Reality: Two Views
At the close of World War II Picasso is said to have been confronted by an American soldier who complained that he could not understand Picasso’s paintings because everything was distorted; the eyes were displaced, the nose in an odd place, the mouth twisted beyond recognition, and so on. “And what do you think a picture should look like?” asked Picasso. The G.I. proudly whipped out his wallet and showed a tiny photograph of his girlfriend: “Like this!” Picasso studied the photograph and said, “She’s kind of small, isn’t she?”

– taken from Robert L. Solso’s The Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious Brain

Reality: Two Views
At the close of World War II Picasso is said to have been confronted by an American soldier who complained that he could not understand Picasso’s paintings because everything was distorted; the eyes were displaced, the nose in an odd place, the mouth twisted beyond recognition, and so on. “And what do you think a picture should look like?” asked Picasso. The G.I. proudly whipped out his wallet and showed a tiny photograph of his girlfriend: “Like this!” Picasso studied the photograph and said, “She’s kind of small, isn’t she?”

– taken from Robert L. Solso’s The Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious Brain

"While reflection, cognition, and interpretation of art are all enhanced through our memory for past experiences and subjective logic, it is the intrinsic structure of the brain that provides the canvas on which perceptions are painted… Art and science contribute to this magnificent process, each providing its own view of what the world is, each telling its truth about a single reality."
- The Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious Brain by Robert L. Solso

"While reflection, cognition, and interpretation of art are all enhanced through our memory for past experiences and subjective logic, it is the intrinsic structure of the brain that provides the canvas on which perceptions are painted… Art and science contribute to this magnificent process, each providing its own view of what the world is, each telling its truth about a single reality."

- The Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious Brain by Robert L. Solso

Art, science and wonder: My thoughts on Ottawa’s vibrant art+science scene

Originally posted on Local Tourist Ottawa.

“The glory of science is to imagine more than we can prove.” – Nadine Wiper-Bergeron at TEDxUOttawa quoting theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson

A little less than a year ago, I stepped into the Pilot Lab at University of Ottawa and was immediately mesmerized by Andie Haltrich’s installation “The Space-Time Fabric”:(1)

In that unusual exhibition setting, the connection and interdependence of each alloy pipe and pressure gauge was laid bare in front of my eyes. I couldn’t help but to appreciate the fact that in order to conduct any cutting-edge scientific experiment, everything had to click, all the way down to each nut and bolt!

The one-night event Catalyst: The Art and Science Experiment, which explored the dialogue between art and science, was a student collaborative effort between the Department of Visual Arts and the faculty of Biological and Chemical Engineering. It sought to create a more unified, multidisciplinary campus.

Fast-forward to the beautiful autumn morning at TEDxUOttawa a few weeks ago, I found myself sitting among a forward-thinking crowd.

Coffee in hand, half of my body wished that I was still in bed but when Assistant Professor Nadine Wiper-Bergeron from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine spoke, I was captivated.

In her talk, she recounts how she, as an artsy, goth high schooler, got turned on by stem cell research and convincingly argues that the path of scientific discovery is not that much different than any artistic creative process. She urges scientists to learn from the arts and humanities as to make science more accessible through community outreach.

Finally, she conjures up the idea of “science vernissage” where the public can see, feel, interact with and celebrate what a dynamic creative force that science truly is. By the end of the talk, my mind was beaming with excitement and resonance and I thought it would be a tough act to follow.

Then came the Editor of Art & Science Journal, Lee Jones, bringing the union of art and science to come full circle. The student-run blog and biannual publication showcase artworks that are inspired by science, nature and technology.

Focusing on “the wonder that occurs when fields collide”, Lee passionately illustrates that art has a physical presence where our knowledge can be expanded upon and where concepts become reality.

Through artistic exaggeration, art often confronts us in a way that raw data and factual graphs may seem too sterile and neutral. With science-themed artworks serving as the catalyst for eureka moments, Lee hopes to instill a sense of awe, to make us contemplate and rethink our world.

Having slept on all those thought-provoking inspirations, I headed out to the second edition of the Ottawa-Gatineau Mini Maker Faire for some hands-on biohacking with Assistant Professor Andrew Pelling, who also presented at TEDxUOttawa the day before. He was accompanied by two of his students.

Andrew’s research focuses on reengineering and repurposing cells and organs through genetic and physical manipulations. In an extreme example, his team managed to grow mouse muscle cells inside a decellularized apple scaffold!

The big question Andrew ponders is how structural elements affect the biology of living cells. Of course the science is mind-blowing enough, but what stuck me was the venue.

The Mini Maker Faire took place at the Shopify Lounge which is used to be the Capital Music Hall in the heart of the Byward Market. Unlike conventional science conference, it was free and open to the general public.

Why does it matter? As Andrew points out in his TEDx talk, citizens are embracing the DIY, open science movement and he would like to participate as much as possible through this type of social engagement.

At the event, the Pelling Lab displayed several homemade equipment relevant to DIY biology, such as a cell culture incubator made from garbage, along with instructions and parts lists.

Like Nadine’s remark on art opening shows, it was wonderful to meet and speak to the students who did most of the hard work behind the scene.

By pure coincidence, I recently came across a book by David Edwards titled Artscience: Creativity in the Post-Google Generation where art and science no longer exist in a dichotomy but fuse as one.

With the motto “two speakers, two topics, one conversation”, an upcoming Double Major event featuring a dialogue on synthetic DNA and hip hop’s roots at Carleton University Art Gallery is just one of the latest examples of how local artists and scientists are eager to join force to create and innovate.

What do I make of all these? It is highly unlikely that my boss is going to let me put together a mixed media art piece in my fume hood anytime soon. However, looking at the crystals that I just grew in the lab via a technique I learned way back in first-year chemistry, I rediscover that the beauty in science often lies beyond the facts and figures but is usually found at the interface between substances.

(1) Image source:http://catalyst2011.tumblr.com/post/13879976178/here-are-a-few-images-of-the-artworks-that-were-in

artandsciencejournal:

Wondereur

I recently got to ask the founders of Wondereur about their new free art app. The company, based out of Toronto, allows us to experience art online in a way we haven’t before. Here’s what they had to say.

What is Wondereur?

Wondereur is a new way to enjoy and buy contemporary art. Each week, we unveil an artist who has been selected by a leading figure within a local art scene. These ‘talent-spotters,’ as we call them, are asked to recommend an artist that they believe to be under the radar and at the tipping point in his or her career.

The way we unveil the artist is really what makes Wondereur unique. Our team of journalists and designers create a photo story about the artist. They work in collaboration with real photojournalists, ones who usually cover war zones and breaking global news. Linked to each story is a storefront that displays the artist’s work for viewers to purchase directly from the magazine. Since Wondereur is app based, readers can discover art from around the world, right on their iPad or laptop. 

How did the idea for Wondereur come to be?

We’re really a team of adventure-seekers. We have great admiration for the world’s risk-takers, which includes artists just as much as it does astronauts expanding our frontiers, and biologists seeking to find a new species. The idea that the next Picasso could be right around the corner has always fascinated us. Art always brings a sense of excitement, of adventure, and we needed to uncover that for ourselves and for everyone.

We felt that the art experience was missing that sense of wonder. When you go to an art exhibit or a gallery, what you see is pieces of art with a little tile, a ten-word explanation and a price. It doesn’t always make the artist or the work easy to connect to. We wanted to change that. Leveraging technology, we knew we could create a richer experience, and connect people with art across the globe. 

Another problem with the current art experience is that people don’t often know or understand who to buy if you want to invest at the right time in a promising artist. That’s why we felt it was important to partner with top talent-spotters from the art world to help connect our readers with truly investable art.

What are Wondereur’s goals?

At the end of the day, we want to make art much more accessible by revealing the magic, the process, the thoughts, inspirations, doubts and drives of the artist, and explore his or her journey into new frontiers.

For the reader, we want to help shine a spotlight on how to buy work from an artist at the right time in his or her career.

Finally, we want to have readers from Paris discovering artists from Toronto, and readers from Ottawa buying art from Berlin and New York. We want to make art accessible across borders.

How do people access Wondereur?

For now readers have two options: Wondereur has a free iPad app available for download for free from the Apple App Store. We’ve also created a web version of the app, which can be accessed from our website, www.wondereur.com.

- Lee Jones