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. WikiArt.org. 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.