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September 2012 Issue 2

WHERE SCIENCE INFORMS ART

NATASHA DURLEY A colourful search for knowledge amidst the world of botanics.

JONATHAN GOLD Unlocking the mysteries of science using black magic

MADELEINE SHANKS Questioning the authenticity of information in a mass media world


Wouldn’t it be nice‌ If we could write genetic code to feed the world.

We can now synthetically engineer the genetic code of plants to enable them to withstand harsh environments. Now our crops and live stock can flourish in areas where soil is less fertile or where water is scarce. With the world wide population now over 7 billion and climbing, we have finally found new ways to meet the demand.


CONTENTS September 2011 Issue 2

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THE SCIENCE OF MONSTERS PIP NORTON by Laurie Ramsell

INSATIABLE CURIOSITY NATASHA DURLEY by Louise Byng

BECOMING POST-HUMAN LAURIE RAMSELL in his own words

TRUTH REFORMATTED MADELEINE SHANKS by Nathan Hackett

WHY USE SCIENCE TO INFORM ART? JODY HAMBLIN in his own words

TRACING YOUR ROOTS DIANE CHIPCAHSE in her own words

MAGIC IS A STATE OF MIND JONATHAN GOLD in his own words

A NEW ANATOMY NIKKI TAYLOR in her own words

SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY RUSSELL HEPTON

A graphic campaign that is designed to educate and inform the general public about this revolutionary technology that is already shaping our future. With synthetic biology it is possible to eradicate life-threatening diseases and develop new ways of generating fuel and improving economy. The use of professional photography and interesting experiments turn synthetic biology into a simple and easy to understand concept.

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FOREWORD

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A WORD FROM THE EDITOR Synthia is back with her second issue and is excited to be involved with the Manchester Artists Book Fair 2012. There has been a distinct theme to this instalment, and one which is often at the heart of my own research - Genetics. This is a topic brimming with debate and interest over the last half a century, ranging from a spectrum of sciences and artistic commentary. Synthia exists to convey the thoughts, work, and achievements of individuals at the very start of their professional practice, and gives them a space to showcase themselves to an audience who would otherwise never see them. None of this would be possible if it wasn’t for the hours of time invested freely by those involved, i cannot extend a big enough thank you to you. I would like to also thank the support from friends and family.

EDITOR Laurie Ramsell GRAPHIC DESIGN Laurie Ramsell Louise Byng WRITERS Diane Chipchase Jody Hamblin Jonathan Gold Laurie Ramsell Louise Byng Nathan Hackett Nikki Taylor CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS Diane Chipchase Jody Hamblin Jonathan Gold Laurie Ramsell Madeleine Shanks Natasha Durley Pip Norton Russell Hepton Sam Spinks Sam Grogan SPECIAL THANKS Mike Griffiths John Ramsell FRONT COVER Sam Spinks © 2011 Printed by IMprint, Stourbridge All photographs are © of the artist unless otherwise stated.

“Science will continue to generate unpredictable new ideas and opportunities. And human beings will continue to respond to new ideas and opportunities with new skills and inventions. We remain toolmaking animals, and science will continue to exercise the creativity programmed into our genes.” - Freeman Dyson


PIP NORTON When discussing ‘monsters’, it is well understood that their place is firmly cemented in myth, legend and make believe. However the origin of the word and its history refers to a very literal phenomenon humans have experienced since their evolution from the primordial soup. In the early 14th Century the term ‘monster’ was defined by ‘malformations in an animal or a human’. Historically such creatures have been viewed as weak and grotesque, and in many cultures put to death. This form of eugenics would be viewed by the great naturalist Charles Darwin as a genetic cul-de-sac. For a species to progress, it must evolve, its DNA must mutate. Only by doing this can that species adapt and survive the ebbs of nature. Throughout history there have been many reports of ‘monsters’, likely influenced by genetic abnormalities. The revolution of mass media has made public a lot of examples of this, from Mexican Wolf-man Danny Ramoz Gómez, to eight-limbed Indian child Lakshmi Tatma. Arguably the most famous of these individuals was Joseph Merrick – known as the Elephant Man. Merrick “…was working in an ancient tradition, the roots of which lay far back in the history of fairgrounds and circuses… As Henry Morley stated in his Memoirs of Bartholomew Fair … everyone in society, up to the level of its crowned head, ‘shared the tastes… for men who could dance without legs, dwarfs, giants, hermaphrodites, or scaly boys.’”1 It was in fact the growing tolerance and awareness of the humanity of these people that found Merrick becoming destitute.

