Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New exhibit celebrates science and art - De Waine Valentine

A new exhibit of modern sculpture opens Saturday at the Georgia Museum of Art featuring an artist who created regionally-themed pieces based on the Southern California environment and made scientific progress in the process.
Poured during the late 1960s and early 1970s, the work of De Wain Valentine is indicative of a West Coast art culture that embraced technological and industrial advancement; sought to create a connection between science, art and technique; and adapted industrial materials for artistic purposes.
To construct large-scale sculptures that mimic the atmosphere and hydrosphere of the artist’s adopted California home, Valentine worked with a plastics manufacturer to develop a polyester resin that cured slower than existing plastics, allowing him to pour the massive forms for which he became famous.
Moving the eight sculptures on display as part of the show “De Wain Valentine: Human Scale,” which range in size from 900 to 1,700 pounds and between 6 to 8 feet, required a team of installers and a gantry crane.
Valentine’s giant translucent sculptures, which are named by their color and shape, often took the forms of rectangular columns or circles. The GMOA exhibition features mainly Valentine’s circles, the largest one, “Double Concave Circle, Deep Red,” acts like a lens altering everything viewed through it. Others, though, are meant to be considered simply as objects.
While the sculptures definitely acknowledge the aerospace industry booming in California at the time, there is a nod to the natural world as well. In some pieces on display with “Human Scale,” the movement of a river or tide is suggested.
“I am now having a love affair with the sea and the sky,” Valentine is quoted as saying of his life in California.
Some sculptures, according to Lynn Boland, Pierre Daura Curator of European Art at the museum, reflect the smog Valentine encountered in Los Angeles once he moved there from his native Colorado.
“He was trying to recreate that sense of L.A.,” Boland said.
The surfaces of Valentine’s more natural work and his translucent objects both attempt to disappear into the air around it, placing Valentine’s work in the same realm as the Light and Space Movement. Many of Valentine’s sculptures begin with a fatter, deeply pigmented base that slims down into an almost glass-like point, which then appears to dissolve into space. With all of Valentine’s love of air and water, how those elements interacted with light was the artist’s true interest.
Paired with the New York Collection for Stockholm, an exhibition of prints by important contemporary and modern artists, which is also currently on display at GMOA, the Valentine collection is a tangible example of the artistic context introduced by the New York exhibit.
“The 1960s conceptually set up what De Wain is doing here,” Boland said. “This exhibition takes away the necessity to imagine.”
“De Wain Valentine: Human Scale” opens Saturday and runs until Jan. 27.
To prevent possible damage to the sculptures, the number of visitors allowed to view the exhibit at one time will be limited.
For more information on museum hours and activities related to the exhibition, visit www.georgiamuseum.org.
• Follow arts and entertainment reporter André Gallant on Twitter @andregallant or Facebook at www.facebook.com/GallantABH.

*Originally Posted February 10, 2013*

To answer our most fundamental questions, science needs to find a place for the arts.

In the early 1920s, Niels Bohr was struggling to reimagine the structure of matter. Previous generations of physicists had thought the inner space of an atom looked like a miniature solar system with the atomic nucleus as the sun and the whirring electrons as planets in orbit. This was the classical model.
But Bohr had spent time analyzing the radiation emitted by electrons, and he realized that science needed a new metaphor. The behavior of electrons seemed to defy every conventional explanation. As Bohr said, “When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry.” Ordinary words couldn’t capture the data.
Bohr had long been fascinated by cubist paintings. As the intellectual historian Arthur Miller notes, he later filled his study with abstract still lifes and enjoyed explaining his interpretation of the art to visitors. For Bohr, the allure of cubism was that it shattered the certainty of the object. The art revealed the fissures in everything, turning the solidity of matter into a surreal blur.
 Black Peacock, 1950

This mobile is a powerful example of how an art form can be tailored to the physiology of a specific area in the brain. Calder’s composition anticipated, artistically, the physiological properties of the cells of an area called V5, which are selectively responsive to motion and its direction. Viewed from a distance, the separate pieces of the mobile appear as static spots of varying sizes. But as the pieces move in different directions, each one stimulates only the category of cell that is selectively responsive to the direction in which the spot is moving. —Semir Zeki, Neuroscientist, University College London © Christie’s Images/Corbis
Bohr’s discerning conviction was that the invisible world of the electron was essentially a cubist world. By 1923, de Broglie had already determined that electrons could exist as either particles or waves. What Bohr maintained was that the form they took depended on how you looked at them. Their very nature was a consequence of our observation. This meant that electrons weren’t like little planets at all. Instead, they were like one of Picasso’s deconstructed guitars, a blur of brushstrokes that only made sense once you stared at it. The art that looked so strange was actually telling the truth.
It’s hard to believe that a work of abstract art might have actually affected the history of science. Cubism seems to have nothing in common with modern physics. When we think about the scientific process, a specific vocabulary comes to mind: objectivity, experiments, facts. In the passive tense of the scientific paper, we imagine a perfect reflection of the real world. Paintings can be profound, but they are always pretend.
This view of science as the sole mediator of everything depends upon one unstated assumption: While art cycles with the fashions, scientific knowledge is a linear ascent. The history of science is supposed to obey a simple equation: Time plus data equals understanding. One day, we believe, science will solve everything.
But the trajectory of science has proven to be a little more complicated. The more we know about reality—about its quantum mechanics and neural origins—the more palpable its paradoxes become. As Vladimir Nabokov, the novelist and lepidopterist, once put it, “The greater one’s science, the deeper the sense of mystery.”
Consider, for example, the history of physics. Once upon a time, and more than once, physicists thought they had the universe solved. Some obscure details remained, but the basic structure of the cosmos was understood. Out of this naïveté, relativity theory emerged, fundamentally altering classical notions about the relationship of time and space. Then came Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and the surreal revelations of quantum physics. String theorists, in their attempts to reconcile ever widening theoretical gaps, started talking about eleven dimensions. Dark matter still makes no sense. Modern physics knows so much more about the universe, but there is still so much it doesn’t understand. For the first time, some scientists are openly wondering if we, in fact, are incapable of figuring out the cosmos.
- See more at: http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/the_future_of_science_is_art/#sthash.7aSVvUJc.dpufhttp://seedmagazine.com/content/article/the_future_of_science_is_art/

