Sunday, 31 July 2016

Blog Summary

Desma 8: Art, Science & Technology has opened my eyes up to the Third Culture - a bridge between the conventional border between science and art. C.P. Snow's stance on Two Cultures showed me the traditional roles scientists and artists are confined to, and invited me to entertain the possibility that both can be made better through the integration of each other. The unit of Math + Art showed me the underlying logic in art through the artworks of Edwin Abbott's Flatland illustrations, Ron Eglash's African Fractals, and the mathematical manipulations behind music synthesis. Robotics + Art expanded my knowledge about the art world's concern with Artificial Intelligence, and walked me through a brief history of the evolution of robotics from Turing Machines to Neural Networks. MedTech + Art helped me realize the artistic opportunities that lie within medical imaging techniques, while BioTech + Art introduced me to the creativity that empowered genome research, as well as the issue of bioethics with regards to artistic productions. Neuroscience + Art opened my eyes to the philosophical and psychological interpretations of the brain, and allowed me to further investigate the technology of artificial neural networks - a statistical algorithmic model modeled after the neural networks of rats. NanoTech + Art taught me the history of nanotechnology and materials engineering, the technological possibilities that it enabled, as well as fascinating NanoArt creations that contributed to my knowledge of the Third Culture. Finally,  Space + Art ended the course on a galactic scale - the variations of artistic endeavors by artists and scientists on the topic of space demonstrated the limitlessness of human creation. 

For my final paper, I decided to write about artificial neural networks and the artistic genre of generative art, because it collided with my interest in artificial intelligence and offers great insight into the notion of the Third Culture. 

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Week 9: Space +l Art

I mentioned in a previous blog post that "if science is a man's empirical analysis of himself and his surroundings, then astronomy and neuroscience are the two poles of this scientific spectrum; while both contain huge amounts of unknowns, both inspire phenomenal creativity." While neuroscience is a man's conscious struggle with his inner intangibilities, space and astronomy is a man's struggle with his outer intangibilities. 
painting combines astronomy and neuroscience
Although the outer universe has been a topic of investigation ever since ancient times by philosophers, mathematicians, and astronomers such as Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Copernicus, it is only during the past century that men have truly ventured into this vast unknown. As a result of the cold war, what has previous been the byproduct of science fiction has become a technological reality. 

The intersection of space technology and art, otherwise known as astronomical art, has inspired many artistic genres including realism, impressionism, and sculpture. Space art was furthered by reflecting telescopes, which capture accurate depictions of the cosmos. Both scientists, who observe and postulate the universe for astronomical research, as well as artists, who are simply fascinated and inspired by the eccentricity of the outer universe, participate in the production of astronomical art. However strange the universe landscape may be, it can be captured with surprising accuracy through the hands of an artist with little scientific background.

Scientists also use art to engage their topics of interest. One example is Lucianne Walkowicz, an astronomer working on NASA's Kepler mission. Walkowicz, a scientist and poet, creates art for the purpose of resisting the academic and professional pressure to "divide science from creativity". Her actions makes her a pioneer in breaking down the myth of Two Cultures. 
Lucianne Walkowicz wants to educate the public on the tangibility and creativity of science
Space art is a great example of how scientists are inspiring genres of art, and how scientific creations enables the production of novel realism art pieces. The constant expansion of the vast universe precisely mirrors the limitlessness of human creativity and the unending sources of inspiration around us.

Banks, Michele. "New Painting Combines Astronomy and Neuroscience #sciart Https://" Twitter. Twitter, 25 Feb. 2016. Web. 18 July 2016. 

Digital image. How One Astronomer Uses Art to Understand Science., n.d. Web. 24 July 2016. 

Spacearium. "Beginnings Of The Space Age - A History Of The Early Space Program, Cape Canaveral And NASA." YouTube. YouTube, 23 June 2013. Web. 24 July 2016. 

TheStreetArtVideos. "Space Painting Tutorial Planets. Street Art." YouTube. YouTube, 28 May 2013. Web. 24 July 2016. 

Vesna, Victoria. "Space and Art." UCLA. Los Angeles, CA. 20 May 2016. Web. 23 May 2016.

"Early Astronomers: Ptolemy, Aristotle, Copernicus, and Galileo." Librarypoint. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 July 2016. 

"How One Astronomer Uses Art to Understand Science." How One Astronomer Uses Art to Understand Science., n.d. Web. 24 July 2016. 

"History of Astronomy." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 24 July 2016. Staff. "Arms Race." A&E Television Networks, 01 June 2009. Web. 24 May 2016.

