Trash or treasure?

What defines a success or failure?  Does it depend on objective data or a subjective opinion?  And following that, can there be different views of the same physical object?  Also, how much of this should be defined by the informed originator versus the unknowing spectator?  During one of our conversations with Darcy and Kate, we spoke about the importance of the artist’s intentions and whether or not it matters if they are correctly interpreted by the people viewing the art.

At my current I job, I often deal with experiments performed by others and therefore cannot always control how well an experiment is performed.  I just end up imaging the samples and doing my best to analyze them in a way that would allow us to extract at least some useful information.  Last week, I received samples that were particularly troublesome.  From a biological perspective, the images were quite terrible.  And then it occurred to me that “one (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure” and decided to send some of these images to Darcy to see what she thinks.  I thought I would leave them up for her interpretation at first and then fill in the details if necessary.   Darcy appeared to be fascinated and said that these images acted as an immediate form of inspiration for her.  She eagerly got to work and began manipulating the images in Photoshop. Please check out her post to see the beautiful renderings she has come up with.

For quite some time now, Darcy and I have been talking about merging the elements of networks, free form drawings, neuronal connections and even cities.  Looking at images 4 and 5 below made me think of satellite images of cities at night, with the black space corresponding to nearby bodies of water. In reality they are just patches of dense neuronal cultures that got damaged during the immunofluorescence staining process.  Image 8 looks like a city next to a beautiful beach with clear blue water. The truth is that it was just taken too close to the edge of a cell culture well, resulting in a lot of auto-fluorescence.

So how do we relate this to art?  What did you think of the images when you first saw them?  Did you feel disillusioned after reading the real descriptions?  Do you prefer to know and understand or to wonder? These are the questions I have be struggling with for some time.  If SciArt is meant, at least in part, to educate people about the current scientific achievements, what is the best balance between presenting accurate information and leaving things up for interpretation?

And finally, what do you see in image 9?

Trash or treasure?


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