Nanoart: Science and Magic by Anna C Barros/ Nanovibrancy and the Listening Microscope An auditory performance of nanoscale resonance by Joel Ong/ Nanotechnology: Towards New Modes of Display? by Cyril Thomas/ From Microscopy to Nanotechnology: The Mediality of the Scientific Image by Angela Maria Krewani
Saturday, 17 September, 2011 - 17:00 - 18:20
Chair Person: 
Nancy Mauro-Flude
Anna Barros
Joel Ong
Cyril Thomas
Angela Krewani

Nanoart: Science and Magic

by Anna C Barros

The artistic imagination inhabits spaces, with the most diverse qualifications, the world to be examined, that of Nanoart, provides additional perceptive coordinates, very few felt by the general public since it is located within the parameters of the quantum physics which experience is still confined to a small group. The nanotechnology world has its own laws. The transmutation of elements by manipulation of its molecules, the superstar of nanotechnology, introduces an almost magical connotation but still not always possible because it demands environmental requirements such as speed of action and scientific methods still not so accessible despite its social-cultural impact. For us, artists, this new space is tempting because it depends on the imagination to be led to consciousness; it has short history, making us responsible for this new association to science, aiming at producing and revealing the scientific secrets yet to be discovered and setup. These requirements of nanotechnology make the creation in Nanoart difficult because we lack a deep and long experience of the quantum universe and of the art being generated. When we walk into a room or a Nanoart installation, our expectations are formulated by the experience in the macroworld and we seek to translate this experience by means of the logic of the macro but we face the demand to change it to a scale pertaining to the nanoworld, what can be done only by means of imagination. The condition of invisibility in the nanoworld and the presentation of its images provided by the electron microscopes, where the scanning by electron beams translate them into a topographic map, increase the sense of touch to the first magnitude. The art, since the historical vanguard, seeks the integration of all senses. This leads to new experiences in Nanoart because there is here no physic condition to touch the matter. This text discuss ways that have been updating Nanoart and introduces the artists that are responsible for it. The emphasis is on the presentation of  a group of works and research by the author: 200 million years, Installations and digital animations.

Nanovibrancy and the Listening Microscope An auditory performance of nanoscale resonance

by Joel Ong

The emergence of haptic imaging technologies in the field of nanoscience has extended our perceptual reach into sub-cellular spaces beyond the reach of conventional optics.  In particular, the Atomic Force Microscope lowers a probe onto the surface of the sample, touching and allowing its surface forces to direct the cantilever deflections, algorithmically converting this data into image.  By attaining information through physical resonance rather than light, the AFM offers a poetic extension to ocular-centric observation methods.

The probe thus becomes an antenna for our eyes and ears into the nanoscale, tapping into the acoustic milieu of cells and their constituents, where all matter is vibrant, energetic, albeit silent.  Tapping these vibrations and presenting them as themselves - oscillatory, sonic energies - stretches the image out into an evolving soundscape.  This process of listening alludes to the function of the AFM as a super sensitive microphone; and by positioning a mammalian tympanic membrane as its sample, this project suggests the creation of a simple techno-scientific listening body, where the diaphragm is probed to echo its miniscule surface interactions with and within ambient sound.

Nanovibrancy extends previous Sonocytology research by Nanoart pioneers Jim Gimzewski and Andrew Pelling by challenging the veracity of the imaging device as an interactive tool.  By immersing the AFM in the sound of its own making, a feedback loop is created in real-time across the nano and human-scale, thereby implicating each visitor’s very presence in the space as sonic stimulus -a movement of air molecules that alters the surface character of the membrane.

Nanovibrancy presents fertile ground for a discourse between visual and sonic modes of information processing.  In particular, the paper will discuss the abstraction of the visual image through the primacy of listening, as well as exploring the multiple instances of technological mediation that challenge the accuracy of the eventual signal.  While discussing the body as technology, the premise of sound as an immersive and subjective form of art also draws a distinction between mechanical resonance and embodiment.

Nanovibrancy is developed at SymbioticA and provides a unique opportunity for inter-media art at the intersection of nanotechnology, sound and biophysics.

Nanotechnology: Towards New Modes of Display?

by Cyril Thomas

This research project seeks to approach nanotechnology from a new angle and to distance itself from standard treatments of the subject in various forms of discourse such as theory and fiction, where it is more and more commonly broached. Usually, the controversy surrounding nanotechnology is formulated in simple binary terms: either nanotechnology and nanoscience are perceived as capable of speeding up progress, or they are seen as catastrophes waiting to happen. Even though artists such as Albertine Meunier, Victoria Vesna, FElab and Greg Lynn have participated in this debate, its terms are unsatisfactory as each artwork raises specific issues and sheds a unique light on particular aspects of the problem. The point of this project is to look at precise examples in order to examine the strategies and theoretical/methodological tools best suited to an exploration of such works uninfluenced by preconceived ideas and pre-existing discourses. Particular attention will be paid to the exhibition shown in Reims in 2009 as part of the nuit numérique (a night‑long event focusing on digital culture and art) at the Centre Saint‑Exupéry. This exhibition aimed at making complex installations and artworks more accessible while bearing in mind the audience’s unusal expectations in a venue which is neither a science nor an art museum. The project touches on various issues such as the art/science debate and the relationship between artworks and scientific documents; as a result, it raises questions such as :

-       What new modes of cultural mediation are called for in this context?

-       How should such works be displayed?

-       What critical approaches do they encourage, and what methodological/theoretical innovations are required?

-       How can these works be understood from the point of view of art history? What place do they occupy in the development of contemporary art?

From Microscopy to Nanotechnology: The Mediality of the Scientific Image

by Angela Maria Krewani

Visual media technologies have always been used to bring about the scientific image. In his experiments Robert Koch has relied on photography because he valued the stability of the photographic image. Later on film played a pivotal role in physical experiments, microbiology - it was the first medium to provide an insight into the living body - and x-ray technology. Especially in the case of the x-ray film the borders between scientific exploration and entertainment blurred. Following on this we can observe the explosion of imaging technologies. In the course of this development the scientific image is gradually taken for the scientific object. This is a process which has started with Robert Koch, using photography as the basis for his scientific experiments and it ends with the image in nanotechnology, where the image completely stands for the invisible and unimaginably small scientific object.

The papers wants to point to the following aspects of this development.

- Aspects of the epistemic image: Bruno Latour and Lorraine Daston have underlined that the visual image is brought about by social and technological contexts: there is no such thing as an “objective image”.

- Practices of visuality: Since the scientific image is always constituted in technological and cultural contexts, the paper seeks out to explore these contexts and it intends to demonstrate how visuality has to be understood as medial and cultural practice. Thus media technologies function as a dispositif, shaping the respective image.

- The blurring between science, popular culture and art: especially the image in nanotechnology travels between different contexts: it is used in nanotechnology but also serves as artistic image and image within popular culture. This point also wants to refer to the political implications of the nanotechnological image.