Messing it up / by marisa vitiello

A discussion with my collaborator Beate Liepert, scientist and artist. Beate is a climate researcher. Her website can be found here.

Beate: Shall we paint together?

Marisa: Is this drawing or is it painting?

Beate: Too many questions, let's reduce it to ink only.

Marisa: ?? Acrylic ink? Colored ink? Sumi ink? I don't understand this reduce thing.

Beate: You are not a scientist you are an artist, that's the problem.

Marisa: OK. But you're an artist too. So you are also a problem. Too much thinking is another problem. Let's work instead. So tell me Beate, how did we get to work and what have we learned about working together?

Beate: Start with one rule: black sumi ink, white tempera and our beloved gold ink. Second rule: no other rules apply.

Our materials

Our materials

Marisa: OK. So we started by just putting some ink on the page and then you told me to pour the ink. But you got tired of my hesitation so you knocked my arm and we had a giant glob of ink on the page. From there we quickly pulled the glob into what appeared to be .. well, hair!

Beate: Well, YOU saw hair. I saw a mess and we tried to mess it up even more. I painted over your mess and you drew over my mess. We switched places several times. Until we were happy with it.

Marisa: and this is the way it began. Images were discovered more than planned. Then came Radiolab's episode Hello and Peter, the dolphin, who lived in the same apartment as Margaret and I was hooked. I told you about it and we decided to make art.

Beate: We "planned our art" which was harder than we thought. Intentionality is easier in science.

Still not right

Still not right

Marisa: So we put the forms down on paper and we worked and worked and it wasn't that fun this time. And we talked about starting over but I was attached to Margaret and you kept saying no. But then we took a break and we got together a few days later and you told me about science and how you had to mess things up sometimes. What was it you said? It was so much better and bigger when you told it to me.

Beate: Objectivity in science means it is not about you. In order to succeed sometimes, you have to let go of the ideas you are most attached to. So we started to mess up Margret and Peter, the dolphin...

Marisa: ... and suddenly, it was more fun and we are finally getting it done. It's almost done. Right?

Beate: Well, I would like to fix the left top corner, and how about the hair? Can I paint over it?

Details details

Details details

Marisa: Uh oh! Coming soon... our latest in messing it up.

Beate: ... and fixing it ...

Marisa: I thought you just told me you wanted to mess it up again.