Thinking about Science
SETS and STATES
In 2003, Todd Golub, then an Oncologist at Dana Farber in Boston (who was to go on to co-found the Broad and direct its cancer group), wrote to me about work of mine he had seen at the Wheatleigh Hotel in Lenox, MA. Among other things, he mentioned his interest in the connection between art and science which resonated with my interest in science (Although my work has never engaged science directly, I have over the years tried to follow ideas in science). This led to a series of visits and collaboration which eventually grew into to my residency at the Broad Institute for Genetic research, at MIT and Harvard.
In my early discussions with Todd about the nature of Art and Science we found that we shared a common perspective, namely that one can look at “fundamental science” and “fundamental art” as both seeking to put together a vision of the world, with the tools at their disposal, and within a fairly coherent historical tradition, which in turn allows these views to be understood.
Much as physics was seen to dominate and shape our view in the 20th Century, biology seems poised to define the 21st.
As I am fascinated with world view and paradigm shifts, I had a desire to experience this process first-hand rather than from the ambient culture, and so I took up Todd’s invitation and started to visit the Broad on a regular basis. After a year or so of short informal visits, it seemed that a more sustained residency was the best way to plumb some of these questions.
My work at the Broad has followed several simultaneous tracks:
- I have been having interviews and discussions with scientists, as well as a few collaborated with specific research projects, with the aim of allowing a deeper exchange between us. Through these collaborations, I hope to attain a better understanding of the knowledge being generated at the Broad, and to contribute my own knowledge of visual organization and analysis to the research. In keeping with this direction, I co-founded the Broad visualization group last year, both as a thinking group on issues of representation in science and to collaborate with scientists on visualization questions.
- This in turn feeds my own research – painting, drawing, modeling in the computer. In my own experimentation I want to explore in the visual realm some of the thought processes of genomic research. I am currently working on large scale pieces based on the “space of genomics” for a June show in New York.
-Beyond my own work, I am trying to create an Art/science hub at the Broad, a Lab, which can serve as a physical point of convergence, where artists and scientists can meet and work together to address the question of representation in the new paradigm that is emerging in contemporary science.
Over the past 2 years, I have begun to develop a process which (quite fortuitously) has some interesting connections to the work being pursued at the Broad.
I have started working in watercolor on grids made up of 8x8 inch sheets of paper. At each state (perhaps the end of a day) each sheet is scanned into the computer. This allows me to continue working on the drawings while generating a database of images. Each drawing can either continue in its original grid order, or a single sheet can be used as the basis of a new grid, or may take on a life of its own.
The digital states also allow work to go on in the computer, mixing images, taking elements of on into the other, or drawing with a tablet.
These states can then be printed, reworked in water color, scanned once again...
Thinking about Science