We regularly hear cries of “the arts and sciences don’t mix” but Hannah Scott is showing the world that you can change that perception and indeed how we think about plastic products in our environment. Hannah is doing so by fusing the two spheres together within her work. Soon, Hannah will be undertaking an expedition into the freezing depths of the Arctic circle as an artist in residence at the artist and scientist lead Arctic Circle programme and carrying out scientific sampling on behalf of Dr. Stephanie Wright.
Hannah Scott’s latest work ‘What Comes Around Goes Around‘ will be informed by her findings while in the Arctic. There she’ll be collecting samples of soil and air, contributing to ongoing research at King’s College London. At In\progress we’ve been lucky enough to delve deeper into her body of work and ask Hannah what really drives her to create work that powerfully visualises and interprets human environmental impact:
How did you get into interpreting science through art and vice-versa?
I have always been fascinated by science (my father was a scientist, and taught history of science for the Open University). I studied art for my B.A. at Central Saint Martins 20 years ago and many of my projects were inspired by science – at the time I had a huge interest in space science. After my B.A. I ended up working in I.T. but had always wanted to continue on to do an M.A. I lost my Mum and Dad recently and shortly after decided that it was time to get on and do it. When I found the M.A. Art and Science, two year degree programme at C.S.M I applied immediately and I graduated in June. The course introduced me to the art and science interdisciplinary community [where] I became aware of and interested in climate change after having conversations with people that lead me to question the impact of my own lifestyle choices.
What excites you most about the intersection of art and science and why?
For me, art and science are very closely related. The key difference is the language used to communicate. Using art to communicate science is incredibly exciting because it has the potential to engage different audiences in a topic, and to present it evocatively and holistically, which I think can be more meaningful. As an artist, I want to make work that is closely related to scientific research but presented using a visual language that encourages audiences to reflect upon and begin to care about issues like climate change rather than simply feeling overwhelmed by data.
Have you been surprised by any previous scientific outcomes relating to your work?
I feel like I have spent most of my life blissfully unaware and not engaged at all with what is happening to the environment. As a well educated, well travelled person I really had to question why this was. One of the most interesting things I learned relates to the psychology behind why so many people fail to engage with climate change. There are lots of books and papers addressing this but for me George Marshall sums it up very well suggesting that people reject climate change, not because of the issue itself, but due to the way the story has been told, and the way it can impact and implicate personal identity. He suggest[ed] that views on climate change balance the uncertain and diffused risk of climate change as opposed to the certain and very personal social risk of opposing the norm. Cultural identity has a decisive influence on scientific understanding, as opposed to the quality of scientific communication or a person’s scientific literacy. So, the challenge for me as an artist is to find an aesthetic dialogue that successfully engages rather than alienates audiences.
What are the intended outcomes/purposes of What Goes Around Comes Around?
What Goes Around Comes Around explores the relationship between consumer lifestyle in Britain and the Arctic environment, with particular focus on the impact of plastic waste. It aims to challenge audiences to question the impact of their own lifestyle choices. I think it is really important to bring the out of sight and mind back into view – for people to be able to visualise the problem and to start engaging with it on an emotional level. However, I also think that it is important not to communicate in an overly moralistic way. With this in mind I have tried to centre myself within my work as an observer and as one of the observed, recognising and challenging my own identity as a British consumer and contributor to global climate change.
Do you feel that climate change is adequately addressed by the U.K. government and international bodies like the U.N.?
For me, there is a massive lack in public engagement and understanding around climate change in the U.K. It’s not just about communicating climate data, it’s also about making the link between the environmental impact of our social, political, and economic choices – for me, on an individual level, that means becoming aware of the impact of my own choices, where everything comes from and how it is produced, and asking myself as a matter of course, do I really need this or are there better, less impactful, alternatives?
Any thoughts on how climate change provision could be improved?
Start caring. Stop politicising. Better awareness through education. Move away from the beliefs that economic growth is the only way forwards and that social status/personal identity is measured by ownership of the latest gadget. Encourage business and industry to design and build things to last a lifetime. Recycle everything. Stop extracting and burning fossil fuels. Stop producing stuff that we know is bad – people will get over it and adapt. I don’t think people should live prohibitively but I do think we need to stop over consumption and start living more sustainably.
What do you most want to communicate, if you could, to people about the world they live in through your work?
Plastic pollution is one aspect of a much wider story. My work addresses ideas relating to climate change, anthropocene, identity, legacy and loss. I want people to reflect on their own relationship to the world, to remember that everything has a cost, that throwing stuff out doesn’t really get rid of it, to start caring and to feel empowered enough to effect change.
Thanks for talking to us Hannah! “Start caring. Stop politicising” is a mantra we believe should very much extend into every government, N.G.O. or person’s way of thinking. It’s important that in addressing climate change and plastic waste disposal we really understand what is at stake.
Hannah Scott was born in Salisbury, 1976 and grew up in the southwest of England. Now based in Shaftesbury and London, she is an artist with an interest in the creative relationships between art and science. Her practice explores ways of visualising and communicating climate change through installation, film, photography and painting.
She was awarded a MullenLowe NOVA award in June 2017 for work already completed on this project. She is a graduate of the MA Art and Science degree programme at Central Saint Martins (2017). She also holds an MSc in Multimedia Application Development from Middlesex University (2003) and a BA (Hons) in Art and Design from Central Saint Martins (2000).
Hannah will be undertaking her residency at the artist and scientist lead residency programme The Arctic Circle, on the coast of Svalbard for eighteen days during October where she’ll be on a traditionally rigged tall ship. Hannah needs to raise five-thousand pounds and a link to her crowdfunder is here.