VASST.info is a dual site exhibit pairing Breadboard's EKG Project Space with little berlin. 15 artists were selected from various artistic backgrounds to produce a science experiment. In the course of their experiments they were sent to explore creativity in the same vein as they might an art project, using science in place of the artform. As a result, the group of amateur scientists investigated serveral different arenas in science; chemistry, astronomy, psychology, agriculture, biology, sociology and non-empirical sciences. In some instances topics merged all together. In each project you are able to see an artist revealed through the lens of another form of the creative act, practising science.
Throughout the year the artists were asked to post their research process or topics of interest in the science community on vasst.info It is an extension of the exhibit, a less formal conglomorate of information. This interaction enables the inquiry of information after visually experiencing the artists' projects in person. Another way of learning more about the projects, VASST.info, invites you to a series of lectures that asks scientists from a related feild of the artist's project and expand upon the subject manner. Coinciding with the scientific lectures, artists are also invited to speak about their work in relation to a scientific feild or topic.
This catalog documents the content related to, VASST.info.
Opening Observation/by Annette Monnier
The only easy answer to describing the intersections between science and art is Leonardo Da Vinci, an answer so old and mythologized that it doesn't really warrant a mention. In this same category we might mention golden rectangles, ratios, Fibonacci numbers, and color theory. While these examples prove the claim that artists use math and science and that scientists are interested in art and that there is such a thing as an artist-scientist or scientist-artist, these examples are all incredibly dated.
We can say that the artist-scientist existed but who is that polymath today?
"BioArt", a phrase coined by artist Eduardo Kac who made headlines with his glow-in-the-dark rabbit in 2000, started to become more widely practiced in the beginning of the 21st century. SymbioticA is an artistic laboratory dedicated to the research, learning and critique of life sciences. Located within the School of Anatomy and Human Biology at The University of Western Australia, it is the first research laboratory of its kind, in that it enables artists to engage in wet biology practices in a biological science department. The artist George Gessert, creates artistic irises by hybridizing wild varieties and discarding the undesirable results. He is especially interested in plant aesthetics and ways that human aesthetic preferences affect evolution. Gessert calls his practice "genetic folk art". Since the early 1980s, artist Hubert Duprat has been utilizing insects to construct some of his "sculptures." By removing caddis fly larvae from their natural habitat and providing them with precious materials, he prompts them to manufacture cases that resemble jewelers' creations. Information theory, as explained by biologists such as Jacques Monod and Henri Atlan, helps us understand what seems to be the insect's aesthetic behavior. The activities of the caddis worm, as manipulated by Hubert Duprat, are prompted by the "noise"---beads, pearls and 18-karat gold pieces---introduced by the artist into the insect's environment. Hunter Cole, an artist and geneticist, recently created a series of Living Drawings with bioluminescent bacteria. . .
There are other genres of art to think about; Transhumanist, Hybrid, Computer, Cyber, Digital, Electronic, New Media, Environmental . . . and a lot of information to cover. The journal Leonardo published by MIT Press has a 40-year history of ‘promoting and documenting work at the intersection of the arts, sciences, and technology, and… encouraging and stimulating collaboration between artists, scientists, and technologists.’ The organization also has web sites, abstract services, and collaborates with other organizations in presenting conferences. The website We Make Money Not Art does an amazing job of covering media/research conferences, interviewing artist/researchers, and finding interesting developments in and out of the arts in fields ranging from activism and biology to surveillance and wearables. New forms of educational programs are being established at universities around the world. Students are expected to master topics in art, media, and research disciplines. For example the University of Washington’s DXArts program offers a ‘creative research convergence zone for intrepid artists and scholars’ that seek to reach out beyond the arts. The Conceptual/Information Arts (CIA) is the "experimental program within the Art Department at San Francisco State University dedicated to preparing artists and media experimenters to work at the cutting edge of science and technology". Courses cover topics such as art & biology, robotics, locative media, and physical computing.Amateurs
Perhaps the most famous scientific amateur is the amateur astronomer. Perhaps the most famous artistic amateur is the outsider artist. Both types of amateurs are famous because they have made large impacts on their fields.
No matter their standing in the art community all of the participants invited by Beth Heinly to be a part of Vasst.info are amateurs in the scientific community. The art-science created for this exhibition is the opening of a dialogue, an experiment, and a work-in-progress. Anyone can be a scientist, just as anyone can be an artist. We need only open our eyes, crack open a book (or insert media type), and begin. Vasst.info is a perfect place to start.
