The Project

ALEPH – NANO
art / science instalations

Alberto Blumenschein

“ As eternity is for time, the Aleph is for space.”
 Jorge Luis Borges     

Dedicated to Anna Barros
(in memoriam)

Abstract

Tactile and sonic are the missing link to perception of nanoscale. Bringing out a metaphore for those aspects which can connect that understanding into human scale, may cover this gap and bring into light a sensorial experience. This can arouse a new political standpoint about humans and nanotechnology.The project is to develop installations as immersive space to bring the sensorial experience of nano. 

Rationale 

This project aims to be the completion of a project initiated in 2010 and whose ultimate goal is to produce the second stage of the theoretical and artistic material on the topic of nanoarte. 

The mystery of this nanospace is to be invisible to the eye, requiring an imaginative interpretation that requires the aid of art to accomplish it.  To enter that space one needs to create poetic metaphors (audible, visual and tactile) to experience, perceive and understand existing phenomena of the quantum world. The hybrid and multidisciplinary nanotechnology universe itself, which studies made possible applications in almost every field of human knowledge, makes art and science joint a tremendous vehicle to find the languaging tools that will enable people, particularly the youngest, to seize this new universe.

Aleph – Nano is a project in art and science whose ultimate purpose is the production of immersive and interactive media installations that allow the public to explore possible perceptions of the emerging nanoscience field.

Nanoscience is the set of studies of the behavior of structures , materials and devices at the atomic or molecular scale that allowed the development of techniques for manipulating materials containing less than 100 nanometers, or billionths of one meter (100 x 10-9 ) scale. 

At this scale the recognizable effects of Newtonian mechanics disappears completely and give way to quantum mechanical phenomena. This magnitude is also smaler than the lowest frequency of visible light and therefore out of the possibility of being perceived by the human eye.

This invisibility in fact opens up the nanoworld as a space to be filled by the artistic imagination in the dark recesses of sensory experience, regarding the multiple aspects affected by nanoscience and, with this we mean that there is a power, supported by other senses than vision, which can be triggered. As Anna Barros (Nanoarte, 2013) said, “as far nanotechnology explores the universe at a molecular scale, within the rules of quantum physics, it demands a large perceptual enrichment, because those phenomena are unknown to our sensory experience.”

For this reason, this project aims the development of a set of works of art which adresses the humanization of technology and science, leading the audience to contact the images and symbols produced by the artist in close collaboration with scientists. In other words, bringing the creator to join the network of witnesses of scientific experimentation.

Thus, the most appropriate way to present these aesthetic and sensory findings is the multimedia installation, actualizing a sensitive adjustment and allowing the emergence of an imaginary which relies on the use of prosthetic extensions by the artist/scientist (microscopes, computers and other machines) to dilate the poetic space, taking the viewer on a sensory dive to the edge of this new frontier of human knowledge .

The works previously shown by the artists Alberto Blumenschein and Anna Barros succeeded in establishing a basic methodological procedure to address the data obtained in nanoscale probing and translate them into the field of multisensory and multimídia installations. These results are now posing new questions that should deepen into new questions and answers, since this knowledge has almost no history and is a field in constant discovery and reconfiguration .

The ways to meet this demand will develop the following conceptual themes:

A. Tactility

The nanoworld initially presents itself as a tactile universe due to characteristics of the technique of probing the samples. The Atomic Force Microscope acts by the mean of a tiny tip over a oscillating cantilever, which somehow “encounters” the sample surfasse, revealing the topographic characteristic of the material.

Tactile character manifests itself by the translation of the raw data (numbers) captured at the nanoscale (i.e electromagnetic vibration or eletrical fields), which is amplified and converted into highs and deeps, forming shapes and textures that arise for the human view in the microscope screen and to the artist as sensitive aspects the nanoworld. It can be translated as volumes, textures, vibrations or sounds.

In previous works, that experience was addressed by the artists with the installation of a vibrating motor under the seat of a chair, connected to the vibration captured by the microscope and synced to the topographic images of the sample translated into na animation and so the seeing was intertwined with bodily feeling the vibration of the original sample. In other application or the use of a sub-sonic vibration over a liquid surface, in order to make it a visible metaphor of the nano-oscillation that occurs into the space of exploration of materials inside the atomic force microscope .

Other possibilities may be developed in the research with other manipulable objects, textures of various materials or mechanical interactive movements so that it may create imagery in entanglement with the tactile sense for those interacting with the installations since, as we know, interactive art is by definition tactile.

b. Sonority 

The sound scape derives of a similar principle, but covers other characteristics of the sample as the magnetic fields and the spatial arrangement of atoms, a phenomenon called Phonom which is a collective excitation and elastic periodic arrangement of atoms or molecules in condensed matter, such as solids and liquids. This phenomenon generates vibration effects that can reach ranges of frequencies audible to the human ear directly. 