*Originally Posted Feb.1, 2013*

Monday, February 25, 2013

LIGHT AND SPACE MOVEMENT - Durrell Smith Scholarly Post 1

            Its no coincidence that international the race to understanding Outer Space would lead to developments and questions outside in fields outside of just science.  After the 1960s, America took a major leap forward to understanding science on a much larger basis, and one of the many explorations of the development landed in understanding the relationship between art and science.  Its components included a wide variety of artists, techniques, materials, and technological developments.  All of these complemented a particular movement known as the Light and Space Movement during the 1960s and 70s on the West Coast and particularly in Southern California.  At the time, artists began to shift to using radically new materials with emphasis no longer on art in the object, but taking a stance much further than its Minimalist predecessor.  The movement sought to dematerialize the art object, and focus less on ideas and more on sensory perceptions.  Museum director Hugh Davies recalls, “The work became ambient and was about environmental experience instead of focusing on an object.” 
The name became a huge label for the West Coast, and perceptions about the environment were enlightened.  Influenced by John McLaughlin, the movement spurred a change in how artists were representing geometric objects and using light.  The movement of light became easily manipulative and much more complex.  Historically, its should be noted by Sascha Crasnow “Light has a tradition in the history of California artwork. In the first half of the 20th century, the prevailing style was California Impressionism. These artists took the qualities and attention to light of the French Impressionists and transferred these sentiments to distinctly California landscapes.”[1] thus proving that California should be expected to produce such monumental progress in scientific and artistic history.
Southern California engineering and aerospace industries experienced a technological boom and allowed a number of artists to create works where light could affect the environment and perception of the viewer.  A major exhibition at UCLA provided the opportunity for a show entitled, ‘Transparency, Reflection, Light, Space” in 1971 to host artists Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, Robert Irwin, John McCraken, and Craig Kauffman who became some of the forerunners to the movement.  They investigated the phenomena of sensory deprivation.  With light, they could play with an experience beyond the tangible, and environment that becomes aware of the play of light, an experience that is cognizant of all its senses. 
Material wise, many artists embed artificial light and used transparent or translucent materials.  Director Davies states, “Here it was more handmade, with techniques borrowed from car culture or surfboard manufacturing or aerospace engineering. It was about translucence and transparence and this fabulous optical play that [Donald] Judd didn't get into until much later, when he started using Plexiglas.”[2]  This showed a huge difference in coast-to-coast ideals, because the Los Angeles aesthetic would have been described as “truth equals beauty” as distinguished from the “truth to materials” swagger dominating in New York.  The N.Y. aesthetic took to impermeable industrial materials and toned down on the shadows and reflections in favor of the concreteness of the specific object. I would describe it as much more “in-your-face” and less tranquil.  Its as if the materials not only influence how sleek and sheen the work was but they make us keenly aware that what you do affects what you see, and what you see affects what you do.  They were technical geniuses and formal masters all with the powers of Shamans who indeed have the “uncanny ability to make the immaterial material and the material immaterial.”[3]  The push and challenge use to ask us what is ordinary reality when ambiguous forms seem to continually morph at every slight movement.  The materials allow color to diffuse into space, entering a space incomprehensible to the viewer.  They ask us to reconsider the space that we exist in and force us to realize the multidimensional aspects that exist between science and art and how science provided materials and technology and art helps us understand various perceptions that exist outside of human space.
            After acknowledging the material aspects of a movement that helped the West Coast art scene to bridge the gap between art and science, its important to salute the artists that functioned as visual scientists, from the studio to the lab.  Artists like Robert Irvin and DeWaine Valentine were just a few of the artists that set the bar for California arts.  They developed materials and gained a greater understanding of how they could bring light greater perceptions.  Valentine in his early eperiences polishing rocks and painting cars led to an almost not-so-ironic but deep interest in reflective surfaces, translucence, and industrial processes.   He took notice of similar artists early in his career through an Artforum magazine, and shortly after moved to Los Angeles in 1965, with his first solo show happening 3 years later.
            Robert Irwin was MacArthur “Genius Grant” winner, and reknowned among his peers in the 1960s.  Supposedly he was the most influential artist of the time.  Andrew Russeth of Gallerist NY decribes Irwins work as “paintings with only lines, then only dots, then simply discs that hover in space, their edges indistinguishable from the wall. He banished painterly marks, then the frame, then the painting itself. (“I painted myself right out of it,” he told me.) By the 1970s, he was producing installations composed only of light and subtle alterations to spaces.”[4]  Irwin is aware of nature and the nature of things, and at Pace gallery during an interview with Russeth, Irwin stated that his work was about sensibility, which he felt was applicable to everything, but also more importantly, the face that “seeing” is such an important factor when confronting any work.  He’s presented aesthetic inquiries, all within the realm of painting, installation, and landscape projects.
            It’s fascinating that art movements in the same linear fashion as scientic exploration, and America in its pursuit to define itself as a limitless nation internationally had found a way on the West Coast to bridge the gap between art and science.  Its seem that that responsibility fell into the hands of the Light and Space Movement, and its artists managed to manipulate the brilliance of light to inform the viewers of the intangible realm of light and space. 