Week 8: Nanotechnology + Art

The topic of nanotechnology emerged in the late 1950s, when the renowned physicist Richard Feynman discussed the possibilities of manipulating properties at an atomic level. The term was coined by Japanese scientist Norio Tariguchi. The idea of modifying substances at a molecular level introduced brand new industries and bred new technologies with amazing applications, such as tissue engineering, which created synthetic materials capable of mimicking and supporting biological organs.

Tissue engineering helps support bone regeneration

When first introduced to the topic of nanotechnology and art, I was immediately reminded of another type of art that is arguable performed at a similar, but less microscopic level - micro-sculptures. I first learned of micro-sculptures through the carving of a city on a walnut, and the topic of expressing creativity on such a intricate level fascinated me.

Microsculpture: carving of the colosseum on a human tooth
However, the concept of nanoart is much more complex and involves a much more scientific approach. Professor Vesna and Jim Gimzewski, in their article, suggested that both nanotechnology and media art challenges ordinary perception and tweaks our approach to interpreting reality. This is reflected in many of the art pieces collected on NanoArt21, a website which aims to promote the technological movement and raise awareness for the impact of nanotechnology on our lives. 

An example which provokes this shift in perception is the work by Elena Lucia Constantinescu, a microscopist who was "fascinated by the spectacular microworld when using the image processing software for my micrographs; [and] was astonished by the countless possibilities offered by digital technology to turn the photos into artistic images." The artworks she created through micrographs showcase the building block of reality - but at a level that's invisible to the human eye, thereby challenging our day-to-day perception of reality with our naked eyes. 

Coral Barrier by Elena Constantinescu
Nanotechnology is a field that will continue to impact and transform our lives in the future. Scientific imaging at a microscopic level is a technique which redefines conventional methods of creating art, and contributes to the "Third Culture" that is the intersection of art and science.

Khadid, Jad. Biomimetics in Industrial Design: Bone Tissue Engineering. Digital image. Khadidjad. Wordpress, n.d. Web. 24 July 2016. 

Micro Sculpture. Digital image. Webneel. Webneel, n.d. Web. 24 July 2016. 

"Nano Art Gallery." YouTube. Laboratory Equipment, n.d. Web. 24 July 2016. 

"NanoArt21 Exhibitions." - Elena Lucia Constantinescu, Romania, 2012/Coral Barrier. NANOARt21, n.d. Web. 24 July 2016. 

"Nanotechnology." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 24 July 2016. 

Vesna, Victoria, and Jim Gimzewski. "The Nanomeme Syndrome: Blurring of Fact & Fiction in the Construction of a New Science." (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 22 May 2016. 

"NANOART21." Nanoart21, n.d. Web. 24 July 2016. 

"Can Art Make Nanotechnology Easier to Understand?" National Geographic. National Geographic Society, n.d. Web. 24 July 2016. 

Vesna, Victoria. “Intro to NanoTech + Art." UCLA, Los Angeles. Lecture.

Event 2: Niagara Falls Art Gallery

For my second event, I decided to visit the Niagara Falls Art Gallery (NFAG) situated in the city of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Niagara Falls is one of the great natural artworks of Canada that outputs wealth when combined with industrialization and engineering. The natural wonder supplies hydro power and contributed to the bloom of hundreds of factories in the early 1900s, its prominence is testified by the once-famous Mill District along the Niagara gorge.
A very small gallery located on the coast of an high way
The site itself was very humble! 
The NFAG curates a unique collection by William Kurelek, the Ukrainian-Canadian writer and artist whose many works depicted his childhood on the prairies, his relationship with nature, and his Christian faith. However, it was not difficult to observe traces of technology and industrialization in his works. In a way, much of his art can be interpreted as portrayals of the consequences of science, in religious or environmental contexts.
from the "Last Days" series by William Kurelek
Matthew 24-19: "It will go hard on women who are with child"
The first artwork by William Kurelek that I would like to discuss is a piece from his series "Last Days", which depicts the Bible's Old Testament prophecies from the Gospel of Matthew. The exact verse of Matthew 24:7-8 states that "there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains." Kurelek portrays this biblical "ending" of the earth as an aftermath of nuclear destructions and radiation. The consequent biological mutations are reflected in the deformed infants in the foreground, and overgrown vegetation in the background. This painting reminded me of the genetic experiments mentioned in the BioTech & Art unit, and the topic of bioethics. In a way, this piece not only serves as an artistic illustration of a biblical prophesy, but a warning on the effect of biological experiments and warfares. 
The second piece I would like to discuss is on the topic of industrialization. This watercolor + pencil drawing combines Native Americans - a personification of nature and the virgin land, and smoking factories, which represent the negative consequences of industrialization. The smog and pollution from factories combines to form a gross figure in the sky, which is worshipped by the Native Americans. This painting can be viewed as the destruction of the sanctity of the environment by industrialization and technology. 

