Tag Archives: VAG

Programming announcements for the International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA) 2015 in Vancouver, Canada

I last wrote about ISEA (International Sympsosium on Electronics Arts) in an April 24, 2015 posting when announcing this,

Our paper (Raewyn Turner, an artist from New Zealand,  and mine, Maryse de la Giroday), Steep (I): a digital poetry of gold nanoparticles, has been accepted for the 2015 International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA) to be held in Vancouver, Canada from Aug. 14 – 18, 2015. I last wrote about ISEA 2015 in a Dec. 19, 2014 post where I indicated more information about our project would be forthcoming—the next week. Ah well, better late than never, eh?

In short, I will be presenting at the conference and (fingers crossed) so will Raewyn.

A July 7, 2015 Simon Fraser University (SFU) news release reveals more about the conference programming,

For the first time in two decades, the 2015 International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA) is returning to Canada and will be hosted by Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Communication, Arts and Technology, and its School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), the School for Contemporary Arts (SCA).

I attended the 2009 edition of ISEA which was held in Northern Ireland and Ireland where some people were still raving about the Québec-hosted event. Vancouver has a lot to live up to.

Back to the news release,

ISEA 2015 will be held in Vancouver from August 14-19. Over the five days the symposium will feature more than 450 speakers, workshops and presentations. Its theme, “Disruption,” will examine the borders between academia and artwork, practice and theory, systems and reality, and art and society.

The symposium will also feature some of the most innovative and groundbreaking digital artworks from all over the world and will transform Vancouver into a “city-sized” dynamic art space, says symposium coordinator and SIAT professor Philippe Pasquier. More than 160 digital artworks will come to life in multiple venues throughout Vancouver, including SFU Woodwards.

“We are excited that Simon Fraser University, with its core commitments to innovative education and community engagement, will host one of the world’s most prominent international arts and technology events,” said SFU President Andrew Petter. “Featuring leading experts and innovators in the field, including those from SFU, and a global arts showcase, ISEA 2015 will bring great energy to the city.”

A committee of distinguished experts has curated a program for ISEA 2015 that will explore how disruptions manifest in science, artistic practice, activism, geopolitics, media, sound, sound ecology and embodied practices.

Panels and roundtable programs will feature discussions on artistic research, communications, computational media technologies, dance and performance. These will explore how art intersects with climate change, contemporary curatorial practices, media activism and subversion, IY technology, bio art and sound, embodied art practices, geopolitics and more.

To frame the discussion around the artistic, scientific, technological, and social manifestations of disruptions as a phenomenon, keynote speakers will include Brian Massumi, Michael Connor, Dominique Moulon, Sara Diamond, as well as SFU’s Hildegard Westerkamp. The Yes Men will close the symposium with an address on the use of creative expression for subversion and disruption.

The symposium will feature 19 workshops across several disciplines. MOCO’15, the 2nd international workshop on movement and computing, aims to gather academics and practitioners interested in the computational study and generation of movement in art and science. As part of MOCO’15’s artistic program visitors can attend Hakanai, a dance performance, taking place in a cube of moving images.

Keynote speakers (and master disruptors) Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonnano, better known as the Yes Men, will share the history of media activism, following up with a mater-class on creating media activist campaign base on unscripted responses.

  • MUTEK Cabaret, organized by the MUTEK Festival and curated for ISEA 2015 by Alain Mongeau.
  • Computer code meets contemporary art as ISEAS 2015 presents an Algorave, a participatory performance that invites visitors to dance to music generated by algorithms. This is the first time an Algorave will take place in Canada.
  • Beyond the Trees: WALLPAPERS in dialogue with Emily Carr is an exhibition by the WALLPAPERS collective that will run at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

For more information on specific programs please visit: www.isea2015.org

As for the paper and video we’re (Raewyn and I) presenting, it’s called “Steep (1): a digital poetry of gold nanoparticles. It is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015 in session no. 9 (Interactive Text 1), 11:30 am – 1 pm. You can find the schedule here.

