Monday, June 6, 2016

Event 3: Griffith Observatory

I've been to Griffith Observatory many times, but I've never taken a close look inside the building because I usually went there for the night views of Los Angeles, which is amazing. After professor Vesna's lecture about the space, I decided to go to Griffith Observatory again, where I can have a more involved feeling of what space is like.

When I first stepped inside the observatory, there is a huge pendulum called Foucault Pendulum. The Foucault Pendulum recreates an 1851 demonstration by French physicist Jean Bernard Léon Foucault that gave the first direct proof that Earth rotates on its axis. It is a 240-pound partially-hollow, gun-metal sphere suspended from a 40-foot steel wire.The wire is attached to the ceiling, and a ring magnet above the ceiling keeps the pendulum in motion without influencing the direction of its swing. The pendulum knocks over a peg roughly every seven minutes. From the audience's perspective, it looks like the direction of the pendulum's swing is changing, while the truth is that the motion of earth is rotating the pet into the path of the swinging pendulum. If we're at the North and South Poles, it would take one day for the pendulum's direction of swing to appear to rotate 360 degrees. However, as we move closer to the equator, the rotation will take longer because of the change in latitude. Here in Los Angeles, it will take 42 hours.

Here is a video of the pendulum that I took

On the right hand side of the building, there is a hallway with different exhibitions of the space. One of them explains how eclipses work. Eclipses are astronomical spectacles that happen when one celestial object moves into the shadow of another. These awe-inspiring events happen during precise alignment of the Sun, Earth, and Moon. Solar eclipses occur when Earch moves into the Moon's shadow. And we see lunar eclipses when the Moon move into the Earth's shadow. 


Solar eclipses happen the moon passes in front of the Sun, and we will only be able to see a total solar eclipse if we are in the narrow path of the totality (which is the umbra area in the picture). During a total eclipse, the Sun disappears completely for up to several minutes. "Eclipse chasers" would travel great distances, often to remote places, to experience a few minutes of totality and see the solar corona. If you don't intentionally go to a total solar eclipse, you will likely never see one, while on the contrary, moon eclipses happen much more often, and it can be seen from more than half of the earth. Griffith Observatory created a lively representation of how eclipses work, and I took a short video of it. 

I think Griffith observatory is a great place to go if you want to learn more about the space! The exhibits there are for educational purposes, thus theyre 'll very simple, straight forward, and easy to understand. Of course, you can also get an extra bonus of the fantastic and unparalleled view of Los Angeles city!

Proof of attendance:

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Event 2: Agnes Martin

Some days ago I went to visit LACMA museum, where Agnes Martin's exhibition was going on. Agnes Martin was an American abstract painter, who was often referred to as a minimalist. Martin always considered herself as an abstract expressionist. Born in 1912, she was a pioneer of modern art and a pivotal female figure in the male-dominated world of abstraction. Agnes Martin's visionary aesthetic and reclusive lifestyle have inspired artists and practitioners across all creative disciplines. Her work has been defined as "essay in discretion, inwardness, and silence".

Martin at her house near Cuba, New Mexico, in 1974.

In 1957, Martin joined the gallery of vanguard art dealer Betty Parsons, and she moved to lower Manhattan. She started to develop a vocabulary of simple geometric shapes - square, rectangles, circles, dots - that she often repeated across delicate earth-colored background.

Untitled 1959

During the 1960s, Martin's geometric compositions evolved into allover grids penciled onto monochromatic surfaces. When you take a close look at the grids, the multitude of thin lines have a faint and fragile appearance, which suggests the delicacy of Martin's techniques. By the end of 1960s, Martin has already established the large-scale format of six square feet and her signature style: a hand-drawn line forever in dialogue with a square canvas.

A huge square painting with very very fine and delicate hand-drawn lines forming a grid, and little white dots next to each vertex.

Martin's paintings unifies the mathematical rigor of geometric abstraction with the sensitivity and facility of the hand-drawn lines. She views her own work as a pursuit of perfection, and strives to instill every painting with "beauty, innocence, and happiness". 

