Submerged // Interview with SciArt Center

My recent interview with Marnie Benney, the curator for the SciArt Center's Submerged exhibition. From the SciArt Magazine blog.

"SUBMERGED" is SciArt Center's most recent exhibition, and surrounds themes of water in its variety of forms and the creatures that inhabit it. Exhibit curator Marnie Benney asked artist and neuroscientist Luke Maninov Hammond to share a bit about his work, and the artistic and scientific processes behind it:

Marnie Benney: Can you explain the relationship between your research and chosen medium and how one informs the other?

Luke Maninov Hammond: In my area of neuroscience we are exploring unknown and invisible worlds, often for the first time. This informs my practice and helps me to reflect on designs for jewelry.  Often I simply want to share the wonder of this process through its original form, as images, in case it may stir curiosity in others as it did for me. Finding ways to transform and represent the images we generate for artistic purposes is not necessarily mutually exclusive from finding ways to explore them for scientific discovery. Our minds have a tendency to only find what they are looking for, selectivity narrowing our vision and letting unexpected discoveries pass us by. I think transitioning between science and art provides an opportunity to see these images through different lenses, helping  both my artistic practice and my work in microscopy.

In addition to this, my experience in both fields has taught me to think flexibly so that I can combine techniques in novel and interesting ways. I feel that an important aspect of creativity in both science and art stems from a deep understanding of the field and the tools available to you. While understanding a field takes time, both fields reinforce common pathways in the brain for experimenting with tools, learning what they are capable of, what their limits are, and eventually providing a proficiency to express ideas and create meaningful work.

MB: What do you think of the union of art and science?

LMH: Science is advancing at an unprecedented rate and I believe artists can play a critical role in communicating how our understanding of the world, and ourselves, is evolving. Sparking a sense of wonder, interpreting discoveries in novel ways, and raising new questions through art is important for starting conversations and building awareness of scientific advancement. Breaking down the barriers between the public and science is essential in maintaining the public’s support of research, ensuring our ability to continue improving quality of life and developing new treatments to disease. In return, science offers artists new worlds to explore, providing unfamiliar symbols and palettes ready to be reimagined and repurposed.

MB: What was your greatest learning experience when you were creating this artwork?

LMH: Learning to efficiently manipulate and represent large datasets was the most important aspect to creating these images. Capturing the images is comparatively easy now, advanced imaging devices allow us to capture huge amounts of data very quickly. For example, the camera used for these experiments can generate 400 MB/s. The real challenge is how to put these images back together into a single dataset, and critically for research, how to explore these datasets to uncover meaningful insights.

In this case, each individual fish comprises thousands of single 2D images amounting to over 20 GB of data (roughly equivalent to 7,000 smartphone photos) that needs to be combined and aligned in 3D space. To further manipulate the images requires developing custom software tools, which has become an essential and rewarding part of my work.

 Observing Vision II: Created in collaboration with Dr. Jeremy Ullmann at the University of Queensland's, Queensland Brain Institute.

Observing Vision II: Created in collaboration with Dr. Jeremy Ullmann at the University of Queensland's, Queensland Brain Institute.