Art (Lawren Harris and the Group of Seven), science (Raman spectroscopic examinations), and other collisions at the 2014 Canadian Chemistry Conference (part 4 of 4)

Cultural heritage and the importance of pigments and databases

Unlike Thom (Ian Thom, curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery), I believe that the testing was important. Knowing the spectra emitted by the pigments in Hurdy Gurdy and Autumn Harbour could help to set benchmarks for establishing the authenticity of the pigments used by artists (Harris and others) in the early part of Canada’s 20th century.

Europeans and Americans are more advanced in their use of technology as a tool in the process of authenticating, restoring, or conserving a piece of art. At the Chicago Institute of Art they identified the red pigment used in a Renoir painting as per my March 24, 2014 posting,

… The first item concerns research by Richard Van Duyne into the nature of the red paint used in one of Renoir’s paintings. A February 14, 2014 news item on Azonano describes some of the art conservation work that Van Duyne’s (nanoish) technology has made possible along with details about this most recent work,

Scientists are using powerful analytical and imaging tools to study artworks from all ages, delving deep below the surface to reveal the process and materials used by some of the world’s greatest artists.

Northwestern University chemist Richard P. Van Duyne, in collaboration with conservation scientists at the Art Institute of Chicago, has been using a scientific method he discovered nearly four decades ago to investigate masterpieces by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Winslow Homer and Mary Cassatt.

Van Duyne recently identified the chemical components of paint, now partially faded, used by Renoir in his oil painting “Madame Léon Clapisson.” Van Duyne discovered the artist used carmine lake, a brilliant but light-sensitive red pigment, on this colorful canvas. The scientific investigation is the cornerstone of a new exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago.

There are some similarities between the worlds of science (in this case, chemistry) and art (collectors,  institutions, curators, etc.). They are worlds where one must be very careful.

The scientists/chemists choose their words with precision while offering no certainties. Even the announcement for the discovery (by physicists) of the Higgs Boson is not described in absolute terms as I noted in my July 4, 2012 posting titled: Tears of joy as physicists announce they’re pretty sure they found the Higgs Boson. As the folks from ProsPect Scientific noted,

This is why the science must be tightly coupled with art expertise for an effective analysis.  We cannot do all of that for David [Robertson]. [He] wished to show a match between several pigments to support an interpretation that the ‘same’ paints were used. The availability of Hurdy Gurdy made this plausible because it offered a known benchmark that lessened our dependency on the databases and art-expertise. This is why Raman spectroscopy more often disproves authenticity (through pigment anachronisms). Even if all of the pigments analysed showed the same spectra we don’t know that many different painters didn’t buy the same brand of paint or that some other person didn’t take those same paints and use them for a different painting. Even if all pigments were different, that doesn’t mean Lawren Harris didn’t paint it, it just means different paints were used.

In short they proved that one of the pigments used in Autumn Harbour was also used in the authenticated Harris, Hurdy Gurdy, and the other pigment was in use at that time (early 20th century) in Canada. It doesn’t prove it’s a Harris painting but, unlike the Pollock painting where they found an anachronistic pigment, it doesn’t disprove Robertson’s contention.

To contrast the two worlds, the art world seems to revel in secrecy for its own sake while the world of science (chemistry) will suggest, hint, or hedge but never state certainties. The ProSpect* Scientific representative commented on authentication, art institutions, and databases,

We know that some art institutions are extremely cautious about any claims towards authentication, and they decline to be cited in anything other than the work they directly undertake. (One director of a well known US art institution said to me that they pointedly do not authenticate works, she offered advice on how to conduct the analysis but declined any reference to her institution.) We cannot comment on any of the business plans of any of our customers but the customers we have that use Raman spectroscopy on paintings generally build databases from their collected studies as a vital tool to their own ongoing work collecting and preserving works of art.

We don’t know of anyone with a database particular to pigments used by Canadian artists and neither did David R. We don’t know that any organization is developing such a database.The database we used is a mineral database (as pigments in the early 20th century were pre-synthetic this database contains some of the things commonly used in pigments at that time) There are databases available for many things:  many are for sale, some are protected intellectual property. We don’t have immediate access to a pigments database. Some of our art institution/museum customers are developing their own but often these are not publicly available. Raman spectroscopy is new on the scene relative to other techniques like IR and X-Ray analysis and the databases of Raman spectra are less mature.