From One Cell to a Complex Organism/Angela McQuillan & April M. Aguillard
For our science fair project, we decided to make a video as a documentation of the embryonic development of wild type (non genetically altered) zebrafish, starting from a single cell. Zebrafish are commonly used in many types of scientific experiments as a model for studying vertebrate development and genetics. They help us to understand how all vertebrates, including humans, grow from a single cell into a complex multi-cellular organism. Even though fish are a very different species to humans, their embryonic development is surprisingly similar. This stage of development is very exciting because it is the most rapid period of development, when this “life force” creates something so incredibly complex out of one tiny little cell.
We chose to film everything the way it happened. This video did not turn out like the video clips you would find in a scientific paper or textbook. Ours has many visible imperfections. The fish were not manipulated in any way, and were captured using short sessions of time lapse photography under a microscope as development occurred.
Jarred Hydrogen/Annette Monnier & Gerik Forston
Electrolysis a method of separating elements by pushing an electric current through a compound. It is used in various industrial applications such as removing copper from its ore. It is also used to separate hydrogen and oxygen from water. Electrolysis isn't the most efficient way to obtain hydrogen, but it is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to "homebrew" hydrogen. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. With the "green-energy" craze and talk of powering our future oil-free economy on hydrogen, it has gotten much attention in the last few years. Learning about this potential fuel of the future is important and interesting. Besides, hydrogen is a powerful fuel, and blowing stuff up in the name of science is fun.
Kant and Hypnosis: on Not-So-Empirical Science./Brandon Joyce
In 1781, Kant published The Critique of Pure Reason. The idea behind this book was to describe how experience comes about and where knowledge comes from. Kant had come up with a clever compromise between the Empiricists, who thought that everything was impressed upon us by the world, and the Rationalists, who thought everything could be found and confirmed within the inner mind. Kant's compromise was this: there are some things that the world impresses upon us, empirically, through the senses, and there are other things— certain concepts— that we impose upon the world to give it form and order. The Critique of Pure Reason was Kant's attempt at demonstrating which was which— and at laying the foundations for knowledge and experience on the "transcendental." Kant penned a fairly specific account of these transcendental, or "a priori," concepts. They included Time and Space (what Kant called our "Transcendental Aesthetic"), Causality, Substance, the Self (or more specifically, what Kant called the "Transcendental Subject"), and a few other categories. Again, we do not find these concepts out there, in the empirical world, even if common sense tells us as much. We impose them upon our world in order to make sense of it. One of the things I find juicy and intriguing about all this is the possibility of a "science" of the transcendental; of a non-empirical science that is still capable of experimentation. What makes it even trickier is that I do not consider these concepts to be fixed and universal in the same way that Kant did. I think that our concepts of Time, Space, Causality, Substance, etc., can bend and shift and warp, and do so quite frequently, and often imperceptibly. They are ordering principles, like coordinate planes in geometry, or like systems of measurement. And just as in the choice between polar or Cartesian coordinates, or between English and metric systems, we can use a variety of ordering principles to make sense of things in the empirical world. But the problem is: how do you go about demonstrating this? How do you going about making an experiment?
You can't very well measure the non-empirical. If time seems slower, or space smaller, you are hard-pressed for notation, since any form of notation will be within the interpretive grid of whatever sense of time and space, or whatever category, you might be employing. One of the best things I could come up with in terms of demonstration was the hypnotic setting. Hypnosis seems like an ideal laboratory for "Transcendental Science." With the eyes closed, the body immobile, and the mind in a hypersuggestible state, we are probably the closest we will ever get to being free from the empirical world. It's a state in which can best witness ourselves imposing things on our experience, undistracted by the "rhapsody of perceptions." This is also why I think it's no coincidence that hypnoidal settings— like meditation— often stumble into Kantian territory before too long, often even employing language very similar to the Critique to describe their discoveries. What I have tried to do in these experiments is to employ hypnosis in order to toy with these Kantian concepts a little; hopefully getting the subject to see this imposition in action. If the subject can sense these concepts bending, shifting or warping, I consider the experiment a success. The first part of the experiment always consists of hypnotic induction by audio; that is, relaxing and desensitizing the body while putting the mind into a more-malleable, hypersuggestible state. The second part consists of an experiment with a concept, such as Substance or Causality. I've also included a few extra tracks— for your enjoyment— to further explore the possibilities of hypnosis outside of the Kantian framework. I hope you enjoy these experiments.