THE SCIENCE OF MONSTERS

5 Merrick’s case was one that epitomised newfound attitudes of scientific curiosity and more importantly, understanding. Genes were only just being discovered mid 19th century, “When vigorous prose could sweep away the intellectual wreckage of antiquity and simple experiments could reveal beautiful new truths about nature.”2 such as the Monk Gregor Mendel’s studies of Pea plants. Previous explanations for such deformities ranged from interbreeding, bad omens, or maternal impressions, “the notion… that a pregnant woman can, by looking at an unsightly thing, cause deformity in her child.”3 In the 21st century we realise that each individual is a monster, a mutant of his or her species. “Most people have mutations – that is deficiencies in particular genes. Mutations arise from errors made by machinery that copies or repairs DNA … Some of these mutations delete or add entire stretches of chromosome. Others affect only a single nucleotide, a single building block of DNA.”4 Eventually the study of these abnormalities in a species DNA would be established; ‘Teratology’, the study of Monsters. As a field that has grown exponentially alongside other medical and technological advances, many ethicists have warned about the study and manipulation of genes. Humanity must be mature enough to cope with such knowledge; the implications to gender and even genus could be changed forever. “The monstrous, the strange, the deviant, or merely the different… reveal the laws of nature. And once we know those laws, we can reconstruct the world as we wish.”5

1 (pg.3) Howell, Michael, and Peter Ford. The True History of the Elephant Man. London: Allison & Busby, 2009 2 (pg.8) 3 (pg.7) 4 (pg.13) 5 (pg.12) Leroi, Armand Marie. Mutants: On the Form, Varieties and Errors of the Human Body. London: Harper Perennial, 2005


NATASHA DURLEY

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Insatiable Curiosity

The illustration work of Natasha Durley is vibrant, contemporary and engrossing. Following in the footsteps of such illustration royalty as Paul Blow and Blexbolex her work uses colour with breathless audacity, contrasting and layering powerful tones fearlessly to eye-popping effect. Daring to create landscapes from unnatural acid hues she makes a strange new world feel strangely familiar, allowing us to see ourselves living in tree houses or collecting samples from golden mountain tops; going on visually-rich adventures of our own. Having recently graduated from The Arts University College at Bournemouth, the final work Natasha created whilst studying was a book about curiosity. CURIO acted as a catalyst for her distinctive style, creating a platform for beautiful image-making based on principles of discovery and learning through exploration. It begins; “Rich in mystery, Curio is a world swamped in botanical oddities and geological strangeness. Its inhabitants tirelessly explore its contents; searching for questions as much as answers”, setting the scene for this imaginative volume. Inside we find geometric and textural elements colliding exquisitely, documenting the people of Curio in their search for both information and harmony between themselves and the natural world. Incorporating diagrammatic techniques and numbered sampling within delectable images of trees, rocks and signs of settlement makes us feel like we are about to go on the greatest field trip of all time, armed with a wondrous handbook.

Focusing on fantastical plants, there are nods to botanical illustration as a study in her pieces despite a dramatic stylistic difference. There are elements that these invented flora and fauna have in common with each other; colours, shapes and variations form recognisable links that will surely translate to similar characteristics, properties and therefore uses. In Dietmar Aichele’s ‘A Field Guide To Wild Flowers’, wonderfully illustrated by Marianne Golte-Bechtle, botanical species are shown to be bracketed distinctly according to leaf arrangement, stem type and flower shape but also, even more simply, by colour. This was “to help the flower lover who is not scientifically trained, but wishes to be able to identify and learn a little more about the plants which are likely to be found commonly”. Devised by Dr. Alois Koch, an amateur himself, he recognised the problems likely to be encountered by the layman and evolved a method of identification using obvious features rather than more usual botanical keys, making for great simplicity and ease of use without sacrificing scientific relevance. In the same way as Alois, Natasha does not exclude anyone in the discoveries to be made throughout Curio and has created an accessible arena for limitless scientific play. “I know it’s not the kindest thing to do but as a kid I always used to like dissecting plants; opening up a flower or stem to see all the different layers and find out how it was made”, she explains. “I love all the historical botanical illustrations that show the beauty of botanical species in fine detail. The unusual shapes, colours and structures of plants just get the creative taste buds drooling.”


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Tirelessly collecting and recording the world around them, it is easy to draw parallels between ourselves and the people of Curio, seeking to place objects in devised categories in order to better understand them. But for both us and them there will always be unanswerable questions. Despite the scope of her images, it is in the small details where one can really get lost, much like the study of botany itself. In her For The Love of Plants piece, a spectacular 1200 x 1800 mm wall-mounted image exhibited at the Feral exhibition in July 2012, the viewer has a God’s eye view with the lush garden of Curio stretching out before them, surveying all and witnessing things Natasha’s characters are yet to find. For me her work begins to show us something about ourselves which is hard to stomach. The inhabitants of this fictional world appear to have preserved the beauty of their surroundings and left it largely un-tampered with, living above ground on stilts to minimise

NATASHA DURLEY

effect on the surface, with no smoke coming from their chimneys and no evidence of invasive groundwork. It is not clear how they are sustaining themselves, but what is clear is that a respectful relationship has been established between the inhabitants and the nature that humans have sadly largely dissolved; at first discovering amazing new species, but finally leading to their untimely demise. Above all I think Natasha’s work reminds us of the importance of being inherently curious, questioning the role we play in our surroundings as well as our surroundings themselves. Keeping our eyes open to the beauty of the landscape, whether natural or manmade, allows us to enjoy it in all its glory down to the smallest morsel. In this way, hunting answers that we don’t find could never simply be a fruitless endeavour, because who knows what we’ll find along the way. - Louise Byng


Wouldn’t it be nice‌ if life could be programmed to destroy itself.

Although synthetic biology is developing our world into a safer, more sustainable one. It also gives us the power to destroy ourselves in biological warfare. We may be able to develop ways to defend ourselves against such attacks with synthetic biology, but as of yet, it is still the unknown.


BECOMING POST-HUMAN


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LAURIE RAMSELL

These series of works concluded a long period of research genetics. Individually each explores the role genetics is playing in the 21st century, such as concerns around GM foods, cloning, and eugenics. Gaining more media attention recently are topics such as Pharming; engineering the DNA of domestic animals and crops to yield produce that contains medicinal properties - and capitalisation of the Human Genome; companies buying and patenting the genetic material of new species and our own DNA. I created a fictional narrative which assisted me in creating the various scenes within the sculptures. The sculpture and parable are influenced heavily by the Greek story of Prometheus, a titan who stole fire from Zeus and bestowed it unto humanity. The positioning of the human frames mimics the punishment of Zeus to Prometheus for this crime, to be bound to a rock and to repeatedly have his liver pulled out by a great Eagle, only for it to constantly regenerate. This replenishing of organic matter is mimicked by the symbiotic race living on the dishevelled form, keeping it alive enough simply to utilise its energy. As much as fire was a power reserved for Gods, so it can be argued is the ability to create life. The final fate of those Posthuman cyborgs was the same - to have their organs cannibalised by the Nano-bots but kept alive and farmed.

‘Over the coming decades humans continued to evolve technologically, implementing machinery and cybernetics into their biological forms. The species, Homo sapiens, became lost under the definition of their own culture. A new and unnatural posthuman race of creatures emerged, the Cyborgs. To cope with their constant upgrading and maintenance, the Cyborgs engineered another life, created to work in symbiosis with themselves, delivering medicines and drug packets to targeted areas, and rewiring their neuro-pathways. The race of Nano-bots lived and worked inside their master’s bodies, making their lives easier and more comfortable. However a time came when the Nano-bots understood their importance and logically concluded their master’s demise benefited them far greater than their survival. A slow and painful process of internal fossilisation occurred, sped up by the excess mineral content in the post-human Cyborg over lords. The Cyborgs died out, and a new era began under the rule of the Nano-bots.’


MADELEINE SHANKS

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TRUTH REFORMATTED As the dots on my laptop and the liquid crystals in my screen align themselves, roughly reconfigured to 1024 by 740, converted by colour filters and a series of binary numbered information sent via satellite signals and cables that have been bounced back, transmitted and pulverised through pulses of electricity to create the image of Madeleine Shanks, the ironical circumstance of our video chat has not been lost on me, nor her. It’s a lengthy introduction I know, but an understanding of information as a currency that is distributed, exchanged, translated and altered offers a handy prelude to Madeleine’s work. In technological times, truth and reality become burdened with contradictions within a few inches of intangible code that barely resemble its subject when probed. We have substituted a perfectly good reality for a confusingly digitised one. Baudrillard and other postmodern theorists from the same school of thought call this a simulation; more real than real: “the real has become a copy of itself”. Madeleine’s planetary photograph series explores this concept. The series portrays the macrocosm of our solar system, appropriating each planet from the Hubble Space probes archives that is each a pillar of unarguable truth within our compass of understanding. Madeleine’s aesthetical digitisation of each iconic photograph acts as a visual shorthand for corrupt information to question our ocular experience of infallible fact. These gestures over the planets are a technological explosion from a compression of all information to make knowledge easier to digest. The statement is not an easy one to make, and comes with a gravitas that does not shy away from the potent imagery of arch science and its presumed authoritarian relationship with the truth.


