Does science improve art through technology - or does the application of technology to art make it too scientific and lessen the creativity of it? Or does the question itself fail to grasp a fundamental connection between art and science?
Technology has been improving art since the beginning of each. The pencil sharpener, the pottery wheel, the calligraphy pen, the paintbrush - where would art be without these technological tools, to name only a few?
But, is there a point at which technology can take so much of the artistic process away from the hands of the artist that the endeavor has become so technical and machine-driven that it no longer counts as art?
The question came to mind when I heard an artist suggest a creative application for a technology that the U.S. miliary allegedly possesses: goggles that interlink eye movement with the tracking system for a missile launcher, creating a brain-computer interface.
Whether or not the army actually has or uses such technology, brain-computer interfaces do exist and are in development for a number of purposes, including enabling quadriplegics or paralysis victims to move objects by thinking about them, or to type, for example.
In any case, the technology certainly raises some fascinating questions with respect to art.
The artist pointed out that a pair of such goggles, if used in drawing, could capture with incredible accuracy and detail the particular way in which an artist looks at objects.
To the extent that an artist's unique style is an expression of how s/he sees, a brain/ computer interface that tracked eye movement through special goggles could reveal fascinating things about how artists collect visual information.
As the artist - his or her brain's visual cortex studded with electrodes - studied his or her subject, its image would be re-created, presumably on a computer screen (but potentially, at some point, onto a sheet of paper or a canvas). Instead of attempting to represent the "reality" of the subject by drawing its outline and contours, the artist would merely need to look at it, and the results of his or her looking would be captured. Eventually, the tangled matrix of criss-crossing lines would resolve into the distinct image of the subject being "drawn".
The "drawing goggles" might show us things about the artistic process that happen before pencil is even put to paper. Would the resulting portrait ever be eligible to be considered "art?" Or would it somehow be too much a technical creation to seem authentic?
Maybe the real point is that science offers countless tools that can be used creatively (rather than, say, destructively), if the imagination to do so is there.