Posts Tagged ‘art’

Week 8_Space_Wenjing Wu

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

 In this week, we learned again from the informative materials that man’s endless curiosity and ambition towards the discovery and competition in the outer space. When one after another wonder became reality—Apollo Program enabled human being to see the Earth from the Moon; Hubble Space Telescope constantly expanded the view of mankind; “Courage” the Mars Explorer revealed to human the mysterious surface of Mars—more wonders poped up and motivated further researches. After Tuesday’s lecture I had a question in my head: “Yes, we have amazingly advanced space technology. But what does that have to do with art? Should be something more than a drifting green sculpture and desktop graphic backgrounds.” 


alan-beanLuckily, on Thursday, guest speaker Gil Kuno answered my question at the beginning of his lecture: In all the phrases that about space—time, continuum, entropy, chaos, random, chance—he showed us the chance in art. Aside from his own extrordinary works on sounds, I found other works introduced by him are extremely fascinating as well. The most impressive one to me is the art piece that switches pictures on the screen when sensing pressure from hands. After class, I also found a website for exploring space art(I even found blogs from our course), presenting many space artists, including the former Moon walker Alan Bean. Now I see the inspiration from science and technology could be much richer than my imagination.


Abstract of the final project:

Ispired by the “Gravity and Resistance”and some materials on space biotechnology, I have an idea of creating “Unseen Jewelry” using protein and virus crystals formed under microgravity in outer space. X-ray diffraction applied to crystals is a powerful technology for analyzing the structure of proteins and viruses. The quality and detail of the X-ray crystallography is directly dependent on the size and perfection of the crystal used. Experiments have proved that when grow in a gravity-free environment more perfect cystals will be yielded, which allows scientists to understand better about the biological macromolecules. It would be great to put these astonishingly beautiful crystals on auction to raise money for relevant researches.


Is anyone out there-by Alan Bean

Is anyone out there-by Alan Bean

Week 3_Robotics, Art, and Self-alienation(?)_Wenjing Wu

Monday, January 26th, 2009

There might not be some significant correlations among the three key words in this blog. But they are really interesting points on which I want to share my thoughts with everyone.


Many times I found my knowledge of a known object was both limited and ambiguous until I was motivated to do some research on it. The concept of “robot” occurs to me exactly in this way. I couldn’t name the major characteristics of a robot that distinguish it from a machine before I GWY(google, wikipedia, youtube) it and understand that the most important trait for a robot is being able to make direct decisions in reaction of the environment on its own( That’s why I take Goldberg’s Telegarden as a machine combined with the Internet rather than a robot). Technology nowadays has reached such a height that robots become successful mimicry of human intelligence and function. The video Prof. Vesna showed us featuring a robot imitating a lady’s facial expression was really impressive. As for the concern of intelligent yet inhumane robots losing control and taking over the human world, I’m optimistic mainly because I believe in Issac Asimov’s Tree Law of Robotics, the core of which is that a robot will never injure a human being or leave him/her vulnerable. The designer should be and will be very careful not to break the laws.


There are a number of art works related to Robotics including “Exot” from Monochrom, an international art-technology-philosophy group. Exot is a tele-robot remotely controlled via a web-interface/chat forum. As for virtual form of Robotics, I found a cool link on the course website—Joseph Delappe. I visited his cardboard sculpture of Gandhi on Third Guangzhou Triennial at the Guangdong Museum of Art in November, 2008. The sculpture is based on his online and treadmill powered reenactment of Mahatma Gandhi’s “Salt March to Dandi” in Second Life from March 12th through April 6th, 2008. Delappe walked on a treadmill for 26 days to reenact Gandhi’s Salt March in SL and there he met all kinds of people(or their virtual compartment) and obtained art inspiration from this “journey”. This is another interesting way of communicating with people in virtual world.


Video:Treadmill Powered Gandhi in Second Life

In the end of Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, which mourned on the jeopardizing of original art work’s aura, he wrote: Its(Mankind’s) self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. However, Douglas Davis cast doubt to this opinion and raised several examples to illustrate the aura “resides not in the thing itself but in the originality of the moment when we see, hear, read, repeat, revise”, therefore it would never be impaired by its technical or digital copies. The era of technology and digitalization didn’t turn everyone into allienated and inhumane monsters. In my view, on the contrary, works such as the “Reenactment of Salt March in Second Life” and “Telegarden” endowed people with spiritual refreshment that communication and pacing down are what they need in the real life.