LAUREN SQUIRES

The Hubble Space Telescope has proved to be a provider for 12a continuous stream of bountiful information to the community of astrologers with its un-paralled precision and clarity. It has been fundamental in over 10, 000 scholarly papers to date, storing enough information in the Hubble archive to ‘fill 18 DVD’s a week’ which can be downloaded by analysts ‘all over the world’. Moreover, any astronomer can request time with the telescope; a perk that attracts over 1000 proposals annually. Besides its unfathomable assistance to astrological discovery and unrestricted information free for everyone, the construct also acts as a positive promotion to the strand of science in its allegorical synonymy to knowledge. The subject of Hubble Space Telescope photography and Madeleine’s audacity in subverting the enormity of its credentials in her work deconstructs the transmission of information and presents it instead as an unreality. Our preconceptions of the ‘real’ are rescued through her art by facing us with the actuality of our experiential interaction with this information. These photographs are authorless, made unreliable because of its casual relationship with a real it is connoting to that, necessarily, is a real that cannot be experienced: the reality has been deducted from an objective thing and transformed into technological information as highlighted in the work. Madeleine reminds us that the authentic experience of our understanding of space is never empirical through her deterioration of the photographs and her static screen: to what she describes as two fold, both the “physical barrier of a computer screen, and the screen that is the media”. A cynic and follower of dystopic literature, such as that of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley as well as the film ‘Videodrome’ by Cronenberg, the work detests fakery propelled by a media fed society¬. This capsizing of information, the screen that creates a barrier to our development she calls a general sense of “shared delusion and dumbing down”, quoting Baudrillard: “we live in a world where there is more and more information and less and less meaning”. And it used to be true, before the digital revolution, that a photograph was a reliable documental proof, which has now been somewhat overturned. Levinson called the ‘unbiased witness of reality’ photography had previously inherited has been muted with digital photography; it is made susceptible to manipulation, or as Frosh describes a “repurposable visual content made of malleable info-pixels”. The photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope are not exact depictions of reality either. It is expected that these images publicised would need touching up, for clarity. The telescope studies light in different wavelengths: between ultraviolet, X ray and gamma, these images could never be achieved with the human eye alone. Electromagnetic radiation in space permits a false colour, and the images have to be manufactured to enhance its information; they are simply methods in portraying as much information possible; a display, not a literal depiction. And whether it is making Mars more red than it actually is, or enhancing an astronomical photograph to make it more profitable, information is no longer as intimate as it was before Photoshop and stage production.


MADELEINE SHANKS

It was the French linguist, Barthes who said “when photography is used as art, truth becomes less of an issue”. Madeleine reduces these scientific proofs to art that is theoretical; not necessarily an untruth, but similarly, never as fact. An art that defies categorisation by fact against a science that longs for it. The planets very rarely in human experience are viewed as how they are represented in these photographs. Earth, except by a selected few, is never seen as an absolute sphere. The planetary photographs do not exist, because we have never experienced them like that in their entirety. They are objects not as we know them, too distant from our empirical growth to truly understand. But it is the image of Earth, that when presented in this series that strikes particular resonance. I thought that the image treated the same as the other alien planets of the solar system, was a reminder of our detachment from the image, and thus, a detachment from the true nature of things. The image of Earth,

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familiar to us all, has through its infinite repetition, been ‘removed from time and space’ and exposes an all too ubiquitous feature of the media and its content of information: an emotionless digest condensed down so it loses its particularities. When I posed this suggestion to Madeleine, she disagreed, arguing it was more personable with its recognisable surface. Despite all her prophetic warnings, very quickly she defended the meaning latent in the image she had been mocking. Perhaps it is this image that reminds us of our place in the universe, in the midst of unfound and worn out knowledge alike. Maybe it takes work like this, that scorns us for our theoretical presumptions and neglect of reality to remind us what truth and sentiments are really important. Maybe she caught me out, and I’m the cynic. - Nathan Hackett


JODY HAMBLIN

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WHY USE SCIENCE TO INFORM ART? Many would argue that the two stand as binary opposites, science enveloped in an obsession with fact and logic, whilst art utilises intuition and spontaneity. A particularly damning definition of science comes from Merlau-Ponty - it “manipulates things and gives up living in them. It makes it’s own limited models of things; operating upon these indices or variables to effect whatever transformations are permitted by their definition, it comes face to face with the real world only at rare intervals.” Whilst art resides in an arena of openness, seeking complexity and raising questions in everything, science seems often to limit itself, constricting itself by seeking strictly definable outcomes from a snapshot of reality. Art looks for, according to Camus, “in its periods of greatness… the expression, or the empty stare that will sum up all the gestures and all the stares in the world.” marking in contrast a vivid connection with reality. One could argue however that the limits imposed by science allow clarity, a fuller understanding of what it encounters. Physicist Brian Greene says “It’s only through the rational pursuit of theories… that we stand a chance of revealing the expanse of reality.” But Ponty’s definition raises an excellent point – by blinkering itself so it seems to deny the real.

Thus using science to inform art seems somewhat restrictive. Indeed, imposing limits can allow for creativity to develop (you can’t make something about everything) yet, would an art/science relationship merely prove to hinder the open approach that art can have to reality? Jacob Bronowski, poet, mathematician, biolgist and more, speaks of scientists as people who “spoke as equals about the labour of turning into fact what the imaginative mind conceives.” This imaginative aspect holds the key to the value of science and offers the potential for an affinity with art; the adherence to fact limits it and denies a complete convergence with the artistic field. The “labour of turning into fact what the imaginative mind conceives” could easily be a definition of the artmaking process. This surely defines a crossover point, an underlying, shared principle. Indeed Camus’ definition of art as something to “sum up all” could also apply to science, the noble attempt to classify and know everything. There must be some relationship here.

There is an inherent link with art and science that, to me, seems largely to reside with the imaginative.

I connect with the scientific largely through Thought Experiment. Thought experiments I see as a way to broaden both the scientific and the artistic repertoire. They stand at the edge of understanding as a way of thinking beyond our means, and such an open approach, a broadening of horizons, can only be of value. A Thought Experiment from Roman times imagines you, standing at the edge of the universe. Like all self-respecting Romans, you have a Javelin. If you throw it, what happens? If it sticks to this edge of the universe, this implies a thickness of surface and as such cannot mark the end of the universe. If it continues to fly, then again, there must be more universe! It defies logic. Thought experiments have developed a little since then and with the guidance of mathematics startling ideas arise. String theory for example suggests more than the regular three dimensions of space, in fact it often describes realities consisting of up to eleven dimensions. Sometimes they are coiled up and compressed in every point of every thing in the universe. One particularly challenging notion envisions all of what we understand to be the universe is in a membrane or “three-brane.” Because string theory allows for more than 3 dimensions, you can have many of these membranes occupying the same space.


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JODY HAMBLIN

Untitled (with Pumice) (2012) Acrylic, Pumice Gel, Conte Crayon, Blue Lead

Brian Greene acknowledges here that “few of us can picture two coexisting but separate three-dimensional entities, each of which could fully fill three-dimensional space…” According to the theory there are essentially other universes literally touching our space. Even in our space. But according to the same theory we are anchored by the strings that reside in us – we cannot leave our membrane. This of course explains why we cannot see or interact with these other branes… and this is all backed up with mathematical reasoning. It’s these kind of counter-intuitive notions that feed my artistic practice, and it’s this madness that I can see informing the art and science relationship. Duchamp’s elusive definition of the ‘Infrathin’ is similar to the brane theory, once described as the space between the front and the back of a piece of paper (but also described as the warmth of a seat that has just been left, etc.)

Artists and scientists seem to both imagine spaces where there have been none before. That’s my particular point of interest. It has led me to near obsession with how my works occupy space and investigations of the picture plane, as I seek, with futility, to find some realm between two and three dimensions. But this guided imaginative zeal in both artistic and scientific communities is certainly something to be exploited. I cannot be said to be an art and science advocate however. I once understood my practice in that particular guise, as I sought some empirical ‘truth’ in my practice, thus confusing it with the ultimate aims of science. I see my art now however as seeking to attain something

more frivolous than a truth. Frivolity does not define a lack of worth. I champion curiosity, nothing more. I want question after difficult question. Some aspects of science can aid that pursuit, especially in the more creative areas I’ve touched on, the parts that defy logic. However, in contrast to science, I do not want answers. Artists do not need them. Artist Lawrence Weiner says it best: “Art tries to interfere with people’s lifestyles…I’m trying to fuck them up completely… You change your basic logic pattern, you change your life.” - Jody Hamblin

Bronowski, J. (1978), The Visionary Eye, MIT Press Camus, Albert (2000) The Rebel, Penguin Classics Greene, Brian (2011) The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, Penguin Books Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1964), The Primacy of Perception, Northwestern University Press Tylevich, Katya (2012) Everything is Happening at the Same Time (Interview with Lawrence Weiner) Valli, Mark (Ed.) (2012) Elephant: The Arts and Visual Culture Magazine No. 10


DIANE CHIPCHASE 19

JONATHAN GOLD 20 ‘Synapse’ considers an area of research known as Biosemiotics – a field of study examining production, action, and interpretation of signs/codes in the biological realm. As an erstwhile student of Biology, I am fascinated by the communication between living beings, both in the plant and animal kingdoms. The way in which animals are able to communicate has been well understood over the years, but how this can be extended to plants is less understood. Plants are known to respond to their environment but it is still unknown as to whether they are able to communicate between themselves, and if so, how? This field of research led me to considering whether there could be a means of communication between an animate and inanimate object. As part of my previous practical research, I covered a teapot with yoghourt and mulch with the aim of growing moss over the object. Instead, it grew a most unusual “long-haired” mold which resulted in many comments that it appeared to have grown its own tea cosy. This made me question whether the inanimate object had in some way communicated a need that had then been responded to by nature. Similarly, I left a wooden dining chair outside which had lost its original seat cushion and within a short space of time it had grown a replacement made of moss. Nature had seemingly appeared to have again responded to an expressed need. If there was communication between the two, what form could it take? Was it direct contact or was there another means of communication that bridged the gap; crossed the divide?