Proof of attendance:

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Event 1: Leap Before You Look

On the last day of the exhibition Leap Before You Look, I went to Hammer museum. The exhibition is the first comprehensive museum exhibition in the United States about the experimental liberal arts college, Black Mountain College, which was founded in 1933. It was intended to create a new type of education based on John Dewey's principles of progressive education. It placed art in the center of liberal art education in order to better educate citizens for participation in a democratic society. The founders of the college believed that the study and practice of art were indispensable aspects of a student's general liberal arts education. With an emphasis on inquiry, discussion, and experimentation, it gave equal attention to both visual art and applied art.

 On the left is an oil painting called Black Frame, created in 1934 by Josef Albers, the first art teacher at the college. Josef Albers was keen on experimenting with color, form, and perception. This is the first painting he created at Black Mountain College. In this painting, a black frame is levitating above two rectangular planes of verdant green and sky blue. The background is split into two colors, rust and midnight blue. In this work, Albers pulls apart the foreground, background, frame, and color, which are constituent parts of a picture, and shows how each part is dependent on others.

This picture on the right is another oil painting created by Josef Albers. The intuition came from his trip to the ancient Temple Tenayuca with his wife, Anni Albers, in 1937. He took numerous photographs of the massive Aztec temple, which was adorned with stone serpents with a spiraling form, which likely inspired the main motif of this painting. The perspective of this painting is more like looking down from the top of the pyramid. Albers used numerous parallel straight lines and different shades to transform a three dimensional structure into two dimensional painting. 

Below is a picture of the actual Tenayuca Temple. 

Even though Black Mountain College only had a short life of 24 years, the college played a critical role in shaping many major concepts in postwar arts and education.

Proof of attendance:

Monday, May 30, 2016

Week 9: Space + Art

Space, is probably the biggest mystery that humans have been trying to solve for thousands of years. Yet comparing to the great unknown universe, human's discovery so far still seems like nothing, even though we have already taken a huge leap forward in the study of space.

On the left is one of the Beijing ancient observatory, one of the oldest in the world. Built during the Ming Dynasty(about A.D. 1442), the Beijing ancient observatory engaged in astronomical observations for nearly 500 years, from the Ming dynasty to 1929. It has maintained the longest continuous observation records among all the existing observatories in the world.

And on the right is the world's most famous telescope, Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990. It was launched by NASA and European Space Agency, and currently orbiting earth. Hubble is the first major optical telescope to be placed in space. Above the distortion of the atmosphere, far far above rain clouds and light pollution, Hubble has an unobstructed view of the universe. Scientists have used Hubble to observe the most distant stars and galaxies as well as the most distant stars and galaxies as well as the planets in solar system. Hubble's launch in 1990 marked the most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo's telescope.

With today's scientific progress, we have already been able to answer a lot of questions concerning the universe. For example, by using data from NASA's Great Observatories, astronomers have found the best evidence yet for cosmic seeds in the early universe that should grow into supermassive black holes. New finding suggest that some of the first black holes formed directly when a cloud of gas collapsed, bypassing any other intermediate phases, such as the formation and subsequent destruction of a massive star.

Obviously, the universe is too great for human being to explore it all at this stage. The space explorations the humankind has had so far is still like a drop in the sea.


 Vesna, Victoria. "8 Space Pt1 1280x720." YouTube. Uconlineprogram, 2013. Web. 29 May 2016.

Garner, Rob. "About the Hubble Space Telescope." NASA. NASA, 11 Apr. 2016. Web. 29 May 2016.

Chou, Felicia, and Sean Potter. "NASA Telescopes Find Clues For How Giant Black Holes Formed So Quickly." NASA. NASA, 24 May 2016. Web. 29 May 2016.

Kelly. "Beijing Ancient Observatory — One of the Oldest in the World." ChinaHighlights. 5 Nov. 2015. Web. 29 May 2016.

 Moseman, Andrew. "The 5 Most Powerful Telescopes, and 5 That Will Define the Future of Astronomy." Popular Mechanics. 2009. Web. 29 May 2016. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Nanotechnology is the domain where science and technology are conducted at the nanoscale, where materials have dimensions from 1 to 100 nanometers. And by comparing them to a single hair, which is roughly 80,000 nanometers wide, we should now have a rough concept of how tiny it is. What is worth mentioning is that, nanoscale objects are not only too small for human eyes to see, but also too small for even the fanciest cameras to photograph. Only devices like scanning electron microscopes can get nanoscale images. Furthermore, since nanoscale objects are smaller than the wavelengths of visible light, the electron images that capture them are in grey.  So in order to introduce nanoscale objects and their advances in synthesis and manipulation to wider audience, NanoArt was created.