In the transduction of this information from the sample to a perceivable scale we find information that may relate to rhythms, pitches and noises that can emerge as nano-soundscapes for listener.

In this field there can be a great opportunity to collaborate with the scientists researching on organic or living matter. The sonocitobiology research can bring to light some intriguing and extremely rich sound patterns to be studied.

The objective is to find or produce sound patterns that can be used as building blocks of the sound design of the installations.

c . Nano-image

In ontological terms this is an unknown image that needs to be approached with different visions from those already in place in art history, aesthetics and even in scientific visualization. What is sought is a new category of images, a new meaningful category in order to present the findings of this new space, this new scale that is nanoscience .

Considering the impossibility of direct view of the nanoworld data collected by sensing microscopes, to produce transducted visible images on a human scale will always be needed. In previous work have been developed a general procedure for this, which involves a mediated transduction data for the re-creation of images, movements and objects by the active participation of the artist, who interprets this information to construct this differentiated visual interpretation – the nano-image.

The developed method relies on the data set obtained by the microscope (which is an array of three-dimensional points that defines a “topographic surface” of the sample analyzed) imported into a 3D modeling program within a defined setting, making it a virtual object, which is artistically treated and can be presented as a printed image , video animation , digital interactive sculptural object or mechanism .

Each material has distinct characteristics which are it’s molecular character and signature. Exploiting these characteristics creates na immense playground for the imagination of the artist in the composition of almost infinite nano-scale imagery.

Transdisciplinary collaboration : the artist in the nanoworld

This theme of transdisciplinary collaboration is one of the most delicate to the development of art-science works.

Aleph-nano Project is seeking a closer relationship with the laboratory environment, spending more time closer to the scientists and the labs to capture more naturally this “bodily dive” into a new perceptual space. The previous research has dealt exclusively from the perspective of artists in direct contact with the outcome of the microscope, which implied a distancing of the direct effects of this encounter occurring in those who daily live their personal (psychic and cognitive) cognitive drift inside the laboratories, in fact “living day-to-day in the nano-world.”

Artists sought their ecstasy in his encounter with the materials data, either in their personal stories and experiences or in contrast to the environment where the material came from, by creating a symbolic field during the postprocessing of the “nanomaps” produced by the laboratory. This restricted the poetic metaphores to the limit of the artist’s understanding and technical skills on microscopy probing. This limit, in many cases, resulted in a reduction of perception of “aesthetical opportunities” in the samples, carrying several of them to be discarded or mis-used.

In this project the intention is to go beyond this symbolic search of the sampled material, including scientific space – the Lab itself –  in the seeking of aesthetic and poetic references, bringing the activity and languaging of scientists into the process of discovering the affective nuances caused by multiple readings and findings to each sample studied. These references based on habit and prolonged experience and by that, becoming routine, fades the aura of “surprising novelty” and delves into the unconscious, revealing itself as an unmediated experience of direct connection to the space at the molecular scale .

Prof. Colin Milburn da UCLA, in his book “Nanovision: Engineering the future” says:

“The psychic apparatus of the probe microscopist becomes deployed differently: a technical reconfiguration of the human in its cyborg interface with the haptic-vision machine. In viewing the algorithmic images produced by the STM (Scanner Tunnelling Microscope) and physically operating the probe tip to scan the field of the molecular object, the microscopist inhabits a new media ecology.“

Milburn, Colin – “Nanovision: Engineering the future”, pg 90
Duke University Press, 2008

The artist takes back his role in the critical analysis, selection and proposal of samples that will be used as probing material, as it will lift arise points of view unfamiliar or neglected by scientists and lead to contradictions and challenge this “unconscious inhabitant”, bringing out the symbolism of “bodily presence in nano-space”, substrate to the construction of this “real” which will inform the objects and installation projects.

As a reference we mention works of Art/Science that are the result of this closer presence of the artist into the laboratory as the partnership between Victoria Vesna / James Gimzewski in the SCiArts program ata UCLA – US or the artists Evelina Domnitch / Dmitry Gelfand , whose works are the result of a great intimacy with the scientific work and the routines of laboratories.

To achieve this goal we already partnered with the Physics Institute of the São Paulo University who kindly opened their doors for the colaboration between artists and scientists. 

Today the artists is attending a Course of Atomic Force Microscopy as na invited artist to develop the knowledge on the laboratory methodology and technique.

Methodology

A preliminary step is already underway and aims to bring together all the theoretical material used in preparing the works already made and re-write the memorials of construction of each one to make it consistent with the work that will follow from now on.

 In the other hand, continuing research to include new technologies and discoveries to the body of the investigation.

To be accepted as a residente artist at the Aix-Marseille University can be extremely useful to get access to nano-research on biologic material.

The basic method to be used is based on 3 main steps which are :

1 – Choose and prospecting samples

2 – Modeling and construction of objects, images and animations

3 – Production of installations and objects

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