1.    Crasnow, Sascha. "WTF Is Light and Space?." Hyperallergic — Sensitive to Art and its Discontents. http://hyperallergic.com/38827/wtf-is%E2%80%A6-light-and-space/ (accessed February 24, 2013).
2.    Finkel, Jori, and Los Angeles Times. "Pacific Standard Time: Doug Wheeler on Light and Space and 'Phenomenal' in San Diego - Page 2 -Los Angeles Times." Featured Articles From The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/18/entertainment/la-ca-pst-hugh-davies-and-doug-wheeler-20110918/2 (accessed February 24, 2013).
3.    Russeth, Andrew . "                          Blink and You’ll Miss It: Robert Irwin Brings His Mind-Bending Art to New York | GalleristNY                       ."                                  GalleristNY                . http://galleristny.com/2012/09/blink-and-youll-miss-it-robert-irwin-brings-his-mind-bending-art-to-new-york/ (accessed February 24, 2013).

Scholarly Blog Post #2: Ervin J.

Stephen Bull writes, “There is a massive cult among the young for dead media and outmoded appliances, although it rarely extends beyond displaying the image to actually using the bygone format or device.” 
 The aura for analogue photography still exists. However the drive to master the old ways is no longer there. The digital age provides the ease of one click satisfaction without any of the necessary steps analogue photography requires. Bull describes the “retro” aura surrounding analogue photography. He says that the difference between vintage and retro is that retro refers to the “simulation of a past style, rather than the thing itself.” 
 This speaks to the fascination of the instantaneous most people have. 
Vincent Versace cites famous photographer Ansel Adams and says that if he were alive today he would make the switch from analogue photography to digital.
 Versace hints at the merger of the old and the new; suggesting that by bringing together the best of both. Versace brings to the discussion America’s first Lunar landing and the technology utilized to do so. He says that, “Today, the power of those machines is eclipsed by the computing power found in a digital watch.” 
 Versace goes on to say that we, the consumers, do not take full advantage of the power digital photography provides us with. But that power in many ways is still not up to par with that of analogue photography. Take for example an entry level DSLR in comparison to that of a basic 35mm film camera. The film utilized for the camera captures full frame information, most base level DSLR’s lack full frame sensors, which take the place of film in digital cameras. Because of this less of the scene is visible and the resolution of the image is less that that of a full frame image. The digital process has improved vastly over a relatively short period of time and offers many great advantages that film just cannot. However, the digital capture does not compare to that of the analogue. When considering the quality of the resolution of 4x5 and 8x10 films, there is no competition. There are digital large format cameras but they often times fail because the technology just isn’t there yet. Also because of the overall functionality of large format cameras the range of creativity is widely expansive. Large format cameras posses the ability to tilt and shift, which in turn offer an adjustable depth of field as well as perspective shifts that digital cameras cannot as of yet. 
Aside from the limits of the technology there exists what Nicholas Muellner calls “The New Interval”. Muellner says that he does not subscribe to the same ideology as others, that is, he doesn’t believe that there are major differences between analogue and photography. “After all, pictures are still pictures- flat and mute- and we still use cameras to take them.”,
 and it is true. The idea behind picture making still stands true, capturing an image still happens the same way. Muellner says that the difference between analogue and digital exists in the experience of making that image. “In the new space of photography, a picture impresses itself upon us before we make it; in the old order, we impressed the image upon ourselves before we knew it.”
 With digital photography the importance of sketching out the image before actually shooting it has faded away. There is no need to imagine what could be and what the image will look like afterwards because immediately after the shutter closes it appears on an LCD screen behind the camera. Muellner says that the experience has shifted from what he refers to as a “ritual of hope carried out across darkness, toward a process of assessment and dissemination grounded in luminous clarity.”
 The magic of the process has been destroyed; where creativity is born it can exist no more. The idea, which then becomes the image, has to be born in the darkness according to Muellner. When the idea is exposed to light, much in the way the negative is, it transforms into something else. “...the darkness and non-light out of which luminous eventualities manifest themselves punctually and incidentally, emerging out of the dark only to return to it.” 