NanoArt has three important components, creating the nano sculpture(artificial manipulation) or discovering the nano landscape(natural, mostly biological),  visualizing the nanostructure, and eventually artistically interpret it using different techniques such as digital painting, shape-lifting, and layering.

The picture on the left is called "Light Through a Pinhole No.2". It is a piece of nano artwork created by Cris Orfescu. It is a nano sculpture created by freezing a tiny drop of colloidal graphite (graphite nanoparticles suspended in a liquid) in liquid nitrogen at about 196 degrees below zero, visualized with a scanning electron microscope, captured in a computer, and digitally painted and manipulated.

And below is another NanoArt image called "Nano-explosions". It is created by Fanny Beron, an artist from Montréal, Canada. It is a color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph of an overflowed electro-deposited magnetic nanowire array (CoFeB), where the template has been subsequently completely etched. It is meant as a reminder that nanoscale research can have unpredicted consequences at a high level.

And next, I would like to introduce the world's smallest movie, A Boy and His Atom.  It is a one-minute stop-motion animated film created by IBM research. It was recorded frame by frame using scanning tunneling microscope. It tells the story of a boy and an atom who meet and become friends. The "actors" are in fact carbon monoxide molecules. The scientists who made the film are moving atoms to explore the limits of data storage. Today, as data creation and consumption gets bigger and bigger, we have to shrink our data storage down to atomic level. And this team is starting from the smallest scale, single atoms, and build structures up from there. IBM has already announced that they can store a single bit of information in just 12 atoms. 


 Feder, Barnaby J. "The Art of Nanotech." Bits. The New York Times, 25 Jan. 2008. Web. 22 May 2016.

Orfescu, Cris. "NanoArt." NanoArt. EMarketing 21. Web. 22 May 2016.

"Art at the Molecular Level." WSJ. The Wall Street Journal, 12 Sept. 2014. Web. 22 May 2016.

 "Introduction to Nanotechnology – Images." Nanowerk. Web. 22 May 2016.

 " A Boy And His Atom: The World's Smallest Movie." IBM Research: A Boy And His Atom. IBM. Web. 23 May 2016. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016


This week, professor Vesna introduced the topic of neuroscience and showed some artworks relating to our brains. While researching the topic of neuroscience and art online, I found a new field called neuroaesthetics.

Do you ever wonder what in our brain triggers aesthetic experiences? And why do we appreciate certain art pieces, while finding some other ones unattractive? These questions bring us to this new field, neuroaesthetics, a convergence of neuroscience and empirical aesthetics. While empirical aesthetics takes a scientific approach to the study of aesthetic perceptions of art, music, or any object that can give rise to aesthetic judgements, neuroaesthetics uses neuroscience to explain and understand the aesthetic experiences at the neurological level.

The term "neuroaesthetics" was coined by renowned vision researcher Semir Zeki and neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran in 1990s. They identified parallels between an artist's approach to her visual world and her brain's processing of visual information. Light entering our eyes is segregated into different elements, such as color, luminance, and motion, which are processed in different visual centers in our brains. Many artists have been playing with these elements in their artwork. For example, Alexander Calder is an American sculptor known as the originator of the mobile, a type of moving sculpture made with delicately balanced or suspended shapes that move in response to touch or air currents.

Rouge Triomphant (Triumphant Red) (1959-1963) by Alexander Calder, via Gagosian Gallery

Some researchers have explored the impact of brain damage and neural degeneration on the production and appreciation of art. Brain damage can alter patients' artistic abilities, sometimes even causing notable improvements. The famous Dutch-American abstract expressionist painter, Willem De Kooning continued to pain for several year after developing Alzheimers' disease. However, his paintings were different somehow, more deeply expressing his abstract style.
Woman I by Willem De Kooning (Before developing Alzheimer's)

Untitled VII by Willem De Kooning (After developing Alzheimer's)

Neuroaesthetics is still a new and developing field. Technical advances in neuroscientific methods will continue to offer new ways for exploring the aesthetic brain.


 "Neuroaesthetics." International Network for Neuroaesthetics. 2011. Web. 16 May 2016.

Marin, Manuela M. "Crossing Boundaries: Toward a General Model of Neuroaesthetics." Frontiers. 7 Aug. 2015. Web. 16 May 2016.