Canadian cultural heritage

Whether or not Autumn Harbour is a Lawren Harris painting may turn out to be less important than establishing a means for better authenticating, restoring, and conserving Canadian cultural heritage. (In a June 13, 2014 telephone conversation, David Robertson claims he will forward the summary version of the data from the tests to the Canadian Conservation Institute once it is received.)

If you think about it, Canadians are defined by the arts and by research. While our neighbours to the south went through a revolutionary war to declare independence, Canadians have declared independence through the visual and literary arts and the scientific research and implementation of technology (transportation and communication in the 19th and 20th centuries).

Thank you to both Tony Ma and David Robertson.

Finally, Happy Canada Day on July 1, 2014!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

* ‘ProsPect’ changed to ‘ProSpect’ on June 30, 2014.

ETA July 14, 2014 at 1300 hours PDT: There is now an addendum to this series, which features a reply from the Canadian Conservation Institute to a query about art pigments used by Canadian artists and access to a database of information about them.

Lawren Harris (Group of Seven), art authentication, and the Canadian Conservation Insitute (addendum to four-part series)

Art (Lawren Harris and the Group of Seven), science (Raman spectroscopic examinations), and other collisions at the 2014 Canadian Chemistry Conference (part 2 of 4)

Testing the sample and Raman fingerprints

The first stage of the June 3, 2010 test of David Robertson’s Autumn Harbour, required taking a tiny sample from the painting,. These samples are usually a fleck of a few microns (millionths of an inch), which can then be tested to ensure the lasers are set at the correct level assuring no danger of damage to the painting. (Robertson extracted the sample himself prior to arriving at the conference. He did not allow anyone else to touch his purported Harris before, during, or after the test.)

Here’s how ProSpect* Scientific describes the ‘rehearsal’ test on the paint chip,

Tests on this chip were done simply to ensure we knew what power levels were safe for use on the painting.  While David R stated he believed the painting was oil on canvas without lacquer, we were not entirely certain of that.  Lacquer tends to be easier to burn than oil pigments and so we wanted to work with this chip just to be entirely certain there was no risk to the painting itself.

The preliminary (rehearsal) test resulted in a line graph that showed the frequencies of the various pigments in the test sample. Titanium dioxide, for example, was detected and its frequency (spectra) reflected on the graph.

I found this example of a line graph representing the spectra (fingerprint) for a molecule of an ultramarine (blue) pigment along with a general explanation of a Raman ‘fingerprint’. There is no indication as to where the ultramarine pigment was obtained. From the  WebExhibits.org website featuring a section on Pigments through the Ages and a webpage on Spectroscopy,


Ultramarine [downloaded from http://www.webexhibits.org/pigments/intro/spectroscopy.html]

Raman spectra consist of sharp bands whose position and height are characteristic of the specific molecule in the sample. Each line of the spectrum corresponds to a specific vibrational mode of the chemical bonds in the molecule. Since each type of molecule has its own Raman spectrum, this can be used to characterize molecular structure and identify chemical compounds.

Most people don’t realize that the chemical signature (spectra) for pigment can change over time with new pigments being introduced. Finding a pigment that was on the market from 1970 onwards in a painting by Jackson Pollock who died in 1956 suggests strongly that the painting couldn’t have come from Pollock’s hand. (See Michael Shnayerson’s May 2012 article, A Question of Provenance, in Vanity Fair for more about the Pollock painting. The article details the fall of a fabled New York art gallery that had been in business prior to the US Civil War.)

The ability to identify a pigment’s molecular fingerprint means that an examination by Raman spectroscopy can be part of an authentication, a restoration, or a conservation process. Here is how a representative from ProSpect Scientific describes the process,

Raman spectroscopy is non-destructive (when conducted at the proper power levels) and identifies the molecular components in the pigments, allowing characterization of the pigments for proper restoration or validation by comparison with other pigments of the same place/time. It is valuable to art institutions and conservators because it can do this.  In most cases of authentication Raman spectroscopy is one of many tools used and not the first in line. A painting would be first viewed by art experts for technique, format etc, then most often analysed with IR or X-Ray, then perhaps Raman spectroscopy. It is impossible to use Raman spectroscopy to prove authenticity as paint pigments are usually not unique to any particular painter.  Most often Raman spectroscopy is used by conservators to determine proper pigments for appropriate restoration.  Sometimes Raman will tell us that the pigment isn’t from the time/era the painting is purported to be from (anachronisms).

