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The International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge 2010

Visualizing science through art.

Emilia is an MFA candidate, performance/theater artist, object maker, puppeteer, interpretive dancer, writer, budding video artist and creator of imaginary realities.

Okay, I'll admit that science has never been a big component of my own work, and sometimes when I hear about conferences and other events that focus on the crossovers of 'science and art', I usually flip the channel. Not that I don't think science is interesting.. it's just that, well, I guess I've just never been that excited about science in relation to art, just as I'm not so interested in science in relation to spirituality. The body, yes, definitely interested. And yes, science does play into the body, but not in the way that I'm usually looking at it, which is more on the surface (i.e. physical appearance). However, a recent viewing of images of the winners from the International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge 2010 has made me consider otherwise.. Hey, maybe science and art isn't so bad after all!

For eight years, the International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge has been a joint venture between the National Science Foundation and Science magazine to showcase "cutting-edge efforts to visualize scientific data, principles and ideas." The 2010 challenge received 111 entries from 63 countries, and judges selected about a dozen winners in the categories of illustrations, infographics, photography and noninteractive media. The first place Illustration winner, Ivan Konstantinov from Moscow, "reduces HIV to unnerving simplicity. His team at the Visual Science Company in Moscow spent months combing through the latest research, compiling data from more than 100 papers and assembling the information into a coherent image of a 100-nanometer HIV particle. They depicted the proteins in just two basic colors: Gray equals host, orange equals virus. In addition to the stark color scheme, the image of the particle split open to reveal its viral core itself deeply shook the panel, says panel of judges member Tom Wagner: “You have this gaping mouth that almost looks like it's ready to eat you the way AIDS is eating away at society.”(Science Magazine, Feb. 18, 2011)

The result, for me, is both beautiful and disturbing. Beautiful in its ability to capture something into a perfectly crafted object that looks so soft and colorful that you want to sleep in it with your bed like a teddy bear. Disturbing because, well, it's representing the HIV particle, the virus that breaks into someone's cells and hacks their genes, that's increasingly affecting people all over the world, with more than 1 million people living with HIV in the U.S. alone.

In conclusion, perhaps science and art combined is pretty interesting after all, not only artistically but also in its ability to help everday people to visualize what in the scientific world can only be seen through photographs, micrographs, measurements and recordings; data that at least to me, is hard to fathom.

For more info about the Challenge and to see images of other winners and honorable mentions, visit this link: http://www.sciencemag.org/site/special/vis2010/show/index.xhtml



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