“ I am exploring the juxtaposition of the natural and manmade worlds, and the potential symbiotic relationship between the two”

TRACING YOUR ROOTS

I considered circumstances in the natural world where communication exists. An example would be the synapse in a nerve where two nerve endings meet. Chemicals in the fluid that lie between them bridge the gap without the nerve endings needing to touch. This has led me to consider ways in which I can present my two objects communicating without obvious physical contact.

As an Emergency Dept. Nurse with experience in Rehabilitation, my thoughts have turned most recently to the use of artificial limbs and how they combine with the human body to restore function. I am currently considering artistic expressions of this phenomenon in the form of a living and non-living hybrid which would honour the loss of the natural while giving hope to the use of the artificial.

‘Synapse’ was the result of these considerations. A hyacinth bulb with its roots growing downwards into water forms a ‘synapse’ with copper wires reaching upwards. These, in turn connect to a working electrical light bulb under a shelf. There is an implied communication of energy between the objects (although this is actually from an electrical supply behind a false wall), with a linguistic symmetry between the two different bulbs. I am exploring the juxtaposition of the natural and manmade worlds, and the potential symbiotic relationship between the two by moving an object into an alternative context, or de-familiarising its natural state.

I wish to continue my investigation into the space between sculpture and nature and question the connotational as well as physical relationship between manmade and natural products. I wish to create a kind of alternity – something in opposition, something that confounds; something that accommodates a difficulty requiring a new and novel solution; the resolution of an argument. - Diane Chipchase


MAGIC IS A STATE OF MIND Sculptor, musician, and occultist Jonathan Gold talks about his unique quest for scientific knowledge, using the dark arts.


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IASOM or Magic Is a State Of Mind is my philosophy that all manifestations of thought, ideas and desires are alchemic acts from the mind expressed through the body. Together they interconnect and form a system generating a continuous cycle of magical creation, manipulation and transformation; that differs somewhat from traditional concepts of occult mysticism. The scientific evidence behind the Miasom idea is currently speculative at best, but the observation that the microscopic structures of brains having exactly the same pattern of connections and distributions of energy, as the universe itself begs the question ‘is there really a difference between the two apart from scale, and if not does that mean that minds are universes of their own?’ We already have mathematical evidence of other dimensions existing, It is my suggestion that our minds can be seen as proof of this. I have come to the conclusion that information be it synthetic, organic, or synaptic is clearly a dimension of its own.

JONATHAN GOLD manifests an idea, within that idea a plan is born, which grows through the body transforming into an act of working (ritual). In the end we have before us a physical, magical artefact. The seed of thought becomes the flower before us, therein lies the power of magic in all its splendour. Ultimate proof that it exists because it physically changed the materials I used, morphing them in to something greater than what they were before, a magical ward of expression. Magic is the doing, you cannot perform an act that causes magic to manifest itself upon completion because magic is what the act in itself is therefore everything that we do is magic (except fill in insurance forms perhaps). It is my belief that an act of magic is set in to motion, when any form that is physical or imagined - that is without purpose or function - receives a ‘summoning’, transforming it into new higher form of being which has been ‘invoked’ into the universe by our minds (and only in our minds) giving it function and purpose. This also causes the opposite to be true, where in any network of thought or communication, whenever there is a loss of knowledge of a function

The purpose of the Miasomic concept is to form a philosophy where of all human endeavour, whether it be the development of philosophy, science, art or language is unified as expressions of magic in motion for the purposes of occult based art practice and personal self development. As a practising occultist and artist, I’ve never once had to believe that supernatural energies or forces could be called upon by humans who have developed special powers. To curse people, read minds, predict the future, heal aliments, talk to spirits or indeed alter destiny to fit any particular desire using magic; for me is to live a life of delusion. Though I do believe very deeply that indeed magic does exist, I have come in from a sideways perspective on the concept. For me magic is a romanticism of interpreting the collective fusion of realms and realities contained within the mind, that is distanced from the physical reality our bodies dwell in. For me this the quest that I have searched for, to spend my life exploring the simple truths of magic, science, philosophy and art. Though however at the end of the day I still continue to be a harsh realist. I do magic, quite intensely and the fact is that what its capable of is not really what people think. All I know is that I understand how magic can allow me to get deeper into myself, my memories, my imagination and my potential by using it to empower the creative side of my personality. I believe that magic comes into existence when out of nowhere suddenly exists thought, and out of thought

‘Miasomism is the philosophy that all manifestations of thought, ideas and desires are alchemic acts that move from the mind and expressed through the body as rituals of creation, mutation and manipulation that differs somewhat from the traditional concepts of occult mysticism. It is a philosophy of unification of all human endeavour whether it be the development of philosophy, science, art or language as expressions of magic in motion.’


