The Mixer by Piero Vallarino Gancia

After a brief survey of some colleagues after a Desma 9 lecture, it is possible to infer that most people have no real idea of what the works of art shown in this class — from professor Vesna’s Quantum Tunnel to John’ Mouse imaging — are all about. People, including myself, understand the class but do not see how such works bridge scientific and artistic discipline into one final product. I went to the Fourth Quarterly North/South Campus Mixer with the hope of shedding some lights onto these doubts.

The mixer was located at the California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI) and had the intent of mixing people from across disciplines and geographies. It is interesting to note that the geography mentioned is both the geographic disparities existing on campus and in the world. This contributed to a very interesting mix of people which I could easily engage in conversation with as I am myself an international student from Brazil.

My first impression of the mixer was fantastic: I have to confess that I did not imagine such an informal setting. It was more of a party than anything else. A biochemist I was talking to clarified: “You know, because we’re working all the time we don’t want another lecture or meeting. It’s more fun to be in this kind of atmosphere and sometimes you’ll find that it is in this kind of setting that people are most productive and confident. Plus, you can always make some friends at places like these.” The food was great too.

The artwork exhibited was “Particles of Interest” an interactive installation of multilingual meditations on nanotechnology, culture and property that creates a “sonic simulation” of particle data scanning gestures and illuminated nanoscripts for iPod nano videos.

The artwork is from a congregation of scientists and artists called the “Particle Group” which aims to “apply artful techniques to the scientific to the scientific representation of industrial development that is publicly available. By recombining what is rational and impulsive [they] come up with situations and media designed to reawaken the question of what we know about what we are surrounded by, use, buy etc…” This specific installations attempts to shed light on the lack of regulation of nanoparticles in consumer goods and especially to “alert the individual to the level of trans-patented particle traces that have been found on him or her” since toxicological literature indicates that nanoparticles have a greater risk of toxicity than larger particles.”

The aim of this work is thus to represent science in an artistic form available to people who do not have the same intimacy that a scientist dedicated to the field would.

However, I would not have had a great night would my initial quest not been fulfilled. I set foot to the mixer to try to understand this new kind of art, the media art and I believe I was successful in my mission. After speaking with a few people who did not understand how the work was a piece of art and how it bridged the disciplines it claimed to I came across an interesting individual who was very much acquainted with the “Particle Group”. I was under the impression it would e a scientist that would help me find my answer but ironically it was a painter.

“This kind of art is not in search of a final, end result. Don’t look at what is being shown but how it is being shown for there resides its true beauty.” At first it sounded more poetic than true but after some thought it made perfect sense. Like Visualizing Diffusion Tensor Images of the Mouse Spinal Cord using Van Gogh brushstroke representation this kind of art does not have so much focus on what it does compared to as how it does it. Ultimately, the art comes from the ability to think outside the box and find such ways of representing complicated concepts in easy ways.



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