Facial omission
The final pieces I want to examine is a series that share one common theme - the omission of the face on a body. The first two faces were replaced by glitter, while the last was replaced by a stack of crocodile heads. Replacing the most expressive organs of the human body with unexpected content can be a revelation of the peculiarities of the human brain - the source of all expression. In many ways, these portraits reveal the strangeness, creativity, eccentricity, and obscenity of our minds. They resonate with the unit of Neuroscience + Art, where artists use art as a medium to explore and postulate the undiscovered truths about our conscious and subconscious.

Overall, the NFAG was an interesting discovery, and opened my eyes to how seemingly irrelevant themes, such as religion, industrialization, neuroscience, and technology can be combined to create art that calls attention to modern concerns of our society - such as environmental protection and bioethics. William Kurelek's collection was especially memorable and bold, and I would definitely recommend this gallery to future visitors looking for a melange of art on historical and contemporary topics. 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Week 7: Neuroscience and Art

If science is a man's empirical analysis of himself and his surroundings, then astronomy and neuroscience are the two poles of this scientific spectrum; while both contain huge amounts of unknowns, both inspire phenomenal creativity. Neuroscience creates an interesting convergence with art, as both fuels the creation of art, as well as the interpretation of art.
painting combines astronomy and neuroscience
In Professor Vesna's lectures, she discussed the past and modern philosophical and psychological interpretations of the brain. Some scholars consider our brain in a functional manner - composed of neurons and synapses, while some, such as Descartes, Freud, and Jung, seeks to explain the subconscious in an abstract manner - analysing our emotional, instead of chemical, responses.
Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud
The modern intersection of neuroscience and art is interesting, and has moved beyond the biological sense. Artificial neural networks composed of algorithms, which were initially modeled after the consciousness of rats, are now being used to learn simple tasks such as image recognition and data processing. Just as our brains are capable of creating of perceiving art, artificially created neural networks have also been proved to be capable of recognizing certain patterns and replicating them. An example is the neural network that modifies an image in the styles of famous painters:
Neural Networks allow paintings to be generated in a certain artistic style
The combination of neuroscience and art allows artists to step outside of their dependency on the unconscious and instead make it the subject of their creativity. This validates C.P. Snow's idea of two cultures and the close-knit relationships between science and art.

Xavier Seguin. Jung vs Freud. Digital image. Eden Saga. N.p., n.d. Web. 

Banks, Michele. "New Painting Combines Astronomy and Neuroscience #sciart Https://" Twitter. Twitter, 25 Feb. 2016. Web. 18 July 2016. 

Karpathy, Andrey. "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Recurrent Neural Networks." The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Recurrent Neural Networks. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 July 2016. 


Bird, Steven., E. Klein, E. Loper. "Natural Language Processing with Python." NLTK Book. n.d. Web. 27 June 2016.  

Karpathy, Andrey. "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Recurrent Neural Networks." The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Recurrent Neural Networks. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 July 2016. 

"The Global Consciousness Project." Global Consciousness Project: Introduction. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 July 2016. 

Seguin, Xavier. "Jung vs Freud - Eden Saga - English." Eden Saga English. N.p., 17 Feb. 2015. Web. 18 July 2016. 

MailOnline, Victoria Woollaston for. "A Beautiful Mind: Japanese-style Art Inspired by Neuroscience Reveals Grey Matter in Much More Colourful Glory." Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 15 Dec. 2014. Web. 18 July 2016. 

Week 6: BioTech and Art

The topic of this week's lecture was biotechnology. I found this week's videos to be especially interesting, as they discuss the controversy around bioethics and debates the limitations to an artist's creativity. As Professor Vesna stated in her videos, biotechnology was first employed in art by Joe Davis, who was engaged in genetic engineering and investigated the reaction of certain microbes to outer stimuli. 
Joe Davis, a pioneer in biotechnology and art
As a postdoc researcher in chemical engineering at CalTech has stated, “bioart encourages discussions about societal, philosophical, and environmental issues and can help enhance public understanding of advances in biotechnology and genetic engineering.” Indeed, this feat is one that may inspire artists to express in - literally dynamic - art forms, and also invite bioengineers to approach existing problems in a creative manner. Nobel prize winner Alexander Flemming first discovered penicillin through "[painting] stick figures and landscapes on paper and in petri dishes using bacteria". Such creative endeavors are still being performed and rewarded today.
Other forms of biotech art exists through flora and fauna, including an project which genetically engineers silk worms to spin metallic gold — an homage to the fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin, and one that utilizes mutant cacti to simulate appearance of human hair in the place of cactus spines. Although these projects do not contribute to direct scientific progress, they convey a "poetic soul" in science that most may not look for ordinarily.
Transgenic silks biomineralized with metallic gold created by Joe Davis, Tara Gianoulis, Hideki Sezutsu, and Mariko Kasuya.
However, the ethnical question still exists; although there should be no end to human creativity, artists must consider the wellbeing of the organismic materials. Eduardo Kac's transgenetic "GFP bunnies" brought the idea of artistic creation to a biological level, as it has essentially created a hybrid species. However, one must wonder whether the rabbit is functional in good health. It is also worth considering how an artistic creation might interact or impact its surroundings. I believe that the artwork should provoke certain ideas and inspirations, but should not interfere with the lives and biological balance of its beholders.