Autumn Harbour test

Getting back to the June 3, 2014 tests, once the levels were set then it was time to examine Autumn Harbour itself to determine the spectra for the various pigments.  ProSpect Scientific has provided an explanation of the process,

This spectrometer was equipped with an extension that allowed delivery of the laser and collection of the scattered light at a point other than directly under the microscope. We could also have used a flexible fibre optic probe for this, but this device is slightly more efficient. This allowed us to position the delivery/collection point for the light just above the painting at the spot we wished to test. For this test, we don’t sweep across the surface, we test a small pinpoint that we feel is a pigment of the target colour.

We only use one laser at a time. The system is built so we can easily select one laser or another, depending on what we wish to look at. Some researchers have 3 or 4 lasers in their system because different lasers provide a better/worse raman spectrum depending on the nature of the sample. In this case we principally used the 785nm laser as it is better for samples that exhibit fluorescence at visible wavelengths. 532nm is a visible wavelength.  For samples that didn’t produce good signal we tried the 532nm laser as it produces better signal to noise than 785nm, generally speaking. I believe the usable results in our case were obtained with the 785nm laser.

The graphed Raman spectra shows peaks for the frequency of scattered light that we collect from the laser-illuminated sample (when shining a laser on a sample the vast majority of light is scattered in the same frequency of the laser, but a very small amount is scattered at different frequencies unique to the molecules in the sample). Those frequencies correspond to and identify molecules in the sample. We use a database (on the computer attached to the spectrometer) to pattern match the spectra to identify the constituents.

One would have thought ‘game over’ at this point. According to some informal sources, Canada has a very small (almost nonexistent) data bank of information about pigments used in its important paintings. For example, the federal government’s Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) has a very small database of pigments and nothing from Lawren Harris paintings [See the CCI’s response in this addendum], so the chances that David Robertson would have been able to find a record of pigments used by Lawren Harris roughly in the same time period that Autumn Harbour seems to have been painted are not good.

Everything changes

In a stunning turn of events and despite the lack of enthusiasm from Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) curator, Ian Thom, on Wednesday, June 4, 2014 the owner of the authenticated Harris, Hurdy Gurdy, relented and brought the painting in for tests.

Here’s what the folks from ProSpect Scientific had to say about the comparison,

Many pigments were evaluated. Good spectra were obtained for blue and white. The blue pigment matched on both paintings, the white didn’t match. We didn’t get useful Raman spectra from other pigments. We had limited time, with more time we might fine tune and get more data.

One might be tempted to say that the results were 50/50 with one matching and the other not, The response from the representative of ProSpect Scientific is more measured,

We noted that the mineral used in the pigment was the same.  Beyond that is interpretation:  Richard offered the view that lapis-lazuli was a typical and characteristic component for blue in that time period (early 1900’s).   We saw different molecules in the whites used in the two paintings, and Richard offered that both were characteristic of the early 1900’s.

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

* ‘ProsPect’ changed to ‘ProSpect’ on June 30, 2014.

ETA July 14, 2014 at 1300 hours PDT: There is now an addendum to this series, which features a reply from the Canadian Conservation Institute to a query about art pigments used by Canadian artists and access to a database of information about them.

Lawren Harris (Group of Seven), art authentication, and the Canadian Conservation Insitute (addendum to four-part series)


Bioengineered ear at Cornell University

The researchers claim their bioengineered ear looks and acts like a real ear, from the Feb. 20, 2013 news release on EurekAlert,

Cornell bioengineers and physicians have created an artificial ear – using 3-D printing and injectable molds – that looks and acts like a natural ear, giving new hope to thousands of children born with a congenital deformity called microtia.

In a study published online Feb. 20 in PLOS ONE, Cornell biomedical engineers and Weill Cornell Medical College physicians described how 3-D printing and injectable gels made of living cells can fashion ears that are practically identical to a human ear. Over a three-month period, these flexible ears grew cartilage to replace the collagen that was used to mold them.

