries, and the movements have to follow very precise trajectories, or the choreography will never work as they wish.

what we tend to confuse with intuition, I think, is immediacy, which is a completely different animal. immediacy is conducive to reduction, which is one of the notions that allow common agreements and communication between different individuals. Immediacy was involved in David and Dolores Steinman’s research, who found out that a form of expression often dismissed by the scientist can indeed provide the clues to a better understanding of a variety of phenomena.