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  • Art + Science by Daniel Paquin

    Date: 05/16/2014

    The Grunwald Gallery’s thought-provoking fall exhibition Imag(in)ing Science brought together creative thinkers from across the disciplines, reminding us that the visual arts and sciences have always been “in a relationship.”

    “The art exhibition Imag(in)ing Science, which attracted enthusiastic crowds to IU’s Grunwald Gallery last fall, belongs to a new development currently catching on around the globe. In labs, galleries, and new experimental spaces such as Le Laboratoire in Paris, artists and scientists are crossing disciplinary boundaries to embrace their most basic common interests—creativity, exploration, and discovery.

    Imag(in)ing Science installation images courtesy of Kevin O. Mooney

    The group exhibition was created by teams of IU faculty artists and scientists whose charge, over the course of a year, was to make collaborative artworks based on a scientific image, recording, or imaging technique.

    On opening night last August, the exhibition was packed elbow-to-elbow with curious visitors examining an intriguing range of artworks: haunting images of Japan, overlaid with seismic recordings of the 9.0-magnitude Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011; delicate, whimsical drawings based on the movement of chloroplasts within leaves; a film inspired by brain functions and Shakespeare, to name a few.

    The spark of the idea for the exhibition originated with Jeffrey Wolin, Ruth N. Halls Professor of Photography in the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Art. Wolin also directs IU’s Center for Integrative Photographic Studies, which promotes the interdisciplinary study of the photographic image. In 2010, while collaborating with IU’s Light Microscopy Imaging Center, Wolin had the notion that it would be interesting to encourage “artists to use microscopes and to make art out of the images.”

    Shortly thereafter he met Andrew Lumsdaine, a professor of computer science in the School of Informatics and Computing and a leading researcher in the area of computational photography known as plenoptics. Lumsdaine builds and works with a special breed of cameras known as plenoptic or light-field cameras. Plenoptic cameras capture whole light rays bouncing off a subject, rather than just points of light, as conventional cameras do, and produce images that cannot be made any other way. A mutual interest in this intriguing new technology brought Wolin and Lumsdaine together to form the first of the exhibition’s artist-scientist teams.

    Betsy Stirratt, a visual artist and director of the Grunwald Gallery since 1987, organized the exhibition with Wolin. “There are many collaborations happening between artists and people in a variety of disciplines, but especially with the sciences now,” she explains. “People are very interested in the idea of what creativity means in both the arts and the sciences.”

    Wolin reached out to faculty and found many eager to participate in the project. The participants divided into six teams, with some scientists working with more than one artist. Once formed, the teams came together regularly to share ideas and report their progress. “We all loved hearing about what everyone else was doing. It was inspiring,” he says.

    To create their contribution to the exhibition, Wolin and Lumsdaine used a plenoptic camera to explore the relationship between time and space by capturing light rays from staged scenes. With the help of Zachary Norman, a third-year MFA photography student, the team staged a scene of Lumsdaine juggling three tennis balls. Plenoptic technology enables an image to be refocused after it is taken, which allowed them to create three versions of a single image with varying layers of focus.

    (Below) In the foreground Wolin holds a Lytro, the first commercially produced plenoptic camera, while Lumsdaine—visible both in the image itself and on the screen of the Lytro—juggles three balls. In the background, Norman holds a photographic test chart.

    The image, captured three times, each with a different person in focus, is a visual explanation of how plenoptics works.

    Andrew Juggling Art, Science and Commerce, 2013, Jeffrey Wolin, Andrew Lumsdaine. Archival inkjet print.

    Wolin and Lumsdaine were inspired in part by the pioneering work of Eadweard Muybridge, who invented a new camera shutter design to capture sequences of movement in the late 19th century. “Muybridge wanted to photograph fractions of a second,” Wolin explains. “He had been commissioned to photograph a horse in full gallop.”

    Imag(in)ing Science Artists and Scientists Teams

    Jeffrey Wolin (photography)
    Andrew Lumsdaine (informatics and computing)

    James Nakagawa (photography)
    Michael Hamburger (geology)

    Arthur Liou (video/media)
    Jim Powers (biology)/Alex Straiker (psychology)

    Margaret Dolinsky (video/media)/Roger Hangarter (biology)

    Rowland Ricketts (textiles)
    Roger Hangarter (biology)/Jim Powers (biology)

    Caleb Weintraub (painting/installation)/Jim Powers (biology)

    In the first of his famous motion studies, The Horse in Motion (1878), Muybridge used multiple cameras and state-of-the-art techniques to capture a series of images of a passing horse.
    Another source of inspiration for Wolin and Lumsdaine came from work done in the 1930s by MIT engineer Harold Edgerton, who rigged up a high-speed stroboscopic light to create images of things that were faster still.

    “He used a strobe to create his famous images of a bullet piercing a card, a bullet popping a balloon, and a drop of milk,” Wolin says. “They didn’t have to be beautiful, but they were.”

    Both Stirratt and Wolin hope to see Imag(in)ing Science travel beyond IU’s borders to other venues where creative art-science partnerships are taking place. The success of the exhibition has sparked discussions about making the art-science team projects an annual event.

    “I think this kind of collaboration is deeply valuable because, within the College, there is such a range of interesting things happening," Stirratt says. “Imag(in)ing Science is a return to the sort of interdisciplinary scholarship that is the hallmark of a liberal arts education. It shows what can be accomplished by a return to form.”

    (Installation view) The Living Canvas: Painting with Chloroplasts, 2013. Margaret Dolinsky, Roger Hangarter.

    Sonnet 27 (Still), Jawshing Arthur Liou, Jim Powers, Alex Straiker. Digital video, 5120 x 800 resolution, multiple projections, stereo sound.

    Six Views of Indigo Tracheid, 2013, Rowland Ricketts, Jim Powers, Roger Hangarter. Indigo dyed white and bleached linen.

    Apples, Orange and Pear, 2013, Jeffrey Wolin, Andrew Lumsdaine. Archival inkjet print.

    Art and science enthusiasts at the opening reception of Imag(in)ing Science last August in the Grunwald Gallery of the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts. The exhibition was part of the College’s 2013 Themester initiative, “Connectedness: Networks in a Complex World.” The College of Arts and Humanities Institute (CAHI) also provided support.

    Indiana University | IU Bloomington | College of Arts & Sciences | College Magazine, Winter 2014, Table of Contents
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