JONATHAN GOLD and/or purpose to anything previously assigned one; a void opens up in the network hence that is why we have the concepts of death, rebirth and ascension. Here I’ll demonstrate my ‘magic bowl concept’. Lets pretend we don’t know what a bowl is or what its for, say we see an object (half of a coconut shell perhaps) lying before us, without name, function or purpose and decide to experiment with it. We fill the object with water, thereby creating a new tool. Having now decided what its for we then decide to call it a bowl, with which we can then use to provide convenience and thereby improve our daily lives with. Every time we give an inanimate object a name and function it becomes a magical artefact, a talisman, or quite simply evidence of magic in motion. It is not a “paranormal” thing. It is instead simply a two part process, firstly the recognition of a possibility for a function to be assigned to (whether it be specific or vague) or removed from a target and secondly the act of selecting and applying/ removing that function to /from the target. Therefore Birth = Function Assigned, Life = The function in motion, Death = Function being ceased or removed.

23 Purpose is merely the upstanding of why something has a function, if something functions without purpose, it is meaningless a shadow of thought. Magic rituals for me are like any other action that I do. I sleep, I shower, I shave, I do my shoe laces up, I go for a walk and I listen to heavy metal. This for me is my occult practice, it is the art of expressing my philosophy so I can manipulate what is possible in myself and others. You can self-access and get deeper into yourself and explore who you are and your mind as if they were physical spaces, like literary putting your feet on new land. But the more you do it, the more inside you get until things start to changing into vast new strange and alien plains and realms. An altar can be anything that for you has become a gate opening you to the world of your own imagination, the ritual is opening the door. You go through it and then you come out, what you saw during that time was a part of yourself you never saw before; but when you close that door that frontier closes with it and recedes back into that pool that is your sub-conscious and staying until it is recalled in memory and accessed again. When you leave that space to come back to the world


24

around you, you take the knowledge, the experience and the memory with you to share or to hide.

JONATHAN GOLD

themselves each day that never dull the senses.

I am choosing to live with the belief that this is what magic really is and the other interpretations about special powers and energy fields is as empty a distraction as is watching the television. As far as I’m concerned, all I’m contacting is myself and the only psychic switchboard I’ll ever route my connections through is my own head. The more you try and reach out into the unknown void the more you’ll just end up getting tangled up in the sprawling, loose connections of your own cortex.

To fully understand the key to this concept you have to bare in mind that recognition of possibility is an act of magic in itself and that ideas, thoughts, memories, concepts, fantasies, fears are that take place in our minds become magic to us. Magic is a philosophy and indulgence of the physical - conjuring of all imagined acts, functions, purposes, processes, possibilities, meanings, actions, reactions, and recognitions that are comprehended by any form of self aware or sentient consciousness, real or imagined.

In the end occultism or the dark arts as it is also known for me is simply the exploration and indulgence of romanticism of the thoughts and imaginings that we already take for granted and considering them as being an act of magic. Occultists like myself choose to celebrate and explore their our own imaginations as a new frontier to gaze upon with a fresh pair of eyes, to experience new and exhilarating visions that renew

Some reading this would argue if all actions are magic and we are doing magic all the time, then it wouldn’t make sense to continue to wear robes, wave staffs or indeed perform occult rituals traditional or contemporary. I would respond by saying that just because I have a stretch when I get out of a car after a long journey, that doesn’t mean I’ll benefit the same from it as a full two hour yoga session. - Jonathan Gold

The Mindscape of Alan Moore, 1988. [DVD] Dez Vylenz, UK: Shadowsnake Films Phil Hine. 1988. Phil Hine’s PDF e-Book downloads. [ONLINE] Available at: http://philhine.org.uk/ writings/index_e-books.html. Carroll, P.C, 1987. Liber Null and Psychonaut. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Weise Books.


