The International Symposium on plant Photobiology 2013 (Monday 3rd June - Thursday 6th June) was held in Edinburgh.The symposium convener, Karen Halliday, from the University of Edinburgh had the idea to have an artist present at this event. I had experience of public engagement with science through art with Melting Snow, a partnership with the designer and gallery owner (atticsalt) Graham Russell, and through my own practice Karen contacted me and I accepted her invitation to attend. The Avoidance of Shadows is one of the outcomes.
The plan was to produce an exhibition that would respond to both the symposium and the ideas borne out of this event. It became clear as I listened to talks, read posters and talked to the participants that this symposium was rather a family gathering of scientists. For all the world you could imagine grandparents looking on with pride at offspring who had moved to different labs to continue the family business. No doubt there were wicked uncles, tearaway children and one or two skeletons in the closet. Be that as it may, the overall feeling of a large, intense organic family gathering.
Within the family it was clear there were one or two scientists who were happy to speculate and plow individual furrows whilstthe majority were clearly associated with groups. You got a feeling that Kuhnian views of how science works was evident. At the edge lands of this meeting were there paradigm shifts in the making? The community view held sway but not everyone bought into everything., However 'normal science' is, for the moment, king. Scientists are a cultural subgroup. They have there peculiarities, their foibles and quirks just as everyone else. Science is clearly a creative human activity. I asked delegates to submit an image a data set or perhaps an equation that had a personal meaning to them. These images have been made into one work, 'Mantlepieces', whilst others have been used to examine ideas of complexity in the micro and macro worlds of bioscience. ( I have chosen three arbitrary scale categories - the molecular, the individual and the ecosystem for this.). Several ideas emerge from this triptych One is the notion that the sublime is a relative a property and so applicable at the micro molecular level which we cannot see but we happily represent as if it were like the image and the truely sublime scales of ecosystems. Such juxtopositionsmay lead to questions concerning the representation of of science from molecular world through to the biome.