Posts Tagged ‘science’

Career Change

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

I am officially changing careers – I am becoming a sock sculptor. Sure, there’s no money in it (yet), but that might change. And sure, no one would take me seriously, but that might change. Plus I don’t know how to go about it but I can learn. Essentially, I thoroughly enjoyed myself while making my sock laboratory and the final exhibition was a great success. It was very well attended and the range of works on exhibit was very interesting and varied. I was very proud to have my work on show and I got a bit of a kick watching people looking at my work and smiling. I gain similar enjoyment watching people’s reactions to my writing.

It was the process of making my sock laboratory that I enjoyed the most. I loved seeing my ideas come into reality as I managed to work out how to turn limp socks into microscopes, scissors, scalpels and coffee cups. The hands-on element particularly enticed me as it is something that lacks in my writing work. While writing stimulates my brain, it doesn’t fulfil my desire to make things with my hands. It was so nice to have the challenge of creating a piece of work that would have a definite outcome. I would love to do it again.

Studio

My dining table seconds as a studio

In another positive note, while three ‘prop’ items (a test tube, a syringe and a piece of paper) were stolen from my laboratory on the opening night, nothing was taken on the following day. Excellent.

Art vs Science

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

I realise I have forgotten to mention that I am soon to be a world-famous sock artist who has exhibited in one of Paris’s hippest joints. Yes, that’s right. I’m going to be putting my socks on show at Café A – the hippest, grooviest, BoBo-est Café/gallery space in Paris that happens to be connected to the Récollets. When I first found out that I was going to be moving to an artists’ residency, I thought that maybe I would get to go to some cool exhibition opening. It never crossed my mind that I would have the opportunity to put something IN the exhibition for arty French people to come and look at.

A few weeks ago, all of the scientists and artists living at the Récollets were invited to submit ideas for an exhibition with the subject of “Art vs Science.” I jumped at the opportunity to exhibit work in Paris and submitted the idea of making a science laboratory out of socks. My idea has been accepted and for the past two weeks I have been making microscopes, scalpels and coffee cups (scientists need caffeine) out of socks. This Friday the exhibition opens with a vernissage (aka free wine) at 7pm and apparently lots of ‘cool’ people have been invited. This makes me nervous. I thought this thing would be little and no one would come to it but it seems it maybe actually get some sort of turn out. Terrifying.

Anyway, I still have some work to do on it before I post photos but I will let you know how it goes. In the mean time, anyone would happens to be in Paris this Friday night should come!

Art or Science Poster

Cool.

Maths and Mouse Brains Equal Sunday Fun

Monday, November 7th, 2011

What a great day! I woke up fairly late this morning due to a long and very enjoyable evening entertaining our friends, Sonia and Guibril, last night. After breakfast, I met up with some other friends, Becky and Vivien, and we headed off to the Fondation Cartier – a gallery space owned by the Cartier corporation which houses some very interesting exhibitions. The current exhibition is an exploration of mathematics, and presents an interesting mix of maths and arts in a single space. It is the first Sunday of the month, meaning most galleries in Paris are open for free. Not this one it seems. No matter – we paid our entrance fees and went in.

Fondation Cartier

The Fondation Cartier is in a really nice glass building surrounded by a very pretty garden

The exhibition consisted of seven or so large exhibits, usually requiring you to stand and watch for a fair length of time. The exhibits explored various concepts around mathematics and included robots that are able to learn; a large sphere that had images of mathematical problems projected on it; and descriptions of the mathematics involved in the Hadron Collider. For most of these, I stood back and watched the pretty pictures and said, “WOW!” a lot as completely foreign concepts were thrown at me. I have never been a particularly maths and science person, however I have always wished I was, purely for the stability and ‘factual’ nature of it all. Cultural theory is far too open ended and ‘there is no answer’-ish.

My favourite part of the exhibition was a series of films where mathematicians spoke for about three minutes on what mathematics means to them. Words that were mentioned and that struck a cord with me included creativity, exploration and expression. Obviously the films were made with the topic of mathematics and art in mind, however these mathematicians were passionate about how mathematics provided them with creative outlets and how it was beautiful, magnificent and amazing. A few of the mathematicians admitted their love for the physical shape of lines within equations or geometric forms. A mathematician by the name of Sir Michael Atiyah said that he felt maths to be a more creative way of expressing yourself and that the written word was archaic. I would require further explanation before I could agree with this statement but I found the concept fascinating. My whole concept of mathematics as a dry and quantitative thing was completely refuted by these mathematicians. They were all very passionate about their work and the affect the field has on the way in which the world functions. It was very inspirational.

After the exhibition, we went and ate galettes (yum.) before Becky and Vivien invited me to their laboratory. They are both neuroscientists who are studying (together) the way in which a part of the brain (the hippocampus) affects memory. At least, I think that’s what they’re studying. Anyway, they showed me their lab which is full of very, very cool machinery and instruments which they use to dissect mouse brains into teeny tiny pieces and then study them under microscopes. FASCINATING. They were kind enough to explain everything to me and I got to look in a microscope and then on a large screen I saw the neurones inside a mouse brain. So cool.

Microscope

It's a giant microscope!

I have recently been reading a grant proposal they are working on, hopefully providing them with helpful advice about where to place commas, and I am completely in love with what they are studying. It amazes me to learn what other people do all day and how there are people in the world who are working towards solving problems and finding answers to how humans function and how we can make the world a better place. I makes me feel like what I do all day, every day (ie. nothing) isn’t really having a great impact on the larger picture. That said, I’m not sure I have the brain capacity or the inclination to study for that long in order to do so. So instead I will write about how great Becky and Vivien are and stay out of their way to ensure they can continue to do amazing things.

Becky and Vivien's view

Not only do they have cool machines, they have a great view from their lab, too!

Somewhat connected, yet also not, I am currently reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which makes me wonder about all of these science experiments and the desire for human improvement. Hopefully all science students are forced to read that book to ensure the world doesn’t follow Huxley’s concepts.