Chatterjee, Anjan. "Neuroaesthetics." TheSicentist. LabX Media Groups, 1 May 2014. Web. 15 May 2016.

 Big Think Editors. "Neuroaesthetics: Beauty Is in the Brain of the Beholder." Big Think. 2013. Web. 16 May 2016.
 Scott, G. D. "Neuroaesthetics: Exploring Beauty and the Brain." Brain. 13 June 2015. Web. 16 May 2016.


Rouge Triomphant. AO Art Observed, 12 Nov. 2009. Jpg.

Kooning, Willem De. Untitled VII. Digital image. Nature. 27 Jan. 2010. Web. 15 May 2016.

Kooning, Willem De. Woman I. Digital image. Web. 15 May 2016. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

BioTech + Art

Today a lot of artists around the world are heading to scientific labs and corporate with scientists to try to find answers to questions about the nature of life, evolutionary thinking, and moral ethics. They start to involve biotechnology in their art, both to experiment with new biotechnologies that may be useful in the future, and to engage audience.

One of the most famous biotech artist that professor Vesna talked about is Kathy High, an interdisciplinary artist working in the area of technology, science, speculative fiction and art. She produces videos and projects that pose queer and feminist explorations into areas of bio-art and animal/interspecies. One of her renowned project Blood Wars is a tournament between individuals' white blood cells as they strive for dominance on the petri dish. This project not only promotes participants'  understanding of physiological functioning of circulatory and immune system, but also questions the traditional ideas of racial superiority, kinship, blood letting, competition, dominance, and different imageries used to linking blood to sacrifice, vampires and blue bloods.

Another really interesting project that professor High is working on is Trans-Tomagotchi, which is an online video game. It includes different types of "diseased-animals", animals that are bred, raised or developed for disease research, and asks players to identify with their "disease" type animal, and explores the kind of care needed for the diseased animal, and their disease, including watching the administering of food, play, rewards, medicines, etc.

Other than these interactive projects, there are many other projects that are designed to question the powerful genetic tools, and possibilities of how these can affect living organism. One of the creations of the Tissue Culture and Art project is called "Victimless Leather". It's a tiny jacket made from living mouse tissue, housed in an environmentally controlled glass ball. It is meant to question what roles human have in manipulation of life. Unfortunately, the scientists eventually had to turn off the jacket's life support as the cells began to multiply rapidly.

There are many other interesting projects that can be explored, like "bulletproof skin", "MEART - The Semi-Living Artist", etc. Many of these bio-art projects are as intriguing as they are thought provoking. 


 Vesna, Victoria. "5 BioArt Pt3." YouTube. Uconlineprogram, 17 May 2012. Web. 08 May 2016.

High, Kathy. "Blood Wars." Blood Wars. SymbioticA - Centre for Biological Excellence. Web. 08 May 2016. 

 High, Kathy, and David Balluff. "Trans-Tomagotchi." Kathy High: Projects: Trans-Tomagotchi. Web. 08 May 2016. 

 Delgado, Rick. "How Artists Are Blending Biotechnology And Art." MakeUseOf. FutureTech, 08 May 2015. Web. 08 May 2016. 

 Miranda, Carolina. "Weird Science: Biotechnology as Art Form." ARTnews. ARTnews.Ltd, 18 Mar. 2013. Web. 08 May 2016. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Medicine and Art

When I heard Professor Vesna's introduction on the topic of medicine and art, the first example that came into my mind were Leonardo Da Vinci's works. He was famous for his study on human bodies and his amazingly accurate and precise paintings of human bodies and skeletons. The following picture is one of his most famous paintings, Vitruvian Man, which depicts the correlation between ideal human proportions and geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius.

Except for studying human bodies through 2D mediums like paintings and x-ray scans, there are other ways for common people to study the beauty of human body through a 3D version. Body Worlds Exhibition is one the best examples. The primary goal of the exhibition is health education. By illustrating the difference between a healthy organ and a diseased organ, like the lung of a smoker and a healthy lung, the audience will have deeper impression of the harm smoking can do. On the other hand, the well-posed plastinates allow people to have a better understanding of where organs are positioned and how fragile human are.

