The weather was wonderful. We had a terrific showing and the entirety of the chocolate milk was drunk in less than 30 minutes. Costumed people were silly, yelled, ran up a hill with a boat, and threw bowling balls at unsuspecting frisbee players. We kicked people off a volleyball court to facilitate a game of “almost get Stephanie’s exercise ball over the net.” Team Art Lost. L-7 Style. To ENGINEERS. And now we have to give them our undivided mind.
As is the case with any over-generalized, broad-topic conversation puddle, it’s fun to split the ambiguity, pick a corner, and ring the bell. Anyone willing to dissolve their integrity enough to order the pay-per-view (my place at 7) knows, as jabs are invented on the spot, that the outcome depends solely on the endurance and volume of the arguers. With this in mind, Sagefest 6 – Kill Your Hypothesis – set out to hyperbolize the debate between art & science. Like my dad used to say: “If you can’t start an intelligent conversation, make fun of the people who try.”
The best part is that a body of individuals not only gave me autonomy in planning such ridiculousness, but they encouraged and heightened it. This is partly because planning Sagefest is my actual job, and partly because I am unbelievably overqualified to facilitate it. See, I graduated from the engineering dept. here at UR and have since been working as a freelance graphic designer in Rochester. A degree AND real-world experience. Let’s just say that it’s hard to say no to an expert.
Here we are at the crossroads of the realization that it is totally asinine to even think about constructively entering a dialogue pitting art vs. science (let alone Art vs. Science…amiright??), the patriarchal obligation to make fun of ourselves for trying, and a party at work. There is, however, one more element I have neglected to mention. There has, of late, been a pressure from the national University culture to seamlessly unite these worlds into a set of programming that’s cool enough for admissions departments to tweet up the flagpole, legitimate enough to convince already-stretched faculty to participate, and fun enough to attract all those STEAM-savvy entrepreneurs who want to innovate. I suggested we buy a 3D printer, start a “media” department, and call it a day. This turned out to be a bit much for Sagefest 6, but hey, we were brainstorming! Everyone knows that you’ve got to dig through the easy before getting at anything worthwhile.
Seeing a bit of this pressure allowed me the opportunity to consider Sagefest’s role in the real. Institutional-level Art vs. Science debate, and the absurdity of the day being planned began to look like a real angle through which we could enter (I still think it is). What started as fun for fun sake was looking more like the leaky, almost-conversation I wanted to avoid, happening at an unimaginable scale. It was looking like actual Science and Art Departments at actual Institutions investing actual money in programming. Professional Scientists (and Science lobbyers) putting on paper their notions of Art. Professional Artists (and Art lobbyers) putting on paper their notions of Science. Wowaweewa.
As it turns out, these notions don’t often overlap. But this makes sense. And it’s okay. In fact it’s great. Perfect. Obvious. Duh. These are standard operating misconceptions, (mostly) not the proud, emotionally-funded walls they are confused for. They ought to be openly accepted as such and accounted for with full appreciation should program development be the desired outcome. In this case, however, program development wasn’t the desired outcome. My task was to plan a party and this spiral of heady considerations was less-than-useful to engage in. I didn’t desire to diminish it, but at that point it was back to reality.
Back to Sagefest 6 and killing hypotheses. Back to a bunch of people having stupid fun, acting out a giant-foam-cowboy-hat-version of this debate. It all started with some bowling. Well, after the wraps and cheese it started with bowling. Canvas nets had been set up at the bottom of Danforth hill, each with a point value (1, 3, 5) corresponding to their size (largest to smallest, respectively). Teams selected 3 representatives and 10 pounders were soon careening at onlookers, mostly because Team Science were the only ones to score…
Team Science: 6, Team Art: 0
Next came volleyball. Team Art astounded the audience when, with almost double the players, they still found a way to lose. Using both a kickball and an exercise ball, we played to 21. It was close for a second, but the organization of the Team Science could not be undone.
Team Science: 56, Team Art: 0
Spelling bee time. You’d think that college kids could do this one, yeah? Not so much. I might have been chastised for word choice but I remain unapologetic; Echinoderm is as difficult to spell as Phenomenology, Mimesis as difficult as Perihelion, and Intravenous as difficult as Afrofuturism. Allen refused to use these words in sentences (appropriately) and threw stale tortilla shells at those who misspelled, I continued to berate contestants with my megaphone, and despite being the last team standing, Science fell in total points.
Team Science: 91, Team Art: 45
Next came the raft race. At the beginning of the day, teams were given an inflatable raft with a set of instructions: 1) this raft must have in it a team member at all times. 2) You must bring the raft from the starting line (bottom of hill), around the tree (top of hill), and back to the box (drawn on the side of the hill) using all of your team members. 3) Timing stops when all members are inside of the box 4) shortest time wins. Again, despite the huge number of people Team Art was sporting, Team Science crushed them by over 30 seconds…
Team Science: 141, Team Art: 45
Finally, the costume judging. 25 points for content, 25 points for form. 50 points to Team Art. That’s just how it is.
Team Science Final Score: 141, Team Art Final Score: 95
The Undivided Mind went to the Scientists, and will be displayed in the BME Dept. offices until next year, when Team Art once again regains the opportunity to take back what they wrought!
Although Team Art lost (hard) to the Scientists, I think we can all appreciate the good, clean hatred that poured from each team’s veins throughout the competition. The Institutions of Science and Art may never reconcile their differences but for a brief flash, 16 mortal representatives wrestled on the infinite plane of metaphorical stupidity. They crossed and jabbed in time, spilled their guts into a pool of unconsciousness, and lapped at the great nectar of nameless gods until they were revived. Renewed. Reborn. Such is the war of our existence as artists, as scientists, and as all the folks apathetic to both. Everything’s nothing, and nothing is ours. VIVA LA SAGEFEST!