Lyuba Encheva discusses memory as it pertains to digital self-portraits. She references Walter Benjamin, who says that mechanically reproduced pieces of art lose their aura they originally possessed. Encheva quotes Benjamin saying that, “Mechanically produced and reproducible, the old photographic portrait still has a ritualistic function.”
 Encheva says that the loss of the ritual also furthers the loss of that aura. She goes on to state that the original authenticity that existed with analogue photography is lost. This occurs because the truth that was once the sole responsibility of the medium is no longer an integral part of the process. Encheva says that because of the infinite possibilities to be made just as well as the original photograph destroys the possibility for “objective representation”.
 The endless possibilities of digital photography take way from it’s potential to rise as truly potent art form. 
With all of it’s accomplishments, digital photography has many more strides to make to be a considerable force as its older brother is. For while it provides the convenience and ease all other technological efforts do, it lacks the depth and soul that process photography provides. It is missing the quintessential pieces that all photographs need to be considered art; time and thought. 

Ervin J.

This is an image that I made digitally, but it hints at an analogue past. I think that despite the lack of truth in photography (digitally) that there's something to be said about digital photography and the things it is capable of. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Brian Bullard Scholarly Post

The history of Nano Art begins with the invention of the electron microscope.  Its powers of detailed magnification would impact not only the world of the scientific community, but eventually the world of art as well.  Unlike normal microscopes, which use traditional lenses to focus photons (visible beams of light) toward and object, an electron microscope operates by speeding up electrons inside of a vacuum, and then focuses those electrons into a beam using electromagnetic lenses. This may sound more technical than incredible at first, until one realizes that the wavelength of electrons are around one hundred thousand times shorter than those of a photon.  It is this very difference in wavelengths that gives the electron microscope up to approximately four thousand times better resolution than normal light microscopes, and would reveal to researchers a vast wealth of new insights. Although it would be some time before microscopy at the nanoscale would emerge from the realm of the nearly invisible to the much more spacious confines of contemporary art galleries, Nanoart has recently been gaining steam from its formidable beginnings to a truly revolutionary new art form.  As we discuss Nanoart here, you will read the name Cris Orfescu many times, as he has created the primary website online for promoting Nanoart, and been a huge contributor to its success since its inception.  An effort has been made here to reach beyond Orfescu’s influence, as it is quite pervasive and at times cult-like, but as with all art movements, it can take time for them to develop beyond their points of origin.
                Before we delve further into how Nanoart got started, let us take a moment and discuss more about how it actually became possible.   First, we will travel back around eighty decades ago to The Institute for High Voltage Technology in Berlin, Germany, circa 1931.  German electrical engineer Ernst Ruska was busy constructing the world’s first electron lenses.  By using a series of these lenses, Ernst, along with his Electron Research Group leader Max Knoll, succeeded in creating the world’s very first electron microscope by 1933.  However, it wouldn’t be until 1986 when Ernst would finally be awarded a Nobel Prize for his incredible invention. 
                Shortly after Ernst and Max invented the electron microscope, a Romanian cell biologist from Moldavia by the name of George Emil Palade (1974 Nobel Prize winner) was getting down to business with the financial support of The National Cancer Institute director Herbert Gasser.   Palade, who was described by the U.K.’s The Independent as “The most influential cell biologist ever,” [1] was also the most notable user of the electron microscope after its inception.  His images and research in relation to cell fractionation, and his discovery of the ribosomes of the endoplasmic reticulum of our cells that he brought forth in 1955, were part of the reason he was able to revolutionize the molecular cell biology that we use today.  Palade would later go on to receive the National Medal of Science in the field of biological sciences “For pioneering discoveries of a host of fundamental, highly organized structures in living cells,” [2] according to then President Ronald Reagan at a White House ceremony held March 12, 1986.
                Nano Art pioneer Cris Orfescu, founder of nanoart21.org, has claimed that Palade was “One of the first nanoartists in the history, probably without his intention to create art.” [3] It is for that very reason than that those images are not works of art.  Just like the tribal masks of the indigenous peoples of faraway lands can be displayed in museums for their uniqueness in appearance and for their cultural relevance, those objects, as well as Palade’s and others’ images, are not works of art.  Although they are found to some to be very beautiful and very unique in their appearance, and although they may require a great amount of time and money to manufacture or produce, they are in artistic terms and at best, only to be considered as precursors to an art form.  Palade’s images were created by him and by others not for the sake of creating beautiful works of art to be displayed in homes or galleries or even on sidewalks.  These images were rendered solely for the sake of the scientific community and for the knowledgeable benefit of humanity, as well as for the progression of future research in the field of cellular microbiology.  Perhaps Orfescu felt that it was necessary to include the images of Palade’s research groups as works of art to support his own field’s artistic merits.  Or perhaps he did it to add credence to his own work as being both acts of scientific research and works of art.  There is nothing wrong with giving credit to the works of great men, but it is inappropriate to categorize them in a way that is inherently false by definition. Orfescu’s intentions make sense for the sake of promoting a credible art form, but his application lacks the very rigor often attributed to the scientific community.    Perhaps this is due to the difference in approach between the arts and the sciences.  Scientists are always keen to give credit to others for the foundational work behind their research (often for fear of being ostracized but also out of general respect for their peers).  Art however is often associated with notions of inspiration and appropriation.  “Nothing is original,” [4] according to artists like Jim Jarmusch, and therefore questions of origin and legitimacy run a slippery slope.
                The most likely reason for Orfescu’s misstep is because he was first and foremost a scientist.  Access to electron microscopes can be difficult to obtain.  They are very expensive to build and also cost a lot to maintain because of the amount of energy they require, as well as the application processes needed to prepare specimens for electron bombardment (you cannot use living specimens, and they have to be coated in a conductive material in order to be properly recorded).  In addition, the type of electron microscopes used to take higher resolution images are often located underground or in special buildings that are equipped to cancel out the magnetic fields that are produced naturally and unnaturally here on earth.  These magnetic fields tend to interfere with the electrons recording the image surface after their release.  For these reasons, scientists are often the only ones with access to such devices.  Images could only be appropriated second-hand by artists eager to share their beauty with the world, unless of course that artist was a scientist as well.  The very emergence of the Nanoart field seems to have relied heavily on scientists like Orfescu, who holds an appreciation for the arts.  He has had some help outside of the lab of course. 
World famous artist Gerhard Richter has also been working in part on some appropriated nanotech works since 2000, when he made his piece Erster Blick.   Kristian Hvidtfelt Nielsen, with the aid of the words of Dietmar Elger, provides some profound insight into his work:
Despite the non-photographic origin of the image depicted in Ester Blick, the catalogue raisonne states that the image is “based on a photograph taken by physicists at the University of Augsburg” [12].  Similarly, German art historian Dietmar Elger confirms this intuitively realistic, photographic perception.  Commenting on the newspaper article’s assertions about the visible atomic “details” in the image, he writes:
                The photographic depiction, however, only shows cloudy shapes; thus, the newspaper reader can discern no such “details.”  The reader’s expectation to find the elementary structure of our world revealed to him in the image is disappointed.  To Gerhard Richter, however, the image proved a confirmation:  The attempt of the physicists from the University of Augburg to offer an interior view of the atom generated with the aid of microscopes produced a photographic image of the interior of the atom that reveals itself as nothing but uncertainty [13].[5]
It is this very uncertainty and blurring which pervades and often defines many of Gerhard Richter’s works, and as such the very world of everything nano seems to fit right in with him conceptually, and in this instance, quite visually as well.  The inner realm of atoms have only been recently brought into better resolution, but the challenges and hurdles required to enhance that resolution are enormous, and the more solutions we find, the bigger the questions become in the grand scheme of unifying theories, such as Einstein’s Relativity and quantum physics.  We simply cannot underestimate the scope of small things in this day and age.