“This is such a win-win for both medicine and basic science, demonstrating what we can achieve when we work together,” said co-lead author Lawrence Bonassar, associate professor of biomedical engineering.

The novel ear may be the solution reconstructive surgeons have long wished for to help children born with ear deformity, said co-lead author Dr. Jason Spector, director of the Laboratory for Bioregenerative Medicine and Surgery and associate professor of plastic surgery at Weill Cornell in New York City.

“A bioengineered ear replacement like this would also help individuals who have lost part or all of their external ear in an accident or from cancer,” Spector said.

Replacement ears are usually constructed with materials that have a Styrofoam-like consistency, or sometimes, surgeons build ears from a patient’s harvested rib. This option is challenging and painful for children, and the ears rarely look completely natural or perform well, Spector said.

Lawrence Bonassar, associate professor of biomedical engineering, and colleagues collaborated with Weill Cornell Medical College physicians to create an artificial ear using 3-D printing and injectable molds. Credit: Lindsay France/University Photography [downloaded from http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Feb13/earPrint.html]

Lawrence Bonassar, associate professor of biomedical engineering, and colleagues collaborated with Weill Cornell Medical College physicians to create an artificial ear using 3-D printing and injectable molds. Credit: Lindsay France/University Photography [downloaded from http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Feb13/earPrint.html]

A Feb. 20, 2013 article in Cornell University’s Chronicle Online (and the basis for the news release) provides details about how this bioengineered ear was achieved (Note: A link has been removed),

To make the ears, Bonassar and colleagues started with a digitized 3-D image of a human subject’s ear and converted the image into a digitized “solid” ear using a 3-D printer to assemble a mold.

They injected the mold with collagen derived from rat tails, and then added 250 million cartilage cells from the ears of cows. This Cornell-developed, high-density gel is similar to the consistency of Jell-O when the mold is removed. The collagen served as a scaffold upon which cartilage could grow.

The process is also fast, Bonassar added: “It takes half a day to design the mold, a day or so to print it, 30 minutes to inject the gel, and we can remove the ear 15 minutes later. We trim the ear and then let it culture for several days in nourishing cell culture media before it is implanted.”

The incidence of microtia, which is when the external ear is not fully developed, varies from almost 1 to more than 4 per 10,000 births each year. Many children born with microtia have an intact inner ear, but experience hearing loss due to the missing external structure.

There was a show in 2004  at the Vancouver Art Gallery (Canada), Massive Change, curated by graphic designer Bruce Mau, which amongst many other objects and images featured a bioengineered nose being grown in a beaker. If memory serves, the work featuring the nose was from Israel and there was no mention of when that work might leave the lab and be used for implants. From the Chronicle article,

Bonassar and Spector have been collaborating on bioengineered human replacement parts since 2007. Bonassar has also worked with Weill Cornell neurological surgeon Dr. Roger Härtl on bioengineered disc replacements using some of the same techniques demonstrated in the PLOS One study.

The researchers specifically work on replacement human structures that are primarily made of cartilage — joints, trachea, spine, nose — because cartilage does not need to be vascularized with a blood supply in order to survive.

They are now looking at ways to expand populations of human ear cartilage cells in the laboratory so that these cells can be used in the mold, instead of cow cartilage.

“Using human cells, specifically those from the same patient, would reduce any possibility of rejection,” Spector said.

He added that the best time to implant a bioengineered ear on a child would be when they are about 5 or 6 years old. At that age, ears are 80 percent of their adult size.

If all future safety and efficacy tests work out, it might be possible to try the first human implant of a Cornell bioengineered ear in as little as three years, Spector said.

Good luck to them. For anyone who’s interested here’s a citation and link to the paper,

Reiffel AJ, Kafka C, Hernandez KA, Popa S, Perez JL, et al. (2013) High-Fidelity Tissue Engineering of Patient-Specific Auricles for Reconstruction of Pediatric Microtia and Other Auricular Deformities. PLoS ONE 8(2): e56506. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056506

PLoS One is an open access journal.