Art of Science

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Art of Science

daya dissanayake

On March 13th, in Artscope I wrote about the Science of Art, which I ended with the mention of the Art of Science.

The 73 year old Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi, creates traditional Japanese art using Microsoft Excel. He had never used Excel for his office work till his retirement. He claims to be using the AutoShape feature to draw complicated shapes which he then colours in traditional Japanese style. Yet he is not the first Excel artist. Before Excel came in to use, there could have been even others who used the Lotus spreadsheet in the 90s, but Danielle Aubert is credited with creating 'pixelated works of art' using Excel. She would create a worksheet, set up grids, and try cell background colours, fill pattern, border styles to create her paintings.

William Besselink turns data into 3-D displays. He had tracked his sleep patterns into light boxes, showed each visitor to a museum as brightly hued Helium balloons, and had programmed an Aluminium sphere to expand and contract to represent a person's respiration as he recited a poem.

The Singing Ringing Tree is a musical sculpture standing in the wind on a hill. It is a tall structure visible from a distance, made up of stacked pipes of different lengths. As the wind passes through different length pipes, it plays different chords. This 'Tree' is designed by Tonkin Liu and is in Burnley, UK.

All this is hi-tech art, created by tech-savvi artists. Commercial art is been gradually taken over completely by science and technology. It has robbed the livelihood of many an artist in our part of the world. Even for a small tea boutique they would not get the village artist to pain a name board. It would be a digital print. It was the same with billboards and banners, and to a large extent book covers.

It is not just the paintings, but music too has been taken over by digital technology, so much so that we have artistes just mouthing words on the stage while their songs, recorded in most advanced sound studios using the latest digital equipment is played back to the audience. Digital sound technology is used to 'enhance' the natural voice of singers and orators. Just like the way artists paint in oils or water colours and then use digital techniques to 'enhance' the artwork.

Princeton University has been conducting the Art of Science exhibition since 2005, exploring the interplay between science and art. The 2013 competition drew 170 submissions from 24 departments. The exhibit includes work by undergraduates, faculty, staff, graduate students, and alumni. The exhibits were not art for art's sake. They had been produced during the course of scientific research and were chosen for their aesthetic excellence as well as scientific or technical interest. California Institute of technology, (Caltech) also holds an annual Art of Science exhibition.

The picture shown here is of roundworms (Caenorhabditis elegans) on an agar plate covered with Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, seen through a microscope, and photographed by Meredith Wright using the camera on her mobile phone.

Victoria Museum in Australia held an exhibition of scientific illustrations, titled Art of Science a few weeks ago. It is a collection of exacting scientific observations and illustrations, over a period of 300 years. "Whether they fly, swim, crawl, wiggle or walk, we are endlessly fascinated and inspired by the creatures of our world....As exploration and science have expanded our horizons across time and space, the ability to capture and communicate the truths held in nature have become increasingly important. Scientific artwork is as important and astonishing today as it was in the 18th century." said their website.

Music of Science is a sad story. The film score for the 1956 sci-fi film 'Forbidden Planet' was created by Louis and bebe Barron, but the American Federation of Musicians prevented them from getting the credits and their names were left off the film's Oscar nomination. It was all because they were not professional musicians. Louis Barron had built electronic circuits in their home, which could be manipulated to generate sounds. His wife Bebe sorted through the tapes of such electronically created music to bring out the music they wanted, and for the film. It was long before the days of the synthesizers and samplers.

F. L. Griffin, in his 'Introduction to Mathematical Analysis' had written, "Abstract mathematics is a work of invention - a free creation of the human spirit, as truely a work of art as the Moonlight Sonata or the Sistine Madonna, but on a much vaster scale than the entire library of great symphonies..."

David M. Hills, Derrick Zwickl and Robin Gutell of the University of Texas has drawn a Tree of Life, based on rRNA (Ribosomal Ribonucleic Acid) sequences of 3,000 species of bacteria, archaea, fungi, protists, animals and plants.

Science is into poetry. David R. Maddison, Zoologist from Oregon State University has written a poem 'The Tree of Life' of evolution across three billion years.

We are talking about Science of Arts or Art of Science all because of our need to have labels, to have everything identified and placed in separate pigeon holes, just like we try to categorize, all arts and sciences in various categories and sub categories, and human beings into different races and nations. We are defying nature, which has her own categorizations, which we have tried to ignore or have failed to understand and is causing all the confusion today.

One great man, who understood the problem made this comment. “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.” - Albert Einstein

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