The Pick - Art & Science: Merging Art & Science to Make a Revolutionary New Art Movement

July 7, 2011

Credit: Graham Baring/Image courtesy of GV Art & the Artist

Art & Science: Merging Art & Science to Make a Revolutionary New Art Movement

GV Art, London

Davide Angheleddu's corroded bronze sculptures transform the illustrations of plankton taken from a 1904 book by the German philosopher and naturalist Ernst Haeckel, Art Forms of Nature, into a totally different medium. Strangely beautiful, they stand on the frontier between the industrial and the organic - a frontier increasingly blurred by technology, and where many of our deepest anxieties and ethical challenges lurk. This exhibition (from 8 July to 24 September) offers a series of frequently disturbing reports on what artists have found there.

There is nothing particularly new about artists being inspired by science, as curator Arthur I. Miller, emeritus professor of history and philosophy of science at University College London, reminds us in the exhibition catalogue. Picasso was interested in X-rays, Dali in relativity and quantum physics. Yet today's artists who go into the lab to collaborate with biologists have some fascinating new media with which to work.

For Susan Aldworth, research Fellow in print at London Metropolitan University, a brain scan is "a signpost to the interior self". What, she wondered, would one "look like if it could show what was going on in my imagination"?

We can see her answer in a print entitled Cogito Ergo Sum 3. After having her brain scanned at an imaging centre, Ms Aldworth doctored the results, changed the scale, "scratched into the scan emulsion and added images and words into the fMRI sequence to try to connect these medical images to my daily experience".

Katharine Dowson also used a diagnostic probe as the basis for her work Memory of a Malformation, in this case drawing on a cousin's "angiogram of her venous-arterial malformation, a benign tumour that had been successfully treated with laser 10 years before". She manipulated it digitally and used a laser to etch it on to glass, hoping she has produced "a delicate and ephemeral memory" of an ominous medical condition. If one didn't know its origins, it could almost be a dreamlike image of a tree on a moonlit night.

Other works venture into far more frightening territory. In The Pig Wings Project, Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, who both work at the Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts at the University of Western Australia, used tissue engineering and stem-cell technologies to produce what they plausibly claim are "the first ever wing-shaped objects grown using living pig tissue".

Stelarc, the Australian artist who holds a chair in performance art at Brunel University, has created a digital self-portrait across three panels called Stretched Skin (pictured above), where his face seems to have been flattened into a landscape.

Wherever science is leading us, these artists are following and finding powerful ways to address important issues of progress, identity and what it means to be human.

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