NIKKI TAYLOR

25

A NEW ANATOMY The quest for knowledge of the human body and its systems started in earnest with the ancient Greeks. In Europe however, anatomical exploration and dissection was often driven more by philosophical, theological and artistic enquiry than a medical need to know as one would axiomatically assume. This was after all at a time; from the Renaissance to the 19th century, when the ‘cutting edge’ of advancement was used to sever limbs, leeches were the prescription of the day and physicians relied more on humoral theory than observation and empirical evidence. Change was on the way however and with the publication of Andreas Vesalius’ heterodox treatise, De humani corporis fabrica, in 1543; many of the ancient Greek assumptions that had remained unchallenged during the Middle Ages were dispelled. It was more than a medical milestone. It contained arresting engraved illustrations – since credited to the studio of Titian, and its sheer quality earns it a place in the art history of printing. By now the historical union of art and anatomy can be seen in works as diverse as Pisanello’s intense studies of hanged men (c.1450) to the grotesque and fabulously mutating bodies depicted in The Garden of Earthly Delights (c1490 -1510) by Bosch, as well as more obvious and celebrated works from the likes of Da Vinci and a little later Rubens, Rembrandt and Carravagio. Later even medical ‘aids’ merge artistic endeavour with anatomical investigation. One entrancing example of this is the beautifully crafted wax models by Joseph Towne. Dating from the mid-1800s, housed mostly in a museum of pathology at a London medical teaching hospital, the waxes exemplify how highly complex and detailed work, required only to fulfil a narrow brief as a tool for learning, can be viewed as a form of art. Indeed, Towne exhibited these incredibly life-like models regularly at the Royal Academy. In considering the anatomists and their relationship with artists in the past it is perhaps pertinent to consider the impact of the modern day, high profile and controversial anatomist Gunther von Hagens. From his Body Worlds exhibition to his recent interpretation of the crucifixion, many are uncomfortable with what is seen as blatant commercialism and sensationalism and the blurring of the lines between art and anatomy in some of his works. Body Worlds seems reminiscent of the travelling ‘freak’ shows of old, designed to entertain and titillate. In conversation with artist and anatomist Dr Sarah Simblet, it becomes clear that exhibits such as The Rearing Horse & Rider draw directly on classic artworks; in this case Le Cavalier et sa monture by Fragonard (1732-1799). The 30+ million visitors to Body Worlds is a clear demonstration of public interest in anatomy whether viewed as a coming together of science and art or populist entertainment. Regardless of spectator perception, von Hagens is perhaps the most singular example of art influencing anatomist contra to anatomy being the influence over the artist.

Perhaps more traditionally, the history of scientific study and human dissection, and allied themes of birth, humanity, mortality, disease and death, continue to influence the work of a number of contemporary artists such as Katherine Dowson, Susan Aldworth, John Isaacs, and Marc Quinn. Some of these artists have portrayed our relationships with our bodies and challenged the perceived physical ideal of a ‘human template’: two arms, two legs, everything in proportion, everything functioning. In recent times, the focus on the achievements and careers of paralympian athletes, injured and disfigured servicemen, disabled artists, performers and musicians has led to a questioning of established notions and a reflecting on societal responses to homogeny. Somewhat paradoxically, advancements in regenerative medicine include the engineering of large quantities of human mature bone for autologous transplantation. Growing human bone, joints, muscle and tissue in the lab now presents the very real possibility to see engineered human material in vivo; healing wounds, replacing organs and preventing the need for amputation. This is an almost futuristic concept; but as little as ten years ago the highly structured carbon fibre prosthetic limbs of today would have seemed equally as out of reach. It is tempting to speculate whether the potential to re-grow limbs in-situ will challenge the campaign by some to realign aesthetic values and undermine anthro-cultural acceptance and the newly reinvigorated celebration of diversity. - Nikki Taylor


Š Sam Grogan


27

CREDITS

Synthia is a unique publication which showcases the talent of creatives dealing with themes of scientific enquiry. After achieving success in London and Bournemouth with her first issue, Synthia is travelling across the country, keeping her eye out for hidden and unknown artists who share a similar interest in the arts and sciences. Organised by Laurie Ramsell, a recent Fine Art graduate of AUCB, Synthia operates and is financed during the spare time and resources of himself, friends and respected colleagues.

Synthia at Londons Free Range event 2012

Get in contact with us at:

synthiamag@gmail.com

Diane Chipchase

Fine Art Graduate AUCB

dianechipchase.com

Jody Hamblin

Fine Art Graduate AUCB

jodyhamblin.com

Jonathan Gold

Fine Art Graduate AUCB

godamite.blogspot.com

Laurie Ramsell

Fine Art Graduate AUCB

laurieramsell.co.uk

Louise Byng

Illustration Graduate AUCB

louisebyng.co.uk

Madeleine Shanks

Photography Undergraduate AUCB

Natasha Durley

Illustration Graduate AUCB

natashadurley.com

Nathan Hackett

Illustration Graduate AUCB

nathanhackett.co.uk

Nikki Taylor

Ecologist for Dorset County Council

Pip Norton

Fine Art Graduate AUCB

Russell Hepton

Visual Communication Graduate AUCB

Sam Spinks

Illustration Graduate AUCB

Sam Grogan

Illustration Graduate AUCB

rhepton.co.uk

samgroganillustration.com


Wouldn’t it be nice‌ if we could download medicines without the side effects.

The combination of computer technologies and biology has enabled us to upload the genetic code to the world wide web. In the future we will be able to download the latest chemical free drugs from the comfort of our own homes. These new biological medicines can be personalised to our needs and designed with basic knowledge. This means that we can make home made medicines that only target the areas that need treatment.

Synthia Issue 2 September 2012  

Synthia returns with her second issue that will appear at the Seventh Manchester Artists Book Fair 2012 - continuing to highlight creative t...

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