P.Fusiformis/Daniel Wallace & Derek Frech
For VASST we have created a mechanism to trigger bioluminesence in a sample of Pyrocystis Fusiformis (a wide-spread species of eukaryotic algae) requiring the reversal of the sample's circadian rythym and exposure to a resonant frequency of 40 hz. Compiled below is a short survey of information collected while researching this project.
As photosynthesizing organisms, dinoflagellates produce a substanial amount of the world's oxygen, and consume a large proportion of the atmosphere's carbon dioxide.
According to the "burglar alarm theory", Pyrocystis Fusiformis bioluminesces to attract attention to its predator. When attacked by a predator. P. fusiformis bioluminesces and illuminates itself as well as its predator. When its predator is illuminated, it greatly increases the chance that the predator itself will be preyed upon, which favors the survival of the P.fusiformis group as well as the luminescent genotype.
Electrical activity at a frequency of 40hz in the human brain has been proposed to be related to the cognitive processing and to the temporal binding of the sensory stimuli. Oscilitory activity near 40hz represents a nuerophysiological correlate to the temporal processing of auditory stimuli. Through our experimentation we found that 40hz was also the optimal frequency for generating luminescence in the sample
Gamma waves at 40hz are associated with peak concentration and the brain's optimal frequency for cognitive functioning. Nobel Prize winning scientist, Sir Francis Crick believes that the 40hz frequency may be the key to the act of cognition.
This is an investigation of the usefulness of urban plants, based on recent knowledge of edible wild plants, and a long vested interest in the natural world. I gathered plants from around the city, testing their dye, food, and fermentation capabilities, boiling them, and burning them. I found some unnatural objects along the way and could not help using them.
My BFFF/James Weissenger & Jong Kyu Kim
My Best Friend Facebook Forever (My BFFF) was a month-long performance-experiment. The project explored what it means to "do Facebook"
all the way-to like every "like", friend every "friend", and yes, always hit "poke back". The project began on April Fool's Day 2011, we assure
you this was no joke, through to Dave Kim's birthday, April 30th, 2011.
[Facebook faceoff: Artist embarks on 'social networking stress test' by Peter Crimmins]
[A.V. Club Philadelphia]
[Man Lives Life Via Facebook for a Month]
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Black Hole/Kristen Neville-Taylor
“Incomprehension and confusion are common reactions to the plays of Samuel Beckett. The effort of the audience to extract an overall meaning
from the plot mostly fails. This is due to the fact that on the stage, all concepts on which we usually rely collapse; they lose their meaning.
Among them are for instance “the belief in God, in the unity of the world, [and] in the knowability of experience” (Connor, 3). The audience is
no longer able to revert to familiar experiences in order to establish an interpretation. The result is inner emptiness. According to Beckett
and the other writers of the so-called Theatre of the Absurd, inner emptiness is a basic experience of everyday life.”
- Saskia Bachner
The black hole phenomena has been compared to the marathon runner, at once full of energy and life, but eventually depleted and bound for
collapse. The most I will be able to do to simulate the black hole experience without running a marathon in the gallery (which might not be a
bad idea) is to create the feeling of infinite emptiness.
- Anish Kapoor
Biodiversity Studies below 30th Street & Girard Avenue/Lisa Murch
Field Study #1, Rear Yard, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Field Study #2, Under the bridge by the Railroad Tracks, Philadelphia, PA 19130 Field Study #3, Over the bridge by the Railroad Tracks, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Less than 5% of the great shrub-steppe ecosystem that once dominated this neighborhood has escaped development to date, and much of what remains unconverted exists in a highly degraded condition. The biological importance of my backyard’s relatively undisturbed habitat only increases as more and more of the surrounding landscape is converted to urban uses.
I inventoried the natural biological diversity in my backyard and decided to examine two other locations within a three block radius both of which were almost void of life. I surveyed the length and breadth of these sites, identifying, cataloging, and mapping the surviving plants, animals, and biological communities in this landscape. The inventory documented occurrences of dozens of living things and mapped critical biological resources. This work culminated with the publication of this volume, Biodiversity Studies below 30th Street & Girard Avenue.
Apple Distortion/Sam Cusumao
Electricity for Progress presents, Apple Distortion - an introduction to feedback and operational amplifiers. In this experiment, users are presented with three apples, touching these apples in various ways and combinations produces audible feedback. The feedback is produced using an old lm709 operational amplifier integrated circuit and an assortment of capacitors (including the human inter-actor). Handling and Grip affect tonal qualities to the sound produced. This device is meant to graph, in an audibly sensible way, the electrical properties and processes occurring inside the operational amplifier in self oscillation.