Engineer and Artist - A Promising Collaboration

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News and Resources for Members of the IEEE Signal Processing Society

Engineer and Artist - A Promising Collaboration

In November 2015, IEEE Potentials published a theme issue focusing on the intersection of engineering and science with the arts.

This engineering and art theme issue presents articles that dissect and present, in simple terms, the many interesting outcomes possible when we begin to wear the hats of both an engineer or scientist and an artist. Has it been attempted previously? You may be surprised when you read the history presented in the articles by Eyal Gever and Julie Martin. Gever is an artist who uses computer simulations to create striking works of art, while Martin has had a long association with Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), a movement started by her husband, Billy Kluver, who was an engineer at Bell Labs.

There is a growing discussion involving art, science, and engineering. There are journals that publish such works and museums that exhibit them. These and similar interesting developments are presented in an article by Daniel Jay, who is a professor at Tufts School of Medicine and uses chemicals such as liquid nitrogen to create new drawings. He even created a new artwork just for this special issue—one that uses elements of human blood and the printed circuit board found in computers.

Participating in an intersection like this often involves working with people from completely different domains. An engineer needs to understand the language of an artist and vice-versa. How can such interactions be made smoother and more productive? What are the challenges involved? These questions are explored in an article by Prof. Rick Johnson and Park Doing from Cornell University. The two have been working on projects involving signal processing engineers and experts in art history.

The world of art has also sparked interest in various academic programs. In his article, multimedia artist and educator Randall Packer, who holds academic appointments both in the United States and Singapore, talks about his project on Open Source Studio. He explores and describes in detail how media art can be taught by leveraging modern communication infrastructure like the Internet. You may no longer need to sit in a secluded studio on campus to learn from a master; instead you can use the Internet and transform any place into a studio.

The desire to instill design thinking inspired by art in engineering students led to a semester-wide course offered at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in collaboration with the China Academy of Arts. Various related aspects including course design, student experience, and projects are described in the article by Prof. Huamin Qu, who is one of the 11 instructors for this course drawn from different disciplines.

Not all of the work that melds engineering and art is being done by faculty members and artists; student groups are pursuing this subject as well. The Dugan brothers— Jon, a mechanical engineering major, and Brendon, an arts major, both at the University of Southern California—describe in their article the work being done by their student group.

The editors hope that readers enjoy these articles and take a look into the engineering/art opportunities that may be available to them.


Sharad Sinha. Engineer and artist—A promising collaboration. IEEE Potentials. November/December 2015: 6-7

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