Monday, March 5, 2007

Carnie: Role of Picturing Practices

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What role do the picturing practices play in your “knowledge production?”

From: Andrew Carnie
Date: Tue, 05 Mar 2007 17:55:58 +0000

Ha lets get going. I must rise to Suzanne’s earlier challenge to write something and see what happens.

1) What role do the picturing practises play in your “knowledge production?”

I feel my role as a practitioner, as an artist dealing with scientific topics is to add to the debate, throw open a space to think about the issues. This means having at least some knowledge of the area of science I am looking at, to be in embedded in it. This has normally meant working quite closely with scientists in the discipline I am at any one time looking at. With Dr Richard Wingate of the MRC Centre for Developmental Neurology, Kings College London, this has meant me on one project looking over his shoulder as it were and extracting information towards the project, “Magic Forest”, [], and then on another endeavour a ;much deeper relationship of working and thinking together on the work “Complex Brain”, [].

My role so far when I finally make the “art” work is always to back off the science, the knowledge that the science has produced, to give myself a little distance. I am not trying to make a descriptive piece about the science, but convey some other “sense” to the science to get at what it might mean to us psychologically, philosophically or socially.

As such I don’t think I am involved in fundamental “knowledge production” but might be involved in the debate about this “knowledge” the implications and implementation of this knowledge for people. I think though with the right application artists could be more involved with hard science and research, they could be more involved in the lab more as they could bring strong visual skills and interpretative skills to the situation. An obstacle to this is further training and time.

2) How have your perceptions and attitudes of mind been challenged by current dialogues within the “Ar-Sci” arenas?

In delving into the field of developmental neurology in my researches I have been struck by the new images and research that give a sense of the changing body. I remember as a schoolboy some 40 years ago being taught that the brain was a fixed structure developing to fruition at the age of 16 or 17. After that it was all decline; new FMRI scanning changes this and in away both Complex Brain and Magic Forest were responses to the ever changing brain. The dialogue I have had with science has changed how I think about my mind and how I can use my mind creatively.

3) What role have new imaging technologies played in your conceptualizations of visual modeling or artistic application?

The images being screened to us from new imaging technologies are often amazing often overwhelming they are telling us about our bodies more and more and about our internal workings. The movement to less invasive imaging and imaging that can record over time is highly significant. The wondrous images produced by imaging department’s rivals images that artists once produced and brought back from exotic lands. The danger as I see it for artists in the use of these images is the straight transcription of these images into works of art, making paintings from photographs. For me the understanding that these images reveals needs to be understood and this mixed with factors relating to the human dimension need to be incorporated into the production of any art work produced from them.

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MM said...

3) What role have new imaging technologies played in your conceptualizations of visual modeling or artistic application?

The largest concern with "making paintings out of pictures" is that it dilutes the provenance of the image, and subsequently, the images lose meaning.

For the uninitiated, the images need mediation, and that is the core challenge for an artist working with scientific visual data.

In other words, the challenge is how can we [best] convey mediation?

Dolores Hangan Steinman said...

3) What role have new imaging technologies played in your conceptualizations of visual modeling or artistic application?
Andrew Carnie

I was mesmerized by The Magic Forest, as well as by Wawwa, Slice, Eye.ttmd. The felt attracted and intrigued. From the point of view of the scientist collecting laboratory and clinical data and then translating them into (visually appealing) computer-generated images I feel it is essential to acknowledge the influence art has on the scientific image. It is also important to emphasize the difference between the perception of a “documentary” image (“simple recording” of an event, and, as such, involving no manipulation) as opposed to the ones we “construct” (real-life look-alikes that have been created from real-life data but involve two conversions: a) from data collected from the individual patient to numerical data; b) from numerical data thus obtained into computer-generated images.)
Which one is more reliable, or closer to reality?
What is the message the images are trying to convey?
What is the purpose, or final use of these images?
The bio-scientific mage is not merely mirroring reality; it converts, deciphers the code and at the same time visualizes the invisible. It is a process of interpretation of reality. By exploring new frontiers, by rendering the invisible visible are we creating our own narrative, parallel to reality? To quote Nicholas Mirzoeff “the visualization of everyday life does not mean that we necessarily know what it is that we are seeing”. Thus the question of the role played by imaging technologies is as acute in science as it is in art. Merriley Borell considers the instruments used in experimental medicine as “extension of the senses” of the medical and scientific observer. The new technologies appear to have taken us on a whimsical road that leads us closer to the artistic process than we would’ve imagined.

Anonymous said...

Re what MM said...

I think simple transcription not very effective as you say. Some form of mediation has to take place. One is trying to add something to the image, some meaning. In the work Magic forest I was dealing with the scientist Richard Wingates QuickTime movies of the neurones developing in chick brains in vitro and also the drawings of neurones by Santiago Ramon Y Cajal from his various studies of the anatomy of the brain. The idea was always to convey the ever-changing state of the brain.

Though at times my animations look like the originals all my work was hand drawn on the computer and what gives it the biggest shift away from the originals is the way the images are then projected using two projectors on opposite side of three voile screens. This gives the imagery the biggest shift from the original sources. The images become slightly 3D with the projection onto the multiple screens, plus one is having ones perspective of the images continually changed, for at one point the projector is pointing the images at you, you are at this point subsumed into the image, a subjective experience, and then when the next slide in the progression comes up from behind you, you are looking at the image it has become an object you are viewing. Further still the voile screens move in any breeze caused by a passing person bringing the images alive.

You can see the arrangement of projection for Magic Forest at the web page for Slice. arrangement was exactly the same. 2 projectors, 3 voile screens, 162 slides, and a dissolve unit.

Andrew Carnie
Artist and Lecturer
Winchester School of Art
Southampton University
Park Road
Winchester SO23 8SD