       It wasn’t until September 20, 2007 that the First International Festival of Nanoart was held in Kotka, Finland.  It was hosted by the Kotkan Valokuvakeskus Gallery from May 4 to May 26.  This was the first gallery show to be entirely dedicated to Nanoart, and featured the nano works of 15 different artists such as Cris Orfescu, who curated the show, as well as others such as Carol Cooper, Chris Marshall, and Dolores Glover Kaufman.  Most of the works displayed were digitally altered, because electron microscopes are unable to capture color due to the lack of photonic involvement (which would reveal light spectrum color).  As a result, electron microscope images require the digital or painted application of color if there is to be any present in the work.  Generally, Nanoart is broken down into two categories, the first being nanolandscapes.  Nanolandscapes are generally the most common type of Nanoart, as they simply require the electron microscope imaging of objects at nanoscales, which can then be digitally manipulated or simply rendered for color in Photoshop.  The other category is nanosculptures.  This category is perhaps the most challenging of the two, as it actually requires the artist to find ways to control and alter matter at the molecular as well as atomic scales.  This is often achieved through the application of chemicals and the use of physical processes. [6] After the Kotkan Valokuvakeskus gallery opening, Nanoart would finally take the stage in the art world, and encourage a broader range of applications and execution, in addition to gaining a great deal of popularity among scientists that had previously worked with electron microscopes, and felt they could do more to expose the beauty of the images they were revealing to the world.
       Cris Orfescu later went on to create the website nanoart21.com, which holds annual competitions in Nanoart.  These competitions involve artists, and scientists as artists, who can either submit up to 5 images of their original work, or if the artists do not have access to an electron microscope, they can be given 3 “seed images” to work with.  [6] These images have been previously taken by scientists and put up for grabs for whoever wishes to manipulate them, and no authorship is given to the scientists after their appropriation.  This is of some interest, as pointed out by Kathryn D. de Ridder-Vignone in her book, Public Engagement and the Art of Nanotechnology, as she contemplates, “This move to erase the identity of the scientist or the origin of the science raises questions about the role these images play as art that promotes and communicates science. Does art serve as a tool of science education or communication when the artists’ powers to create and comment on the science are limited by the science itself? Perhaps separating the work of scientists from the work of artists is a way to give these artists the space and power to contribute on their own terms.” [7]   I feel a need to point out that it is not of as great a benefit to the artists or the scientists to separate themselves in light of the end-product produced by these images.  I am sure many scientists or research students are fine serving out their terms as lab-rats cranking out images and handing them over to databases, but when it comes to artistic endeavors such as these, one of the things that appear to be missing in the rise of Nanoart is the cross-communication between scientists and artists that allow a dialogue to grow into a public discourse for study and future engagements.  What Orfescu has done is created a website dedicated to cranking out nanoworks, which holds little in regards of actually helping to fill in the sparse void of interactions between artist and scientist.  If anything that void is expanding due to the separation of the images from the scientists that took them, and the artists that are appropriating them.  The lack of any communication between the two is also depriving both image taker (scientist) and image appropriator (artist) from a wealth of information that could be potentially invaluable if they were willing to cross-pollinate between their respective fields, which leads us to our next artist, because she participated in an endeavor which did exactly that. 
Switzerland based artist Isabel Rohner has been included in the book, artists-in-labs: Processes in Inquiry (lower-casing intentional), for her sculpture, installation, photo and performance work at the Centre for Microscopy at The University of Basel (ZMB) in 2004.  Rohner’s project proposal was described by her as follows: “Wounds – or the Search for a Cybernetic System.  The project is a research work on how art and science can meet and find new ways of collaboration.  My research would use the approach of histology (especially from the perspective of the cell as smallest autonomous unity of life in an organism) as a starting point.” [8] One of Rohner’s works involved her having a dermatologist at the Cantonal Hospital in Basel remove a skin sample from her body.  She then had the skin sample preserved and prepared and had an image made of it with the use of an electron microscope to form a cellular self-portrait.  Rohner’s work is important for the same reason artists-in-labs is important.  Both can help to further propagate and reinforce the bridge that covers the divide between the realms of art and science.  Writer of artists-in-labs, Jill Scott, had this to say about the endeavor in her introduction to the book, “As the title ‘artists-in-labs: Processes of Inquiry’ suggests, distinctive and unique process of inquiry might be emerging from the new roads artists are building into scientific research.  This book not only substantiates the need for more critical analysis about the roles of the artist and the scientist in the lab context, it presents related essays about the creation of a viable interface from international contexts… Placing artists into scientific environments can not only provide education and new knowledge for the artist, it may also ‘open up’ science towards more collaborative potentials in the future.”  [8] Notice the emphasis on ‘open up.’   Her wording lends to the size of the divide that currently exists between artists and scientists.  It can be difficult to carry the language and practices of one realm into the language of the other, part of the reason Orfescu made the mistake of calling Palade’s images works of art.  It also points out the importance of the construction of a framework within the Nanoart community in order to help propagate more prosperous future interactions.
                It is one thing for a scientist turned artist to simply take an image with an electron microscope and distort it digitally, or for even for an artist in a lab to do the same.  It is another thing entirely for an artist to make a discovery in technology through their desire for inquiry and play.  But that’s exactly what British-Australian artist, researcher and member of Artist Pride, Boo Chapple did in a collaborative piece with student William Wong at the University of Western Australia’s SymbioticA lab last year.  Chapple (known for her work with performance, installation, strange inedible food-hybrids and research driven works) got the inspiration to make audio speakers out of bone, and SymbioticA was the best place to go about doing it, as it is, “the only research facility in the world devoted to providing access to wet labs to artists and artistically minded researchers.”  [9] At first, Chapple’s work doesn’t sound nano-related, but according to a paper presented by the Leonardo special section Nanotechnology, Nanoscale Science and Art, Chapple was in fact creating a way to narrate in a gallery the work she had done in the lab in order to build her ‘bone audio speakers’ that would enhance the piezoelectric vibrations from the nanoscale to one that was audible enough for us to hear.  By doing such, she was able to aid us in realizing the degree to which our observations  of the nanoscale are made possible through instruments and devices. [9] Chapple and Wong were able to successfully raise the sound generated by the slices of bone they used via a stethoscope.  This was necessary, since the bones were determined to have a frequency response range of about 300-3000 Hz – not quite on the upper audible end of the 20-20,000 Hz that we humans normally hear at.   According to an article by Fast Company Magazine, Chapple knew based on her scientific readings that bone had piezoelectric qualities, such as generating an electric charge when physically stressed.  The very shape of an object with piezoelectric qualities can be subject to change if it is exposed to an electric current, which is why piezoelectrics are a vital part of small actuators and sensors for system environments.  They went on to note however, that the speakers probably would not be very successfully on the market due to being made of once-living animal bones. [10] Although the work does not deal with nanoscales visually, the audio component, which was originally executed in the lab with a laser interferometer, is quite innovative, and the project serves as a crucial demonstration of how artists can impact science just as much as scientists can impact the arts. [Article by Christopher Mims, August 2, 2012.  Copyright © 2013 Mansueto Ventures LLC. All rights reserved. Fast Company, 7 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007-2195]
                In conclusion, Nanoart is an incredible and relatively new art form, having only been around for but a few decades.  It can be exciting to make observations of the microscopic landscapes revealed to us by artist and scientist alike, and there is something to be said about taking the world of the very small and revealing it to the giants that are too large to see it with unaided eyes.  Nanoart, like science, can be a beautiful and humbling experience, revealing to us just how vast our world is at all scales.  But perhaps the most exciting aspect of Nanoart is the interdisciplinary interactions occurring between artists and scientists.  When two broad fields like science and art are able to come together, it’s like an explosion between two planetary bodies.  That explosion can result in many different ways.  It is possible that if communications linger, both may continue on their separate paths, feeling bruised from the lack of proper mixing of ideas.  But if artists and scientists with the help of the proper facilitators, can learn from each other, and find ways to fuse their different backgrounds, a whole new world can form, leading to an abundant wealth of new ideas, such as with Boo Chapple’s bone-speakers, or the joint research done with Isabel Rohner and the researchers at The University of Basel.  It is by working together, sharing credit where it is due, and bouncing ideas back and forth that something truly interesting is able to emerge and grow from these interactions.

