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National Institute for Medical Research

NanoScopic Culture

(London, England, United Kingdom)

The Foundation supported NanoScopic Culture, a series of artist interventions organized in 2002 and 2003 as part of the art program of London's National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR). NIMR is a centre dedicated to biomedical research and focused primarily on genetics and development, infection and immunity, neuroscience, and structural biology. Launched in 1998, NIMR's art program encourages artists and scientists to work in an environment favouring practical experimentation and dialogue. This interaction has shown that there's much to gain in exploring and understanding contemporary art practices in a scientific environment.

As part of NanoScopic Culture, the participating artists were invited to reflect on the nature of scientific research today. Thanks to contributions by NIMR researchers, the artists attempted to define scientific and artistic phenomena more thoroughly. Rather than engage in polemics around culture and science, NanoScopic Culture supposes the existence of a culture that tries to define things beyond the phenomenological world. This culture exists both in the practice of certain artists and in the field of scientific research.

Dave Beech, Ansuman Biswas, Invertebrate, Janice Kerbel, Lucy Pedlar, Shellburne Thurber and Emily Wardil were the artists involved in the project. These artists create works using sculpture, digital art, performance, film and video. They each address the relationship between scientific and artistic research in their own unique ways.

For example, Dave Beech's proposal, titled "an investigative project," entailed debunking the myths surrounding science and research. Meanwhile, Ansuman Biswas' plan was to map the life, work, memory and histories of NIMR. With his project - A digital intervention, he relied on the sequencing model of the human genome, audiovisual and written archives, and live sound-processing procedures to show how new media play a vital role in constructing the NIMR conscience. His research generated an interactive CD-ROM. As for Janice Kerbel, she was interested in how people are captivated and readily taken in by the voice of authority, the specialist. She was also intrigued by phenomena that go beyond reason. Her interdisciplinary work often involves creating pseudoscientific systems that allow for escape, invisibility, infiltration and adaptation. These systems gain credibility through their interaction with fields of specialized knowledge.

During her residency at NIMR, Lucy Pedlar documented and follow the travels of several scientists. The data gathered was then transcribed as diagrams in order to show the conceptual nature of the work done by structural biologists and to give shape to scientific elements. The final result is an abstract monochrome mural that used a visual language adapted to the scientific context. Following three months of research at NIMR, Emily Wardil experimented with the model of the work she had planed to create-an exemplary model. Wardil was particularly interested in using examples to explain and articulate abstract and complex ideas. Her work is at once serious and comical. She wraped up her residency by creating one-foot-tall sculptures representing man's evolution, an allusion to Darwin's theory.

Finally, the end results of the NanoScopic Culture project was presented in the form of an innovative publication, rather than an exhibition as originally proposed.

Dominique Fontaine © 2004 FDL