Joe Davis Portrait. Digital image. Creating Art with Genes and Bacteria. Elsevier Connect, n.d. Web. 

FASEBopa. "2015 BioArt Competition Winners: Mehmet Berkmen and Maria Penil." YouTube. YouTube, 24 Nov. 2015. Web. 18 July 2016. 

Sabanciuniversity. "My Dear Liver: Aesthetics and Ethics of Bio-Art." YouTube. YouTube, 27 Jan. 2011. Web. 18 July 2016. 

Turning silk into gold: Transgenic silks biomineralized with metallic gold created by Joe Davis, Tara Gianoulis, Hideki Sezutsu, and Mariko Kasuya. Digital image. Creating Art with Genes and Bacteria. Elsevier Connect, n.d. Web. 

"Creating Art with Genes and Bacteria." Elsevier Connect. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 July 2016. 

"Alexander Fleming." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 July 2016. 

Coskun, Ahmet. Ahmet F. Coskun, Ph.D. (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

FASEBopa. "2015 BioArt Competition Winners: Mehmet Berkmen and Maria Penil." YouTube. YouTube, 24 Nov. 2015. Web. 18 July 2016. 

Sabanciuniversity. "My Dear Liver: Aesthetics and Ethics of Bio-Art." YouTube. YouTube, 27 Jan. 2011. Web. 18 July 2016. 

Event 1: Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery

This Thursday, I visited the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery in Waterloo, Ontario. It was a sunny afternoon and I had the privilege of having the gallery to myself. The exhibition included pottery and glassworks from the past century to present, and featured artists mainly located in the Southeastern part of Canada. I was able to experience a melange of cultures and inspirations from these artists, and further my understanding of Two Cultures and its presence in art.
Proof of attendance (I couldn't find any gallery personnels except for a lady at the gift shop)
The first type of artwork I encountered was the use of glass tubes and electricity to create dynamic patterns and shapes. Upon examination, I was immediately reminded of the artworks honoring Michael Faraday, the late English scientist and pioneer of electrochemistry. The artist uses the product of industrialization as a modern medium for art, and the wall art titled "Statistics" was reminiscent of early-20th century neon signs. The convergence of electricity and glass created a dynamic, yet artificial aesthetic that preindustrial materials such as paper and clay could not mimic. This type of creativity inspired me to considered the new materials society is engineering with current technologies, and how they could be applied in art to provoke new sensations.

Glass and electricity - intersecting art and science

The second exhibition is a "functional acoustic wall treatment" made from clay paper - recycled paper pulp mixed with porcelain - to represent the handmade stitch patterns of textiles of the bygone era. This is an interesting mix of present-day concepts and technology with traditions and memoirs of the past. Like the author said, the concept of using clay paper to model the handmade objects of the past is an experimentation of blurring the lines between "art" and "design", where the former is less considerate of intuition and the latter is constrained by functional, economical, and sociological boundaries. This resonates with the unit of Two Cultures, where the coming together of the two challenges conventional distinctions between art and design, and enables a new freedom in expression.
Reconstructing heritage with unconventional recycled materials 
 The final exhibition was the creations of a biochemist who incorporated elements of biology and mathematics into her artistic products. This includes a clay cup painted with mathematical fractals, and a bowl with butterflies on the edges. Her work is again reminiscent of past units which depicted the relationship between Biotech, Mathematics, and Art, and how artists are combining such cultures together in their experimentation with contemporary art.
Rhonda Uppington is a biochemist who incorporates elements of nature in her art pieces
Mathematical fractals in nature
Incorporating biology into art 
Finally, I encountered an artist who is an engineer by occupation, but found new forms of expression through glass. I was inspired by this obvious bridge between the science and art cultures, which affirmed certain ideas mentioned in C.P. Snow's writing - that artists and scientists are inherently similar in style, and the intersection between art and science should be encouraged. 
Renato Foti is an engineer who uses glass art to explore emotions and perception
 Overall, I found this gallery to be an impressive collection that demonstrated the intersection between innovation and art. It provides evidence for the impact of modern technology in the minds and works of contemporary artists, and encourages the audience to embrace and appreciate a new era of creativity.