[1] Hyfler/Rosner Blog, https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!topic/alt.obituaries/bvY_ryspA5I (accessed February 16, 2013)
[2] The National Science Foundation. http://www.nsf.gov/od/nms/recip_details.cfm?recip_id=266                (accessed February 16, 2013)
[3] Nanotechnology Now, http://www.nanotech-now.com/columns/?article=668 (accessed February 16, 2013)
[5] Nielsen, Kristian Hvidtfelt.  “Nanotech, Blur and Tragedy in Recent Artworks by Gerhard Richter.”  LEONARDO, Vol. 41, No. 5, MIT Press, 2008 (Footnote references [12] and [13] contained within and italicized are those of the author)
[6] Orfescu, Cris.  Nanoart21.org (accessed February 17, 2013)
[7] D. de Ridder-Vignone, Kathryn.  “Public Engagement and the Art of nanotechnology.” LEONARDO, Vol. 45, No. 5, MIT Press, 2012
[8] Scott, Jill.  “artists-in-labs: Processes of Inquiry.” Springer-Verlag/Wein and HGK Zürich, 2006.
[9] Mims, Christopher.  “Bone-Rattling Sound: New Speakers That Are Made From Bone.” Fastcompany.com. (accessed February 17, 2013)
[10] Spector, Tami I. “Nanotechnology, Nanoscale Science and Art.” LEONARDO, Vol.41, No. 4, MIT Press, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Very short, but still intriguing article about the death of darkrooms. I think it's time we embrace that this form of photography is slowly but surely losing this battle.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Truth in Digital Photography: Ervin A. Johnson

