Imag(in)ing Science

January 15, 2014

Brilliant Minds, an ongoing series of short videos created by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Indiana University Bloomington, features some of the fascinating research and creative activities that our faculty pursue.

In this video, we visit the art exhibit Imag(in)ing Science at the Grunwald Gallery, which was the remarkable result of collaborations among IU Bloomington scientists (from biology, geology, informatics, and psychology) and IU Bloomington artists (photographers, video artists, textile artists, and painters). Chancellor’s Professor of Biology Roger Hangarter, from the College of Arts and Sciences, and Associate Professor of Fine Arts Margaret Dolinsky, from the Hope School of Fine Arts within the College of Arts and Sciences, discuss their joint project. Using plants, light, and Dolinsky’s art, the pair made line drawings emerge from leaves themselves by manipulating the movement of the leaves’ chloroplasts, the plant cells in which photosynthesis takes place. The resulting images are part magic, part whimsy, and part real science, showcasing the significance of photosynthesis in the study of plants.

Fine arts Associate Professor and photographer Osamu James Nakagawa and geological sciences Professor Michael Hamburger collaborated on images of the devastation from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan overlayed with seismic recordings, resulting in art they dubbed “seismophotography.”

Jeff Wolin, Ruth N. Halls Professor of fine arts and the director of the Center of Integrative Photographic Studies (one of the project’s co-sponsors) teamed with Professor of Informatics Andrew Lumsdaine to create 3D images by applying a new photographic technology, a plenoptic camera that captures the entire field of light surrounding an image instead of only focused points of light captured by a traditional camera.

Digital artist and videographer Jawshing Arthur Liou, associate professor in the School of Fine Arts, filmed Sonnet 27, inspired by the research of scientist Alex Straiker regarding cannabinoid signaling in the brain. Cannaboid receptors are involved in a range of important brain functions including learning and memory, and un-learning or forgetting. Liou explores these themes of memory and history in a meditative 13-minute long high-definition film. (“Sonnet 27” references one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, which contains the lines “But then begins a journey in my head/To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired”.)

For all of the faculty involved, the collaborative experiences was mutually enriching, says Dolinsky. As project co-leader Wolin puts it, “good art can be good science, and good science can be good art. … We’re trying to be a leader in the rediscovery of art and science.”

For more videos in the Brilliant Series, visit the archives here.