Art, science meet in exhibit at Grunwald Gallery

If you haven’t visited the Grunwald Gallery to see the “Imag(in)ing Science” exhibit on display there through Oct. 11, do it.

It’s beautiful and compelling — beautiful because of the aesthetically pleasing creative works on display and compelling because it represents a spirit of collaboration between multiple disciplines here at IU Bloomington that, at first glance, might seem to have little in common.

Wolin and Lumsdaine

One of the images created by Wolin and Lumsdaine’s work with a plenoptic camera.

Each work on exhibit has its origins in scientific images, recordings or imaging techniques; and was created by an artist/scientist team including faculty from the School of Fine Arts and the College of Arts and Sciences’ departments of biology, geological sciences, medical sciences, and psychological and brain sciences, as well as the School of Informatics and Computing.

One of those teams included fine arts associate professor and photographer James Nakagawa and geological sciences professor Michael Hamburger, an earthquake expert. Their collaboration resulted in photographic images of the destruction wrought in Japan by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck in March 2011, some overlaid with the iconic heartbeat-esque line graphs created by seismic recordings, others darkened by a smoked look from a different type of seismic recording. One image — a heart-wrenching photo of gravestones propped by a seawall — features the actual seismic registration from that specific location, which Hamburger tracked down and he and Nakagawa traced by hand onto the photograph.

“I wanted to do something where my images would move beyond visual information, and having them appear through the seismographic overlay is very metaphorical,” Nakagawa said. Hamburger added, “One of the things I’m intrigued by is the static capture of a moment in a time plot versus the dynamic power of forward moving time, so I liked that our works both give this sense of a frozen instant and also a sense of movement.”

Nakagawa said he’s been in contact with a curator in Japan who said he’d never seen anything like their collaborative work, which they’ve dubbed “seismophotography.”

Another artist/scientist team included fine arts professor and photographer Jeff Wolin and professor Andrew Lumsdaine in the School of Informatics and Computing. Their collaboration resulted in images created by plenoptic cameras, a new technology that captures the entire field of light surrounding an image instead of focused points of light captured by a traditional camera. This allows users to refocus a captured image later, and it can create a 3D image. It’s not just for taking snapshots of your toddler, however; the technology holds great promise for the medical and industrial fields.

Lumsdaine and a colleague modified a camera for the collaborative project, and Wolin and Lumsdaine began experimenting, at one point capturing images of each other juggling. (Clearly, this pair was meant to work together.)

“Andrew could work in Silicon Valley, so one of the really cool things about being here at IU is the chance to work with people like him,” Wolin said. “When opportunities like this occur to work with scientists, I jump on it. That’s why we’re here.

Nakagawa and Hamburger

One of the photographs shot by Nakagawa, and overlaid with a smoked look from a type of seismic recording.

“Plenoptics is a game changer. It is likely that most cameras will be using this technology within the next 10 years, and one of the pioneers behind this innovation is right here at IU. For me it’s a chance to peer into the future and see how my field will be impacted. It’s also an opportunity to explore the unique image-making possibilities of plenoptics as it is being developed.”

For his part, Lumsdaine said he’s recently been ruminating on the purpose of academia.

“We’re not just here to teach students how to make widgets, or to turn them into better workers,” he said. “We’re here to explore, in some sense, and to help students — and ourselves — learn about the world we inhabit. This collaboration has been truly unique. It has let us bring together tools and insights in new ways to form new means of creative expressions.”

Several talks featuring “Imag(in)ing Science” faculty teams are scheduled at the Grunwald Gallery. A full schedule is available online.

The exhibit is part of the College’s Themester initiative, “Connectedness: Networks in a Complex World.”

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