Artist Dario Robleto bridges the gap between science and empathy in his exhibition ‘The Heart’s Knowledge’


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

The exhibition is on display at the Block from Jan. 27 through July 9.

Tabi Parent, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

In a conversation Saturday afternoon in the McCormick Auditorium of Norris University Center, the Block Museum of Art’s Artist-at-Large Dario Robleto discussed the intersection between science and empathy displayed in his exhibition, “The Heart’s Knowledge: Science and Empathy in the Art of Dario Robleto.”

“The Heart’s Knowledge” is the “culmination” of Robleto’s nearly five-year participation as the University’s first Artist-at-Large. The program is a partnership between the Block Museum and the McCormick School of Engineering that aims to create connections between contemporary artists and Northwestern students and faculty. 

Robleto was joined by Harvard University Prof. Jennifer L. Roberts and Lucianne Walkowicz, an astronomer and co-founder of The JustSpace Alliance. 

“Art and science are both acts of faith in the imagination, uniting their respective perspectives, methodologies and technologies,” said Lisa Graziose Corrin, the Ellen Philips Katz director at the Block Museum. 

Block’s Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts Michael Metzger facilitated a discussion centered around what bridges between the arts and sciences the participants have encountered in their careers thus far. 

Roberts, a contributor to the catalog that accompanies the exhibition, said she considers much of her work as an art historian as similar to scientists’ work.

The panelists also discussed the claim that science is typically thought of as an emotionless, data-driven pursuit, while the arts and humanities are generally viewed as more rooted in the human emotional experience. 

“I’m invested in the goals of science, and I’m all for objectivity,” Robleto said. “But I’m also concerned about what happens when each generation of scientists becomes more and more removed from the humanity embedded in the data.”

Roberts agreed with Robleto that the sciences often fall prey to being absent of emotion. But she said the humanities field should not be so quick to congratulate itself for being the locus of human emotion as people are often hesitant to be vulnerable in humanities academic settings. 

Similarly, Walkowicz stressed the impact of moments in her career as an astronomer where emotion has infiltrated her work. 

“Emotion is a tool that has to accomplish something for science in order to exist in that realm,” Walkowicz said. “If you are a person who is interested in completely obliterating this boundary and existing in like liminal space between art and science, that comes with a lot of feelings of being misunderstood.”

The exhibition is on display at the Block from Jan. 27 through July 9. 

Attendee and Chicago artist Lydia Cheshewalla said for her, the allure of the conversation was the transdisciplinary nature of Robleto’s work that the panelists focused on.

“I think (the exhibit) is doing really important things, which is mainly transcending art to these levels of being able to speak alongside science and within science and help us all collectively grow,” she said. 

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Twitter: @TabithaParent12

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