Spring 1998 Exhibition Press Release: Santa Barbara Museum of Art
April 11-June 7 1998

The Art of Science: Scientists and Artists explore aesthetics of scientific data and the cultural implications of future research

The worlds of science and art were not so easily divided, and they have collided repeatedly in the intervening years-many times with stunning force, as with Modernist uses of the X ray in the first decades of the twentieth century.

Editors comments on the forthcoming exhibition, preview published in DOUBLETAKE, Spring 1998

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art will include immersive PHSColograms by (art)n and collaborators that feature interactive music from Sequencia by Susan Alexjander, juxtaposed with scientific language, designed by Steve Boyer and Fernando Orellana, in Out of Sight Imaging/Imagining Science opening April 11 through June 7, 1998. Special Museum Opening April 17 and 18, 1998.

Innovative artists, Ellen Sandor, Stephan Meyers, and Janine Fron, from (art)n have created dynamic collaborative installations with scientists, that show real scientific and medical content as immersive snapshots of COX-2 Inhibitor, Human Skull and an Encounter in the Blood Stream, with interactive sounds in which visitors experience the content and art object as tactile, three-dimensional environments with information as ornament.

The images in Out of Sight: Imagining/Imagining Science are the visions of adventurous artistic wanderers into the world of DNA and the domaine of science. Though the language of science is foreign to many and the complexity of the scientific terraine formidable, these visual interpreters attempt to image and to imagine our inner universe. Some of the artists, commissioned to create work for this exhibition, reflect the sense of astonishment that emerged as they confronted the mysterious world of their own being.

This exhibition is about the mysterious, "the source of all true art and science," according to Albert Einstein. It touches on what inspires, astonishes, and surprises us, whether artist or scientist, for the exhibition, in essence, is about the miracle and dilemma of who we really are.

Howard Stein, Cameraworks

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is organizing an exhibition, opening on April 11, 1998 which seeks to explore the cutting-edge world of scientific discovery through the mediation of knowledgeable artists and recorders. The exhibition represents a continuing quest to create a visual language to interpret the increasingly science-based world in which we live, for we perceive only dimly the enormity of the impact that scientific endeavor promises as we face a new century.

As part of this quest, the Museum is calling upon photographers and artists using imaging to submit work, which is based on current scientific developments.

Science has increasingly become the engine of technological and societal change; but as it has advanced, it has also become more specialized and remote. Increasingly complex, the language of science seems ever more impenetrable, full of specific references and specialized knowledge indecipherable and unavailable to the outsider. Faced with a the human dilemma of the ordinary layman, confronting the discoveries of science and its foreseeable accomplishments, artists can hope to be essential interpreters.

Just as the discovery of the X-ray a century ago helped to transform out perception of the world, today's efforts in both mapping the human genome and understanding the human brain open new areas for creative expression. In seeking the participation of contemporary artists, the Museum is laying the foundation for what is hoped will become an ongoing and ever expanding relationships between science and art.

Philosophers, ethicists, science fiction writers, poets, and artists already have begun to think about the possibilities, to help us interpret, understand, and expand our "seeing" to incorporate these once-mysterious and invisible structures of our being. And, within science itself, the seeing-- the new eminent photographer Berenice Abbott wrote:

"There needs to be a friendly interpreter between science and the layman. I believe that photography can be this spokesman, as no other form of expression can be; for photography, the art of our time, the mechanical, scientific medium which matches the pace and character of our era, is attuned to the function. there is an essential unity between photography, science's child, and science, the parent."

"Yet so far the task of photographing scientific subjects-- endowing them with popular appeal and scientific correctness-- has not been mastered. The function of the artists is needed here, as well as the function of the recorded. The artists through history have been the spokesmen and conservator of human and spiritual energy and ideas. Today science needs its voice. It needs the vivification of the visual image, the warm human quality of imagination added to its austere and stern disciplines. It needs to speak to people in terms they will understand.

They can understand photography pre-eminently." Never has the artist been more essential, not only to clarify and make comprehensible important biological and medical concepts and processes-- and more broadly, the scientific way of life and thought-- but also to explore and to interpret the human and spiritual implications.

Scientists themselves produce stunning images as they explore both the microcosm and the macrocosm. Stellar images of the galaxies, digitally constructed pictures taken by unmanned cameras exploring the planets and their moons, and electron microscopic photographs of everyday particles magnified 100,000 times are fascinating, even beautiful and often dazzling. But, without interpretation and context, the layers of meaning remain hidden.

Through the spheres that the artist and scientist inhabit seem increasingly bipolar, in truth they share a common quest, for each seeks to uncover truths and to communicate them, to unravel the deepest secrets of our universe and ourselves. They may seem to speak in radically different tongues and to engage entirely different faculties, yet the knowledge and the knowing they seek to communicate are essential to out humanity.

In 1967, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the University Art Gallery of UC Berkeley co-sponsored an exhibition organized by the Museum of Modern Art and by John Szarkowski, Director of the Department of Photography. He selected hundreds of images that "exist in the world but cannot be seen by the human eye without the aid of photography," focusing on form rather than function, "that is, scientific or artistic" in purpose.

This exhibition, in contrast, presents interpretations of the dynamic world of scientific discovery by knowledgeable recorders and artists using the media of photography, video, and digitized imagery. Focused largely in the arenas of medical and biological researcher that impact individual lives most directly, the images are drawn from explorations into the Human Genome Project, MRI experimentation, brain and nerve research, and scientific laboratories themselves, among them MIT by artist-in-residence Felice Frankel.

The presentation includes immersive three-dimensional PHSCologram images with interactive sound by The Scripps Research Institute and (art)n, computer models, and designed genes. Video sequences created from existing scientific footage provide mute visual evidence to the reality of the unseen world; at the same time, they reinforce the realization of how complex and foreign the known world is. Simultaneously, in the Museum's auditorium, several artist-produced video sequences will be shown, with sound.

At this time, a publication is planned by the editors of Doubletake, scheduled to appear in conjunction with the exhibition. More importantly, a four-hour program produced by PBS is in development which will focus on the Human Genome Project. While it will not be ready to air in April 1998, the exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art will be filmed by the program.

There are two profound qualities that great scientists an artists share-- passion for their work and for the truth. Scientists continue to unravel the mysteries of the universe while artist, the "antennae" of the human race, often presage in their created images the world that do exist.

It is hoped that this exhibition will open the minds and imaginations of scientists and artists alike to the future possibilities of collaborative explorations.

Karen Sinsheimer
Curator of Photography
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art

The exhibition and publication have been made possible in part by the generous support of Cameraworks.