Truth in Digital Photography

Though the darkroom has faded into the background with the advancement of digital photography, there has been a resurgence of process based photography especially in the realms of "Fine Art". The truth that used to exist and was inherent to the medium has vanished.
  The birth of photography came with the daguerrotype, an image made on a silver-plated surface, named after it’s inventor Louis Jacques Mande’ Daguerre in 1839. However, this was not the only form of photography to exist at the time. Though Daguerre is generally accepted as the father of photography, he was not the only person working with light sensitive materials at the time. Two other forms of photography also came into existence in 1839 which were invented by William Henry Fox Talbot. One of which involved a camera and the use of light-sensitive paper, which is what is utilized in the photographic darkroom still to this day.  

There are a multitude of reasons why analogue photography should not be so readily dismissed. According to Matthew Biro, “Closer analysis, however, reveals that the divide between analogue and digital practices is not as strong as it initially appears, and that truth in photography depends on multitude of contingent as well as non-contingent factors.”.
 Truth as far as photography is concerned is the burden of the medium. For analogue photography, photo manipulation was nearly impossible. The truth of whatever was being shown was evident, in theory. With the coming of digital it became harder to discern where the truth was, if it existed at all, in today’s image. Unlike most other art forms the growth and expansion of photography is completely dependent upon the advancement of technology. It has become increasingly accessible to the masses simply because of its ease. Biro says that because of the “rapid adaption of digital technologies in photography since the 1990’s”, the medium of has experienced a wearing away of the “truth” that photography was once known for. The viewer must now, more than ever, be aware that what he or she may be seeing may not be based in reality at all. 
Biro goes on to cite Bernd and Hilla Becher and their use of analogue photography to show that the archival quality of analogue exists in a capacity for truth where digital never can. The Becher’s document locations before they are radically transformed or destroyed. By doing so with analogue photography they ensure the viewer that what they are seeing is indeed real. This offers a sort of redemption that digital cannot. This security that analogue photography offers it’s viewers happens because it is more readily believable than that of a digital image. Most viewers believe that silver gelatin negatives cannot be altered. At least without a helping hand from the technological advancements of today. 
According to Corey Dzenko, “Digital photography challenges the historical belief that photography is a representative of reality.” Dzenko goes on to describe the relationship that begins to form between digital photography and its loss of its inherent truth. He says that because the transformation the digital photograph loses it tangibility and therefore it’s basis in reality.
 For example, take any photo presented as an ad in a magazine and the effects they have on most consumers. If it is a beauty ad the consumers are more likely to trust the image as truth, without considering that because it has more than likely been digitally produced, it is then not based in reality. Most digital images produced for advertisement have been retouched, as that is an industry standard and those who produce those images count on the fact that the viewer believes things that they perceive in their reality. 
Dzenko talks about photography more generally and its connection to the object being photographed. He says, “Digital photography and especially its apparent invisible manipulability, destroyed the photograph’s privileged connection to the object.”
. He goes on to state that the death of the mediums inherent trust has evolved into more of a representation of what was instead of telling the absolute truth about the object recorded. Photography today exists in the metaphorical purgatory of today’s society. The public has to come to realize that the “inherent” truth once synonymous with the medium has begun to fade away with the coming of the digital age. 
Analogue photography just doesn’t seem feasible when examined from a point of efficiency. The film has to be loaded, developed, and the images then printed. The whole process takes much longer than that of digital, not to mention it is much safer. But there’s something to be said about the aura of the physical nature of analogue photography. Dzenko says, “This borrowing results from the viewers’ desire for a direct, or seemingly natural, connection between representation and reality.” Take for instance the iPhone applications that mimic the etchings and markings of process based photography. The aura of the analogue ways adds a legitimate base for reality when viewing these digitally produced photographs. A base that exists purely because the old aura is borrowed and stands as a facade for the viewer. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


