Extra Credit/ Science Captured as Art/ Kelly Tseng

I attended the Invisible Earthlings Reception presented by Beatriz da Costa this past Friday and I thought it was really interesting how she made science into a type of artform. I was actually quite shocked to find about no more than ten mini LCD gadgets with information about the specific specimens presented, along with two petri dishes under each section in the simple white-walled room. The atmosphere of the reception was in a sense an exact replica of the atmosphere of an art gallery. It was a change for me—a different change that I really embraced because I really loved how da Costa tried to present her bacterial life forms as a form of art hanging on the wall, like a painted canvas is adorned on the walls of a museum. Making my way from section to section, I was interested to see the different types of bacteria she selected to showcase. She had different sections that separated the different types of bacteria that we would find in a “garden” or in everyday life. Her sections were the Butterfly Bush, Bench, Garage, Porch, and Collection Site (Trashcan); these sections were specific to the particular kinds of bacteria they contained. For example, the bacteria yeast, Gliocladium, Scedosporium apiospermum, Lactobacillus, and Bacillus could all be found in the vicinity of a porch. While looking through all the different types of bacteria, one of the specimens really caught my eye, for its depiction in the image seen under a microscope resembled more of a beautiful abstract oil painting than an actual image of bacteria. It is somewhat remiscent of Henri Matisse’s famous abstract marble paintings. Chrysosporium, as it is called, contained an assortment of beautiful blues. Every shade looked as if the artist had carefully mixed the colors together, to create such an exquisite final product. I admired the little formations as they appeared to be like tiny crystals or icicles, creations that sprout from natural means. I know that the bacteria are not naturally colored by these shades of blue and that da Costa had to stain them so that they appear more visible to the human eye. However, I still find it quite an innovation for da Costa, who is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher who works at the intersection of contemporary art, engineering, politics, and the life sciences. Here is a picture similar to what I saw, though the color scheme is far from the pretty color myriad I saw. This really ties back to the topics discussed during the first week of class, science and art as two polar opposites. With da Costa’s field of work, I feel that it reconfirms that science and art are actually two very intertwined fields. It is one culture. This also made me realize that art is everywhere as is science. They are enveloped in our everyday lives and this “art” exhibit proves that this notion is true. The fact that bacteria can be found in a variety of places in our backyard and that these bacteria and the conformations they possess produce interesting art-like slides when combined with specific staining dyes is a pretty cool wonder. Inspired by this, I went on to search for more scientific art or artforms that sprout from everyday life.  This is a sculture of captured lightning.  Though the artist did not exactly “capture” lightning, he did trap and discharge millions of volts of electrical charge inside polished pieces of clear acrylic using an electron beam from a particle accelerator.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.