What defines a success or failure? Does it depend on objective data or a subjective opinion? And following that, can there be different views of the same physical object? Also, how much of this should be defined by the informed originator versus the unknowing spectator? During one of our conversations with Darcy and Kate, we spoke about the importance of the artist's intentions and whether or not it matters if they are correctly interpreted by the people viewing the art.
At my current I job, I often deal with experiments performed by others and therefore cannot always control how well an experiment is performed. I just end up imaging the samples and doing my best to analyze them in a way that would allow us to extract at least some useful information. Last week, I received samples that were particularly troublesome. From a biological perspective, the images were quite terrible. And then it occurred to me that "one (wo)man's trash is another (wo)man's treasure" and decided to send some of these images to Darcy to see what she thinks. I thought I would leave them up for her interpretation at first and then fill in the details if necessary. Darcy appeared to be fascinated and said that these images acted as an immediate form of inspiration for her. She eagerly got to work and began manipulating the images in Photoshop. Please check out her post to see the beautiful renderings she has come up with.
For quite some time now, Darcy and I have been talking about merging the elements of networks, free form drawings, neuronal connections and even cities. Looking at images 4 and 5 below made me think of satellite images of cities at night, with the black space corresponding to nearby bodies of water. In reality they are just patches of dense neuronal cultures that got damaged during the immunofluorescence staining process. Image 8 looks like a city next to a beautiful beach with clear blue water. The truth is that it was just taken too close to the edge of a cell culture well, resulting in a lot of auto-fluorescence.
So how do we relate this to art? What did you think of the images when you first saw them?
Did you feel disillusioned after reading the real descriptions? Do you prefer to know and understand or to wonder? These are the questions I have be struggling with for some time. If SciArt is meant, at least in part, to educate people about the current scientific achievements, what is the best balance between presenting accurate information and leaving things up for interpretation?
And finally, what do you see in image 9?
Networks in Nature and the Idea of Connectedness
Yana and I have been exploring her electron microscope images of neuron networks, some of which I have rendered using Photoshop. I do this as a way to better understand the image, its structure and possible interpretations. Images initially evoke an intuitive response, especially when we are not told what the image is about.
Yana’s images of neurons made me think of networks and in some cases, the disturbance of a network. I have always been interested in the idea of complex connections at all scales of human experience: nerves, blood, lymph, lungs, leaves, roots, the food web, migration patterns, rivers, roads, flight paths, hydro lines, social media, the internet... they seem to pop up everywhere we go. These are connectors that both communicate and exchange. The essential pickup and delivery system required in profoundly interdependent world created by collections of cells and other natural processes.
So what happens when we cannot connect, particularly socially. Are we slowly deprived of our needs? I would say ultimately, yes! We need our connections but they can exist out of our line of sight or under our skin. If we are always conscious of our need to connect, we become overwhelmed. Our subconscious is meant to deal with those underlying processes because our conscious minds are not very good at it. We are supposed to be paying attention to what is going on in the moment. Processing complex sensory input, making snap decisions that require the information of the present. Trying to connect all of the time through social media or our online presence can interfere with our ability to pay attention to what is relevant right now. I think it can interfere with the unique experiences that make us individuals but of course, it doesn't have to.
Digital connection is so fast and so vast compared to our part in it that it is difficult to visualize. Perhaps like people’s ability to understand the circulation of the blood before Harvey’s great experiment demonstrated it. William Harvey Experiment. Can we dissect the present digital connections and understand them? The problem is that we are embedded in it. This is similar to thinking about consciousness or hitting a home run because we are trying to understand what we are doing, while we are doing it.