There's something to be said about alternative process photography. Many view it as a one-trick pony ordeal. But if used properly it can really enhance a long term project and take it places you never thought possible.

Ervin J: Thesis

"Though the darkroom has faded into the background with the advancement of digital photography, there has been a resurgence of process based photography especially in the realms of "Fine Art".

Dying Form of Art: Ervin J.

Darkrooms are becoming a thing of the past. I consider myself to be a Fine Art photographer and I think a crucial part of my education has been my experiences in the darkroom. For me, there's no better way to navigate the complexities of photography.


Brian's Thesis

For my (Brian Bullard) upcoming group blog thesis I am interested in discussing how art has transformed and continues to transform the realm of science in a progressive and beneficial way, and how the two work together with each other to further human progress.

Brian B.

(Note for teacher: I haven't worked with citations in a while but I'm sure you'll let me know where I need to make adjustments if necessary.)

I want to take a moment to discuss quantum entanglement with you.  You can find an exact definition here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_entanglement) at Wikipedia, and I suggest you read it before you continue if you are not familiar with the term.  What is so fascinating about quantum entanglement is that it occurs on microscopic levels, but scientists are finding that it is universal in scope, even being capable of occurring at universal distances! Not only that, but its effects are such that it can actually have an impact on large-scale systems, which is a truly mind-blowing concept.  While studying quantum physics and entanglement, I began to wonder if one of these large-scale effects could be the entanglement of people, thus explaining certain unexplained phenomena, such as unrelated twins.  I am actually interested in making an art project based on this concept.  I found a book by author and scientist Dean Radin called "Entangled Minds," and after reading through it briefly I found a part that discusses related twins' experiences that could be an effect of quantum entanglement in people.  In the experiments discussed, a pair of natural-born twins are separated and studied simultaneously.  One twin is exposed to a bright pulsing light which triggers a certain part of the brain to fire off, which is then recorded.  The interesting part is when they found that the other twin, being in a different location but at the same moment, showed brain activity indicative of the other twin's experience, when there should have been none.  These experiments have been performed recently by author Guy Lyon Playfair (http://paranormal.about.com/od/espandtelepathy/a/Twin-Telepathy-Best-Evidence_2.htm) if you want to look him up and learn more.

What I am wondering is if physically similar twins that are not born together naturally may also share these experiences, or if their physical likeness may be a result of quantum entanglement occurring in a natural, developmental way, say perhaps when the particles comprising the DNA of different become entangled through some sort of interactions, if one might have an effect on another at a distance and determining the physical outcome of the children.  Just a thought.

Other possible explanations could be inevitability, seeing that we all probably originated from the Fertile Crescent in Africa, an idea explored and promoted by scientists like J.P. Noonan, M. Hofreiter, Jared Diamond and others, however, due to genetic mixing and global diffusion, we simply popped up in different places looking the same.  Perhaps for natural born twins, the direct link in physicality at birth is the key determinant.  But regardless of an obvious twin-state, could we all be linked simply by interaction?

 Many of us have often wondered if we might all be linked together through some mysterious connections, and one of the earliest of these explorations in thought can be found here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noosphere).  It was this line of thinking that has eventually led us to the formation of The Global Consciousness Project (http://noosphere.princeton.edu/intro_bottom.html), which explores other possible aspects that branched off from the Noosphere phenomenon presented by Vladimir Vernadsky.  I first read about Vladimir in an amusing book called "Apocolypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation Into Civilizations End."  But it is interesting to think that we may all by psychically linked together.  Perhaps this is simply a hope proposed and pursued by idealists with a soft-spot for their fellow man, but the numbers and findings coming out of the research being done are somewhat alarming and warrant further thought and experimentation with an increase in scientific rigor and an appreciation for an open mind, particularly that of artists because we tend to have a knack for making the connections between unlike things that help people to see the bigger picture around us.

So what do you guys think?