Week 2_Maths, Art, and Biological Data Visualization_Wenjing Wu

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Most people tend to take it for granted that the form of art is wild and free with pure imagine. However on Tuesday Prof. Vesna talked about the artful beauty expressed by mathematics, a discipline which is usually linked to a bunch of formulas and rules. The part of perspective grasped my attention immediately, since that was also the topic of my drawing lessons this week. Our assignment was to draw a picture with four different perspectives. From Duccio and Giotto’s first attempt of introducing perspective into art, to Duerer and Vemeer’s  masterpieces that followed strictly to the mathematical rule, to the modern art styles like Cubism, which totally heads the opposite way of perspective, and then the way of teaching perspective in today’s drawing classes, artists are employing maths as useful tools and sometimes frames to break in order to creat “hacking” effects. I found a website discussing similar issues on maths and arts in National University of Singapore(poke me).

Do you see the strange object on the floor? Close your left eye, put your face close to the computer screen near the right side of the picture. You will then see a skull!

Do you see the strange object on the floor? Close your left eye, put your face close to the computer screen near the right side of the picture. You will then see a skull!

Artists use geometrics to fool our eyes, too. The famous painting above would be a perfect illustration. Besides that, there are also some artists using  Anamorphosis to produce astonishing 3D illusions, like Julian Beever.

On Thursday, our TAs talked about good jobs done by several students and also introduced briefly what they were working on. What I found the most intriguing is the part of John and Gautam’s–Biological Data Visualization. The works are simply COOL! As a senior student major in biotechnology, I know how overwhelming the biological data could become if it’s not well-organized–for example, our genome is consists of 80,000~10,000 genes, which roughly equal to 3000,000,000 base pairs. Moreover, since there’are needs to study biological process on different scales, organization and visualization turn out to be extremely urgent for biologists.  Some of the works appear to be very interesting, such as a project from the University of Tokyo(figure 2) and the research of Institute for Systems Biology (ISB).

Figure 1. High-Precision Three-Demensional Bio-Structure Modeling

This project enables the observer to track the distributions of different ingredients of foods through Internal Structure Microscope. Here, scientists is utilizing artful presentations to reveal its secret. As for the artists who are interested in latest scientific or philosophical ideas, as Henderson concludes in “Geometry in Modern Art”, are motivated by a desire to complete their subjective experience by inventing new aesthetic and conceptual capabilities. I suppose this might be a better answer for Gauvain.

Week 2: Math, The Bridge Between Art and Science by Ryan Andre Magsino

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Week 2: Math, The Bridge Between Art and Science by Ryan Andre Magsino

Math, seperate from the sciences?

Math, seperate from the sciences?

Mathematics (or simply Math) is “the systematic treatment of magnitude, relationships between figures and forms, and relations between quantities expressed symbolically.” Although the definition sums it up quite eloquently, it does not specifically convey its relation to the sciences or arts. As we have explored throughout the week, there are several mathematical applications to both fields. As early as the 15th century, math has been utilized in order to explain perception and space. Artists have built on this application to determine vanishing points and formulate other artistic techniques. Science, on the other hand, is all about quantity, structure and changes. From the amount of blood pumping through the human body to the assembly of elements in a molecule, mathematics has played a somewhat integral part in determining those values. What then is math, a science or an art? American mathematician Benjamin Pierce refers it to “the science that draws necessary conclusions.” Yet another mathematician, Godfrey Harold Hardy, is “interested in mathematics only as a creative art.” Though it may seem one-sided at times, mathematical applications such fractals tie in both fields making it somewhat of a bridge between the fields.

Before looking into its applications, it is essential to determine what a fractal actually is and how it works. According to famed French mathematician Benoît B. Mandelbrot who coined the term, a fractal is “a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be subdivided into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole,” however they can simply be defined as an image that could be infinitely found within itself. Fractals are often characterizes as having fine structures at arbitrarily small scales as well as being self-similar. A prime example of simple fractal would be the Koch Snowflake created by the Swedish mathematician Helge von Koch. It is created by first beginning with a single equilateral triangle then dividing all the sides into thirds thereafter. Last is replacing the center with a proportionate equilateral triangle. This process then continues onward for an infinite number of times.

