Sunday, March 4, 2007


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Welcome to Members of the Panel
From: JD Talasek

On behalf of the Office of Exhibitions and Cultural Programs at the National Academy of Sciences and the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, I would like to welcome everyone to the Virtual Symposium on Visual Culture and Bioscience.
Many thanks to Suzanne Anker for her work in planning and facilitating the symposium.
We are looking forward to a dynamic and fascinating discussion.

From: Suzanne Anker

Sun, 04 Mar 2007 10:00:29 -0500

Greetings out there and welcome to our symposium, “Visual Culture and Bioscience” sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.County. Although we are located in the United States, our discussion inhabits the “nether zone” of everywhere and nowhere with literally an absent terra firma underfoot. No more waiting for delayed and overcrowded airplanes or ingesting tasteless food. Let us assemble wherever we may be and begin our on-line dialogue. Our international discussion commences onMarch 5th and concludes on March 13th. Intended as an update on the intersections of distinct, yet overlapping disciplines in art and the biological sciences, we welcome your thoughts, fleeting or otherwise, as segues into understanding more fully the nature of experimental representational systems and their influence on the social order.Over the course of the symposium, we will be addressing three inter-related broad-based topics, but leave open the possibilities to reverse courses as necessary, much the way of any trafficking endeavor.

Our schedule is as follows:
March 5-8 Imaging in art and science
March 9-10 Artists in the Lab
March 11-13 Social and Cultural implications of visualizing the biosciences

From: Suzanne Anker

Sun, 04 Mar 2007 10:50:24 -0500

Visual Culture and Bioscience: Imaging in Art and Science

The ubiquitous employment of digital technologies within the practices of research science and medicine, architecture and design, filmmaking and video production, as well as the visual and performing arts, has set ajar a multiplex of communication networks which crisscross traditional boundaries. In doing so, malleable coordinates of perception (in time and space,) create vast arrays of alternating conceptions of how to structure the problematics of the 21st century’s arts in relation to the innovations brought forth by science and technology. At a time when the biosciences may be considered to be experiencing a “golden age,” the arts on the other hand, struggle not with public consumption, but with a more profound challenge to intrinsic identity and history. What role do the visual arts assume in contemporary discourses of “knowledge production?” What internal striations are evident in the functions of art as entertainment, commodity and critical practice? How do these aspects intersect or correlate with the contemporary bio-sciences?

20th century art and science shared many defining characteristics: abstraction, fragmentation, and reductionism to select a few. However, in the 21st century, one may inquire, what migratory attractions between these disciplines are currently present? One aspect of art’s relationship to science is evident within modes, styles and devices of visual representation. Digital technologies, part and parcel of all Western-type knowledge producing institutions, enhance the connective tissues between the studio, the laboratory, the scholar’s office, and the writer’s den. To employ a linguistic metaphor, these technologies have become, ipso facto, the linqua franca of our time. In addition, intersecting domains of inquiry appear to confront family resemblances with regard to the questions they consider: beauty, instrumentalized vision, data manipulation et al. Whether conscious or not, these crossovers in visual application, narrative interpretation and symbolic models of the real, continue to exude and reframe the philosophical implications of perception and cognition, authenticity and artifice in both science and art.Pictures, maps, diagrams, drawings, notations, scores and the like become for their moment a mirror of thought. Whether to record or document, deceive or aggrandize, sell or console they are unmatched agents of communication. Like the mind itself, sometimes these agents of signification embrace layers of alternating meanings, ambiguously disguised, hence, subliminally hijacking our nervous system. Or, on a more preeminent day, when media spin is not on parenthetical overload, hints of received clarity or even sudden, subtle epiphanies may muster our reserves of potential energies to engage and consider perplexing questions of the day.These are compelling ideas and I cast them in your direction. Let us see if we can parse the complexities, treacheries and clich├ęs so overtly familiar to this subject. I am aware that this shoot-from-the-hip approach in real-time may be a bit intimidating. Perhaps a discussion of this kind among experts, peers and practitioners, makes us feel like we are inhabiting a primal childhood dream: a dream of being seen vulnerable and naked splayed out on a beach with our private parts in clear view to the external world. As we move forward with this symposium, I wish to assure you that your thoughts on this subject are a necessary next step in further elucidating the intricacies of our cognitive and emotional worlds. Therfore, like Carl Sagan, but in earthly form, I ask, is anyone out there?

With these concerns stated, I present the following questions to our panelists:
1) What role do picturing practices play in your discipline of “knowledge production?”
2) How have your perceptions and attitudes of mind been challenged by current dialogues within the “Art-Sci” arenas?
3) What role have new imaging technologies played in your conceptualizations of visual modeling or artistic application?

Your answers to these questions and issues can be addressed within the realms of your personal experience, empirical evidence or conceptual understanding.


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Anonymous said...

Dear Bloggers, Data Miners and Citizens of the Public Domain,

On behalf of our subjects of interest, we request the pleasure of your company to partake in our discussion, “Visual Culture and Bioscience.”
Quibbles, solutions, interrogations, quips, disputes, suspicions and acute responses
may be employed to quicken, strengthen, penetrate, or even activate this discussion.
Understated, coy and restrained opinions unassumingly may add a measured
response as well. We seek to clarify rather than pacify or needlessly alarm. We seek to explore and engage elusive issues with regard to visualizations, representations, picturing and processing in the parlance of image communication and interpretation. Hyperbolic
and party-line responders need not apply.
Please join us for a lively discussion.
Suzanne Anker, Symposium Facilitator

semeiotica said...

I wanted to respond briefly to the first and third provocations: What role do picturing practices play in your discipline of “knowledge production?” -and- What role have new imaging technologies played in your conceptualizations of visual modeling or artistic application?

One outcome of creating images, maps, and animations is that they start to push and tug at existing knowledge by revealing gaps in what we know or think we know. In the OrganelleView project we sought to create a visual, spatialized representation of a yeast cell from a very abstracted set of verbal data. We used a dataset along with artistic renderings and relational aesthetic methods to merge the identity and locations of gene/protein products with their localizations in a cell. The idea had two goals. By replacing the verbal data with visual cues, we could create additional means for exploration and discovery–particularly for those not versed in the specialized vocabulary of gene/protein nomenclature. Second, we wanted to reestablish a cognitive, visuospatial link to the organism (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) which is often abstracted through the collection and curation of biological information as text and numbers in databases.

One of the more interesting outcomes of the project happened when we started thinking about animating the cell through the cell cycle. There isn't a great deal of organized information about where gene products locate at different times during the cycle. More importantly, the animation tweening process stimulated questions about the direction and paths that gene products move through during the cycle. What started as an animation question became bounded by questions of verifiability and if our animating techniques would accurately represent a version of cell processes. To my knowledge, current imaging techniques do not have the capability or feasibility to track these processes over time. Needless to say, we were impressed that "simple" picturing processes had the capacity to generate knowledge by highlighting missing data, scientific focus, and interest.

Anonymous said...

Dear Semeiotica,
You talk about pictures as providing a "cognitive, visuospatial link to organisms" as way of filling in or providing direction to your laboratory
inventigations. Point well taken.
Do you care to identify yourself?
Suzanne Anker, Symposium Facilitator

gharp said...

Hi Suzanne,
Ha sorry, I didn't even think to identify myself. Sometimes my posts get linked up to "semeiotica" via my blog..

Great forum though. I'll probably be using this conversation for my students for years to come!


Gabriel Harp, MFA 2007
School of Art & Design
Graduate Student Instructor
Department of Screen Arts&Cultures
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor