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Vol 4 - Issue 3

Art and Science

List of Articles

Charles-Alexandre Lesueur in Philadelphia: His Remarkable Contributions to Natural History and Scientific Illustration

Here the nearly forgotten contributions of Charles-Alexandre Lesueur (1778-1846) to natural history during his stay in Philadelphia are reviewed. He was a self-taught artist and naturalist whose first occupation was that of an illustrator working for Nicolas Baudin, the commander of a Napoleonic expedition to explore the Austral regions in the early 1800’s. Through his work with the naturalist François Péron, both during and after the expedition, he became a reputed naturalist in his own right. Following the demise of Péron, Lesueur traveled to America in 1815 as an assistant for William MacLure, a geological explorer and philanthropist. Although his contract was for but two years, Lesueur resided in North America from 1816 to 1837. He first lived in Philadelphia, from 1816 to 1825, and there he made his critical contributions to the establishment of the one of the first and major societies of natural history in America and its journal, the Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. During this time, Lesueur published on a wide variety of taxa, created important contacts for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia with renowned French naturalists, provided illustrations for other naturalists, and even aided in the printing of the journal. Although Lesueur is recognized as one of the key figures of science in 19th century America, his American scientific work is actually little known. This illustrated essay is an effort to shine a light on his neglected natural history work and his striking scientific illustrations from his time in Philadelphia.

The Calanques: a land of science and source of inspiration - Feedback on artist-researcher collaboration

During the residency The Calanques, a land of science and source of inspiration, the visual artist Shanta Rao explored the world of jellyfish, whose growing presence on the beaches of the Parc national des Calanques (Marseille region, southern France) raises the question of otherness, of the links between humans and other animal species. A collaborative experiment with marine biology researchers Justine Gadreaud and Guillaume Marchessaux (Aix-Marseille University), the artist’s research into the biological transformation specific to certain jellyfish has given rise to works at the crossroads of painting and sculpture, as well as photographic and video images that bring together plastic and scientific research devices. Following a first exhibition at the end of the residency at the Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur in Marseille (2018), the initial project continued to develop through the creation of new works and their exhibition, notably at the Edouard Manet institutional gallery (Gennevilliers/FR, 2019), the Joseph Tang gallery (Paris/FR, 2019), the Shimmer art space (Rotterdam/NL, 2019) and the Nest contemporary art centre (The Hague/NL, 2020).

"After Haeckel": An Exhibition of Microscopic Primitive Life Forms

Ernst Haeckel, the German naturalist, in 1868 depicted amoeboid microorganisms as primordial life forms. He claimed they were without nuclei or cell membranes but capable of feeding and reproducing. He called such organisms Moners. His remarkable illustrations of the presumably primordial life forms were very widely reproduced in both the scientific and popular press. By 1915 the primitive nature of the organisms and even their existence were in disrepute as no such organisms were found by anyone else. Today, they are largely forgotten. Here the remarkable variety of images of Haeckel’s primordial Protomyxa, published from 1868 to 1913, are presented. Examination of Haeckel’s original illustrations and the subsequent adaptations by others, provide insights into what was, and might still be, thought to be primitive. In the adaptations, the primordial life forms were most commonly shown with the remains of prey inside them and capturing a prey organism. The portrayals of primitive microorganisms as predatory and aggressive, mirrors portrayals of dinosaurs and primitive humans.

The exquisite corpse for the advance of science

The exquisite corpse or the exquisite cadaver (adapted from the French term “cadavre exquis”) was invented by the Surrealists to reflect their delight in games, chance and the Freudian-based basis of the uncontrolled aspects of artistic production. It would be expected that the exquisite corpse creationist approach results in chaotic and meaningful pieces. However, these pieces with strange combinations could provide new views and interpretations of possible real situations. These features support that the exquisite corpse has not disappeared and can serve to inspire the creativity of scientists. The collaborations between science and art support and encourage the development of new methodological approaches to inspire scientists viewing previously unexplored properties when addressing scientific challenges. Herein, both scientists and artists participated when building the exquisite corpse. Then, the author put all pieces together randomly to build the exquisite corpse following a variant of the Surrealistic protocol and used the different exquisite corpse as an inspiration to ask questions that may advance research in the area of infectious diseases with emphasis on COVID-19.

Emergilience II

The artistic project Emergilience aims to explore the conditions for the emergence of forms through phenomena of self-organization. Emergence and self-organization being two key concepts in the simulation of complex systems. This is done using computer modeling tools of known or possibly reinvented scientific models. As part of a certain historical continuity - which can be traced back to the avant-gardes of the early 20th century and which seeks to integrate into the artwork the vital process rather than its result - the research is materialized by the realization of a serie of animations in the form of executable programs. The first generative animations that were created, make it possible to observe, in the course of time, the feeling of self-organization of the system which evolves and ends up stabilizing itself by acquiring new properties. The use of modeling and simulation tools allows to explore a palette of rules for individual and local behavior of elements (named « agents » in the computational context) leading to the emergence of collective and global phenomena, which can express more or less stable relational states. Micro-universes in perpetual evolution, these animations are called "Endless Dynamic Painting-Systems" which, according to the principle of autopoiesis, will be enhanced with resilience capacities in the future development of the project. The aim of such a project being, in the long term, to envisage the writing of a treatise on the modeling of " Endless Dynamic Painting-Systems ", that will be a sort of cybernetic counterpart to the theory of forms as elaborated by W. Kandinsky for painting.

Botanical models, between art and science

The diversity of 3D botanical models is perceived at first through their different materials, of which an overview is given. Textile artificial flowers are to be included: some have been crafted as botanical models throughout the 19th century, as reveals the case of Marie Fortier’s artificial herbariums. Their diversity also stems from the evolution of the botanical science itself, and its relation to arts. As the old models become museal objects, the algorithmic botanical models still inspire artists.

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Volume 17- 1

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Volume 18- 2

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Volume 19- 3

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Volume 20- 4

Special issue

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Issue 3