Interview with Dr Darren Nesbeth

IMG_1536Dr Darren Nesbeth is currently a lecturer at UCL, a member of the Royal society of Biologists and member of the institution of chemical engineers. He specialises in the themes of Bioprocessing and Synthetic Biology. We were able to get in contact with him after going to explore ‘London Hackspace’, located in Bethnal Green; a shared space which provides for a variety of disciplines, including a laboratory for the members of ‘BioHack’. Through writing to the club, Dr Nesbeth generously gave his time to discuss his past experiences with art alongside his profession.

He discussed taking part in a project and competition named ‘International Genetically Engineered Machines’ (iGEM). The multidisciplinary group he had advised in 2010, managed to gain a gold medal whilst competing against 128 other universities around the globe. During this period, he was able to work with a Central Saint Martins (CSM) student, David Bennett, and a past Slade School of Art (UCL) student, Giulia Ricci. Together with students from Biochemical Engineering and Science and Technology, their project produced a technology which boost productivity and reduce the cost of drug production. We would like to try and email the practitioners mentioned as they too show an interest in the art and sciences.

For our group, it was fascinating to be able to get a point of view from a scientist who had engaged with art through many different experiences. In some cases, Dr Nesbeth suggested that scientists can have the capacity to potentially dishearten or demoralise artists. In the broadest terms, an example would be collaborating to make a new material, which incurs in a realisation that the process can take long periods of time; something that could be too prolonged for an ever changing and developing art practice.

On the other hand, artists have the ability to inspire scientists or engineers into becoming artists themselves. By comparison, Dr Nesbeth proposed that there are similarities between the two disciplines. Ideas of this could be the creative process of experimentation in order to achieve an intended outcome, as well as the craftsmanship which can be arguably involved in producing both art and aiding advances in science.

Thinking about the workshop that we had provided for the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts to encourage and interpret their engagement with art and science, we asked Dr Nesbeth whether art can make science more accessible to the public. From this he questioned whether art is accessible to the public. In some cases, like micro-biologist and ‘Exploring the Invisible’ blogger Simon Sublime, artists can make mundane data and the unknown more tangible and ‘aesthetically pleasing’. This question is interesting and could be seen as rather controversial; one that us as a group cannot answer. However through our research from this project and the workshops completed, we could say that the overall experiences we and others have produced with the influence of science have been able to encourage emotive responses through discovery, experimenting and learning, allowing an appreciation of both disciplines.

Dr Nesbeth audio

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