And of course, except for medical and artistic works used for research and education purposes, the other great example that demonstrates the combination of medicine and art would be plastic surgery. When I think of plastic surgeries, the first thing that comes into mind is cosmetic surgery, in other words, the elective procedures that helps people who do not have disfiguring conditions to enhance their desiring look. However, through Professor Vesna’s introduction, I learned that the original and main purpose of plastic surgery is to help people who suffer from congenital malformations, disfiguring wounds, animal bites, and profound burn injuries. Plastic surgery really started to progress during World War I. The trench warfare caused thousands of WWI soldiers to receive traumatic wounds on their faces and limbs, thus plastic surgery soon became an independent medical practice. Until today, plastic surgery is still evolving, progressing, and helping millions of people regaining self-confidence and normal lives, like cleft lip repair, cleft palate repair, and face transplant. 

Last, I want to conclude with a new idea that I read recently, about how medical schools have gradually started to involve art into their training. Doctor Salvatore Magione has discovered that medical students with more right-brain qualities may have a greater potential in medicine, as we know that words are processed in left brain, but imagery, visual, and drawing skills are processed by the right brain, so people with more right brain qualities may have better innovation and creation abilities. 


 Vesna, Victoria. "Medicine Pt3." YouTube. Uconlineprogram, 2012. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

"Mission of the Exhibitions." Body Worlds. Institute for Plastination. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

Salcido, Jannelle. "The History of Plastic Surgery." 2010. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

 Donohoe, Martin. "Medscape Log In." Medscape. Medscape Ob/Gyn, 2 Nov. 2006. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.
 Glatter, Robert. "Can Studying Art Help Medical Students Become Better Doctors?" Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 20 Oct. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2016. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016


This week, Professor Vesna introduced the topic of robotics starting from the industrialization period. When printing press were introduced in the west, and machines and assembly lines were invented in the industrialization age, mass production began. It undoubtedly brought a lot of benefits to people's lives, like reduction in production costs, thus cheaper and more affordable goods. However, it also brought the critique of mechanization of workers, in other words, workers were treated as part of the
machines or even replaced by machines.

Karel Capek was the first person introducing the word "robot". As he mentioned in his book, the word "robots" first came another word "robota", which means "work" in Czech and a lot of Slavic languages. He addressed his concern of robotic life in his famous play R.U.R., where a group of robots first happily works for human, but eventually a hostile robot rebellion leads to the extinction of human race. The robots in Karel Capek's play were actually more like what we call as androids today.

And his concern is still shared today by many people. A lot of movies today still address the fear of developed artificial intelligence taking over human world. Ex Machina is one of them. It described how a humanoid robot named Ava with artificial intelligence successfully relates to a programmer emotionally, and used him to escape the lab, yet ruthlessly killed her creator in the escaping process, and abandoned the programmer in the lab.
Except for this film, there are many other films expressing the danger of over development of artificial intelligence. Transcendence is a special one, since the main character used to be a human scientist, after knowing he has less than a month to live, he uploaded his minds to a quantum computer, and developed many advanced technologies, one of which is to manipulate human minds.

Transcendence played by Johnny Depp

Other than these scientific fiction films concentrating on the topic of artificial intelligence, in real life, we also have breakthroughs in AI. Recently, AlphaGo, a computer program developed by Google, has beaten Lee Sedol, a 9-dan professional and world champion, in the board game Go. This victory marked the milestone in artificial intelligence research, but also raised some concern in the AI community. Some scholars warned that even though AlphaGo does not possess general intelligence, but some future self-improving AI may be able to acquire general intelligence and lead to a human takeover. Some other scholars believe that it's impossible for AIs to develop things like "common sense", so there is no reason to fear.

Treating or not, the field of artificial intelligence still remains largely unexplored. I don't think people need to start feeling scared or threatened, however, it is time for people to start paying attention.


Vesna, Victoria. "Robotics Pt2." YouTube. Uconlineprogram, 2012. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.

Capek, Karel. "R.U.R." EBooks@Adelaide, 17 Dec. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.

Borowiec, Steven, and Tracey Lien. "AlphaGo Beats Human Go Champ in Milestone for Artificial Intelligence." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 12 Mar. 2016. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.

Seitz, Matt Zoller. "Transcendence Movie Review & Film Summary (2014) | Roger Ebert." 17 Apr. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.

Seitz, Matt Zoller. "Ex Machina Movie Review & Film Summary (2015) | Roger Ebert." 9 Apr. 2015. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.