RENEW 2013

The 5th International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology

Riga / October 8 – 11, 2013

"Art Science" Participants

Roberta BUIANI

Representing the microscopic: ecological vs sustainable in art and science

Session:Art and Science

Panel:Panel A

Time:FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11 - DAY 3, 15.20-16.50

Venue:Stockholm School of Economics, Soros Auditorium

This paper reflects on the way the notions of ecology and sustainability intersect and counter each other. As the second appears to be a condition that reckons on the first (sustainability cannot exist without an ecological outlook), the opposite may not occur (ecological perspectives do not always produce sustainable conditions). I examine these two aspects in the works of Australian-based artists Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s multi-scale and multi-media installation on the reproductive organs of invertebrates and of Caitlin Berrigam’s diverse corpus on the Hepatitis C virus. Their installations propose novel ecological approaches, yet demonstrate how these newfound “ecology of objects” are not conducive to sustainable situations (i.e., not comprehensible, tenable, or with minimum material waste). Both artists try to illuminate the complexity of imaging microscopic objects. A variety of instruments and methods of visualization helps us comprehend the world of the microscopic. Electron microscopy, modeling, simulation assign visible appearance and tangible materiality to objects, which our eyes or conventional magnification devices cannot grasp. While providing a rich source of knowledge and techniques, this variety can be read as typical expression of the fragmented and hyper-specialized approach that characterizes todays’ technico-scientific research. In this context, the object of research is no longer understood as a pristine entity, a “thing in itself” waiting to be dismembered and represented. It is like a puzzle where each piece stands for a different facet of the object at stake, an ecology of parts entangled and mutually dependent, each describing said object from a different perspective. In their ecologic views, Berrigam and Cardoso display universes of analogous (yet different) objects, where scale and techniques of representation coexist and connect. However, this variety is only produced by means of the multiplication of materials and processes of realizations.

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