Science and Art Collaborations : Networks and Botany


We looked at a couple of things for our discussion with Ed Kelly on Thursday.

One was a TedTalk about network from a neuropsychologist ( ?) talking about the brain as a network, showing some illustrations and art work that had come from this idea. She is using these to think differently about her work. I enjoyed the lecture but had a couple of difficulties with it…

One was that I think it is easy to made work which is very literal about networks and this becomes illustrative and diagrammatic. Another from a personal pov as I find it hard to look at this subject objectively. I often think of my own brain as a failing network , especially when I am feeling fatigued or symptoms are overwhelming. When fatigue is really severe and I am struggling with various aspects of cognitive function it feels as if the Mac ‘spinning wheel of death’ is in my brain...and the screen is frozen... not a network analogy exactly but more a hardware problem.. I can just feel the messages not getting through… the struggle the impulses are having to make progress along the neurone and to the next synapse and junction on the network. Sometimes they stop there or arrive too late to be any use.

I guess I could examine this in my work but I don’t want to...not at the moment anyway. I’ did this drawing once fairly soon after diagnosis and it sort of shows a network but of nerve transmission within my body, mainly sensory  and therefore,  going into, not away from my brain….MS Resized PS

I want my work to be about something ‘outside ‘of me and  I’m afraid that I can’t think of brain function anymore without thinking of mine and the way it doesn’t always work.. and I have to put in a lot of ‘work’ ( actually the opposite…) to help it repair and form new networks. Up to the present day I am making enough new ones to function OK if very slowly sometimes and with lots of ‘wasted time’ in bed or just recovering.

I also think of networks as essentially involving people and ‘bodies’- an embodied social network and so this is more the line that I would take ( have taken but possibly not made sufficiently explicit) in my work. Networks of narrative and embodied documentation passing things on are central to what I think about in my work.

I looked again at the Whitechapel Book Networks which I bought some time ago and read the piece about Alan Kaprow’s work with Marta Minujin and Wolf Vostell. Simultaneity in Simultaneity (1966).I can’t find any images but this is from Marta Minjuin’s website. She’s still working today it seems..

This is her with Andy Warhol, more recently:

Marta Minujin e Andy Warhol - Foto: Acervo MALBA
Marta Minujin e Andy Warhol –
Foto: Acervo MALBA

Simultaneity in Simultaneity  October 13 and 24 1966 was the local episode of the international project Three Countries Happening,  between Minujín, Allan Kaprow (from New York), and  Wolf Vostell (from Berlin). Part of the happening consisted of three events in three cities at the same time. Minujín defined her happening as “environment signal”.

The first phase “Instantaneous Invasion”, consisted of an event to be simultaneously transmitted by radio, TV, telephone, and telegraph.

One hundred and twenty preselected people whos had been photographed, filmed and recorded in their homes, were “invaded” by media. During ten minutes, said Minujín, they were “captives of the communications media.

The second phase, “Enveloping Simultaneity”, Minujín invited sixty personalities from the cultural and journalistic world, whose were photographed and filmed, while they sat down in front of a TV set with a transistor radio.

When they went out, each was asked to give their opinion of the event and of the media in general. Eleven days later, the same sixty persons came back to the Institute. As they went to their corresponding seats, they watched themselves (their images, their gestures and movements) reflected on the screens of their TV sets and in slides which were proyected at the sides, while they listened to them own voices transmitted over the radio.

I was also reminded of a sentence from Liquid Times  by Zygmunt Bauman  p3 in which he states

That society is increasingly viewed and treated as a ‘network’ rather than a ‘structure’ ( let alone a solid ‘ totality’): it is perceived and treated as a matrix of random connections and disconnections and of an essentially infinite volume of possible permutations.

I can’t really comment further as I’m afraid I started to read the book on my way to the Funeral… see next post and didn’t get very far….

Another for the further reading..

At some point I’ll actually start to make some work… The Theory is taking over not the making… Not Good!


So the second lecture was very dense in content and involved a lot of work on Botanical specimens…some at RBG Kew With Rob Kesseler. HIs images are very evocative and especially his use of colour and I like the ceramics, although I do find his ‘ dinner parties ‘at the site where he took material from  a little too ‘token performance’ and not the same as for instance Rirkrit  Tiravanija though it is silly to make a comparison.

Kessler’s practice is not performative and the ‘ dinner parties’ are to use his ceramics and display them in use…not the work , itself. Remediating the images through performance but…because of my previous and some concurrent ‘paid’ work this botanical work was very much of interest ( and my previous work with the oral history project, Ethnomedica, at RBG Kew)

I thought though, how I would struggle to work as an artist working in this field. If I went back to work in a lab the way he did, I feel I would go back to ‘being a scientist’ and thinking in that way... a different way to use imagination and exploration. I would find it hard to do what I do as an artist in that environment. My way of thinking is very different in each capacity. I have only done one piece of work that was botanically related and that was ‘Wise or Wicked at Gunpowder Park.

I have though about incorporating plants as part of a reference to ‘place’ and these lectures reminded me of that…

This  was in my past Research Proposal and now it maybe time to bring it back in again…


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