Iterations of a Koch Snowflake

Iterations of a Koch Snowflake

Though we may be unaware, fractals have played a much larger and longer role in society than we have expected. Although it was only recently coined in the past century, American cyberneticist and ethno-mathematician Ron Eglash explores the implications fractals have left in African culture and society. ( Video - Ron Eglash: African fractals, in buildings and braids) Surprisingly, some African societies are structured in fractal iterations with multiple recursions. Looking now at modern technologies, fractals have also played a revolutionary role. It is due to fractal imaging we have such technologies as computer and video game imaging, especially when it comes to 3-dimensional modeling, and even fractal compression for image formats.

The first three iterations of the Square-flake

The first three iterations of the Square-flake

As for myself, I like to consider myself a mathematician (though nowhere as close as even amateur). Surprisingly, I along a few classmates in the past have developed a fractal we branded the “Square-flake.” Similar to the Koch Snowflake, the Square-flake is a fractal created by first beginning with a single square. In future iterations, the sides are cut into thirds with a square a third of the length on all sides is added to the given side. This process then continues onward for an infinite number of times. Taking it to a step beyond, we decided to integrate our fractal sequence and design. Our result was a fractal lamp. Taking the fractal to its third iteration, we were able to apply the concept into a work of art per say. (PDF: Square-flake Informational Pamphlet)

A photo of the fractal lamp unlit.

A photo of my fractal lamp unlit.

A photo of the fractal lamp lit up.

A photo of my fractal lamp lit up.

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Week 1_The Third Culture_Wenjing Wu

Monday, January 12th, 2009

I was reading “Toward a Third Culture” when the chapter of “End of Art? End of Science?” drew my attention. Yes, throughout the reading materials and the lectures by Prof. Vesna and Dr. Kurtz we hear about the “gap” between art and science seems really problematic. Is there anything can funtion as a bridge? If so, who is accomplishing the work? What are they doing to to create this “third” or maybe “fourth” “fifth” culture? I paid special attention to these question mainly because I’m a Biotechnology student who’s aimming at a career as a product designer–using C.P. Snow’s words that will be “By training I am to become a scientist: by vocation I feel like being a designer.”  To my understanding, from both level of education and industry, the best way to build a bridge between art and science is for them to know more about the other one. I think sometimes this will be a little bit difficult for artists than for scientists, since the inner dynamic of artistic activities exhibits more relations towards human emotion and compassion while that of scientific activities requires the memorizing of a series of objective laws and the characteristics of the matter you’re studying. And that is why, as I see it, we hear about more and more artists are working with scientists/technicians.


Prof. Vesna mentioned in her essay that much of the bridge-building work takes place in universities, where specialists form various deciplines can work together and thus get more chances to know each other’s work. Let’s see what CAE’s doing. I’ve do some research on Dr. Kurtz’s work (including the case which aroused heated debate) and the biotechnology-related installations such as the “Contestational Biology” which “attempt[ed] to reverse-engineer genetically modified canola, corn, and soy plants through the use of nontoxic chemical disruptors” and “Free Range Grain”, which was able to detect genetic modificaiton in food. Rather than to provoke the viewer’s contemplation of living philosophy or political issues as some other modern art work or installations do, CAE’s work, as far as I’m concerned, seems more like helping the public to obtain knowledge of Life Sciences so they will be more impressed by participating in the art work than by reading hollow articles from Scientific American. Another example is John Maeda, current President of the Rhode Island School of Design. After watching Maeda’s renowed talk on Simplicity at, I was totally attracted by the fabulous work he did to combine computer science and visual arts together. The art he discovered is not only confined to the definition of “What a magnificent arith” but able to make people from all desiplines smile and appreciate his work.john-maeda_risd


Another yell for seeking dialogues between the two culture is from groups like we want money not art. Strictly speaking they are not from a mature industry with production pressure. Yet we can consider this continuous attention for experimental art events as a symbol of shaping the third culture.0aarabbititiijjiio-300


I still remember on the first class when Prof. Vesna did the survey of how many students in this class are from science majors, more than 80% people in the auditorium raised their hands. I’m not sure whether this proportion equals to that of total UCLA students. No matter how this is a good sign to show both sides are willing to know more about each other. And for both I want to borrow some words from Winston Churchill at this point: This is not the end. This is not the beginning of the end. This is the end of the beginning.


–by Wenjing Wu