Public Outcry Over Science-Art In Museum?
    By Enrico Uva | January 16th 2013 11:00 PM | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Enrico

    I majored in chemistry, worked briefly in the food industry and at Fisheries and Oceans. I then obtained a degree in education. Since then I have...

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    In the spring of 2012, the last time I checked, Barnett Newman's acrylic painting* of what I perceive to be a long flag, Voice of Fire, was still prominently displayed in Ottawa's National Gallery. Two decades ago, they paid $1.8 million dollars for it. Understandably it caused a public outcry, but either prosaic or messy displays on canvas have fooled publicly-funded museums across the planet before, and it's been tolerated. 
    Rather than fighting this tendency, I figured I could create some "science-art" and sell it to curators for a modest sum. Here's the first work I plan on peddling. Voice of Magnetism is a blend of two old tricks: two donut-shaped magnets repelling each other, but a graduated cylinder prevents one from flipping over. The assembly is surrounded by three paper clips suspended in the magnetic field, which creates the tension in the threads attached to the paper clips and scotch-taped to the lab counters.
    The two magnets symbolize art and science, which really should attract each other because they both depend on imagination. But social attitudes, symbolized by the cylinder, keep them apart. The field, tension and paper clips that cannot reach the magnets represent the tendency of both collectors and scientific journals to overcharge for access, which prevent the average person from being in touch with creative works.

    If that idea goes through, then we can organize a vernissage of scientific photorealism. Here are some pictures to be displayed. The first one is the bottom of a pickle-jar covered by hydrated sodium sulfate crystals created by the baking soda-neutralization of concentrated sulfuric acid. It reveals the importance of not being too obsessive with using orthodox equipment or with cleaning up.  

    The next photo is that of a nail coated with copper created by iron's reduction of cupric ion(Cu2+), leading to the formation of the green ferric sulfate shown next to the nail. This image would not exist if I did not give students a little liberty with their experiments after they had accomplished the initial task.And finally the evidence of the pseudo-artist-chemist's hardship. A magnified view of his pure substance-abused skin, better known as dermatitis, caused by the unfettered devotion to his craft  :)

    Photo Credits
    picture 1: public domain
    2, 3, 5:  mine
    4: my student's

    * In fairness to Barnett Newman, who has been dead for 42 years, here's a video of him explaining his work. Before venturing into a "zip-mode"(the paintings with stripes that supposedly fired viewers with sparks of life), he destroyed all of his previous expressionist works.