[-empyre-] open imaging

trish adams trishadams84 at gmail.com
Mon Sep 15 10:24:23 EST 2008

Hello All,

I'm glad Michele focused on the query raised by Lucette about artistic
responses to scientific data. I think i may already have touched on
what i attempt to do in my introductory post (& i've also written
another post since then which seems to have got lost in the ether so i
may repeat some points from that!).

>From my perspective i found myself in a space where the questions that
were being raised about "humanness" impacted on my research processes
i.e. i wanted to be central to the research - both subject & object -
in a sense i felt like i was a sort of generic guinea-pig, acting on
behalf of the open community who don't have the opportunity to go into
labs. I also formed the idea that the digital image data from these
experiments resonated with viewers/participants who were aware of its
human origins - since the cells they were seeing would be very similar
- if not identical to their own. My contentions were that  empathy
could be engendered by our generic characteristics of "humanness", and
that participants would be drawn to engage with the underlying issues,
such as consciousness and sentience, through their individual
responses to the human cellular image data. The time-lapse digital
videomicrograph  image data of my human stem cells symbolise more than
impersonal scientific outcomes, they are imbued with intimate traces
that relate to their human, personal origin.

The really difficult part of the process for me occurs at the moment
when i aspire to re-interpret the scientific image data from the
perpspective of a visual artist. The raw scientific  image data itself
is usually so powerful that I seek to retain the integrity of that
whilst recontextualising it. My personal solution has been to
foreground an emotional rather than an analytical response to the
data. I decided that I would regard the data I collected through the
use of time-lapse digital videomigrography as more than just a form of
photography - as not merely visual but emotionally evocative and
tactile also. I didn't find this easy after years of conditioning in
"rational thought"!! But i came across a quote that helped me lot with
my my personal struggles to accept that it was OK to appreciate the
visual/human impact of scientific digital image data and use a sensual
reading of the scientific experience in my artworks:

'(i)t is precisely the baroque's subversion of the dominant visual
order of scientific reason that makes it so attractive in our
postmodern age…in its disparagement of lucid clarity and essential
form, baroque vision celebrated instead the confusing interplay of
form and chaos, surface and depth, transparency and obscurity'.
(Buci-Glucksmann in Jay,M. 1993, Downcast Eyes: the Denigration of
Vision in Twentieth Century French Thought, Berkley: University of
California Press. p.47).

Also, the 'open-endedness" of various parts of the process keeps
coming up again & again in varous posts i I have already mentioned
that this was part of the solution in my art/science representational
dilemma too. I adopted a more open-ended way of presenting "findings",
where the viewer is implicated directly in their evaluation. As an
artist I am really in a privileged position being able move flexibly
as I do between disciplines and methodologies. This is not to say that
scientists have not also done this & i wonder if anyone else in
Australia saw the recent 4 part ABC series about medical
self-experimentation? I researched the subject myself a while back but
realise now that i only scratched the surface by describing Victorian
Neurologist: Sir Henry Head (for quick reference: Enerson, O.D. (2001)
Sir Henry Head, http://www.whonamedit.com/doctor.cfm/705.html ) &
Australian Nobel Laureate: Barry Marshall (for quick reference:
http://www.jyi.org/features/ft.php?id=101 ).

Returning to my present situation I went back to the 'bee house'
recently to see the bees - who appeared to be cleaning their feeding
trays rather than feeding from them - a response that was mystifying
the observer present at that time! I continue to marvel how creatures
with such small brains appear to be capable of such intricacies.
Certainly bees must be a prime example of individual components
functioning in synchrony to create a cohesive whole & I could "wax"
lyrical about them if I let myself... Bees are also an example of
cultural/environmental behavioural differences and adaptivity. One
small current example: it appears that the research group have been
unable to make the exceptionally laid-back Queensland bees angry; even
some courageous researcher banging on their hives hasn't set them off!
So, in order to carry out this particular range of experiments the
group have had to ask for a hive of aggressive bees to be sent  from

Direct observations of bee behaviours with a view to reinterpreting
them for use in open-systems relating to interactivity are central to
the collaborative "mellifera" project that I am working on with Sydney
based arts & new media researcher Andrew Burrell. We are exploring the
convergent spaces of biology & artifice. Andrew has already created
the project site in Second Life(SL) ( http:mellifera.cc )and we will
use our  artistic interpretations of scientific neuroscience research
the expanded Internet, real-time 3d platforms + interactive
installations - providing a structure for adopting posthuman
technologies and modes of sensory delivery. It seems to me that this
is the sort of thing that Michele is referring to in her earlier post
when she speaks of the possibilities of 'moving towards exploring more
open-like systems to engage with audiences' ??

cheers, Trish

2008/9/14 Michele Barker <M.Barker at unsw.edu.au>:
> hi Everyone
> just a response to what Lucette said:
>> I'd like to know more how as artists you get inspired more or less by
>> certain
>> forms of imaging. How it informs you creativity in details.
> This is a good question, and whilst I'll answer for myself, I would be
> curious about what the others (Paul, Alan, Trish, Tina) think.
> For me, working with the 'images of science' has always held great appeal -
> conceptually and aesthetically (if they can be separated). But it can be
> didactic in the sense that, in more recent times, the visual outcomes
> associated with, for example, an MRI image of a brain, have a strong
> 'popular' association that often leaves me wondering when I see an image in
> an artistic context - so what? Earlier works, like Justine Cooper's RAPT,
> http://justinecooper.com/, whilst employing a full body MRI scan, resolves
> itself because, I think, the tactility of the work as an installation, and
> the rupture this creates in attempting to get a sense of any kind of
> wholeness within the work is not possible. It challenges us in that we are
> forced to move around the space and in doing so, the visual reading of the
> body in its entirity is constantly fragmented.
> So, for me, and the the collaborative work I do with Anna Munster, its about
> responding to the processes - and often the problems of the outcomes - that
> becomes interesting. Lucette, you mentioned in a previous post, which Anna
> picked up on, about the difference between cognitive functioning the data
> represented in an MRI. It was precisely this potentially fraught
> 'relationship' that prompted Anna and myself to begin investigating how
> imaging technologies interpret the neurologically damaged body. You make the
> point:
>>  But careful approach reveals
>> complex questions about the interactions of environment and brain
>> development
>> rather than clear cut differences. There has been many studies and it is
>> growing.
> This certainly resonates with our work - for us, the imaging technology is
> just a starting point for how to engage with, and respond to, some of the
> problems we see. Increasingly we are exploring a more embodied approach to
> how these processes can inform, for example, perception, if neurological
> damage has occurred. The challenge them becomes one of how to create a work
> that challenges perception - by using perception. Arguably, and I believe it
> is something that John would have researched, is what artists constantly do
> in many ways. So, I guess what I'm saying is, whilst our work is informed by
> the imaging devises of the neurosciences, the works we make are increasingly
> removed – aesthetically – from the visuals themselves.
> It also makes me think of Brian's observation:
>> Creating the open-ended universe world is a challenge on every level,
>> scientific, philosophical, artistic...
> I think there is resonance here in terms of Lucette's point about only now
> looking at - neurologically - the relationship between environment and the
> brain.
> PS: And I feel I should clarify, that whilst i completely agree, it was Alan
> who made the point about metaphors in the first instance.
>  - Michele
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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Dr. Trish Adams Artist-in-Residence Visual & Sensory Neuroscience
Group, http://www.qbi.uq.edu.au/?page=52793 Queensland Brain Institute
The University of Queensland. http:mellifera.cc http:www.wavewriter.net

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