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Art in the lab

(published 7 March 2011)

I had thought that suffering three years of what they refer to as teaching on a fine art BA had finished, once and for all, any desire for me to continue a relationship with formal education. However, last week I became the proud recipient of a certificate that enables me to be in the presence of multifarious lasers, and with only a little more tuition I may yet even be allowed to switch one on. The laser course, at a mere one and a half hours, was not the most painstaking of learning processes, and yet my name is printed on the certificated page (in a different font to that surrounding it) and the qualification valid for three years. Not only that but it was sunny pretty much all day. If I do ever work out how lasers work (and perhaps should mention that the jocular Spaniard assured me formerly that they shouldn’t) I will let you know. I had hoped that this blog post might be learned and profound (dream on?!), possibly even adding some insight as to how lasers do work, for example, since it marks the half way point of my residency in the silicon photonics lab. But instead I’m rather in the mood for a bit of Art.

For the lab meeting on Thursday I festooned the walls of the meeting room with photos and drawings that are some of the products of my work during the time I have been at Surrey (take a look in a couple of days at for images, which will be placed there imminently!). They are a plethora of things, and some to me are beautiful. [A note to scientists at this point, the term beautiful was basically illegal at art college when I was there (one and two third years ago), since it was judged very low brow to make things that have aesthetic appeal which can be deemed as such. However, there may have been a subsequent cultural shift, as much more recently (one and a third years ago) a Turner Prize winner’s wall drawings were positively described as beautiful by the initiated critics.] Having explained to the lab group what the works were all about, it was time for a pop up exhibition in the ATI, and so I opened the doors to the science masses. There followed numerous interesting conversations, about photography and dyes and light emitters, electronics in paper, etc, which have left me with many fascinating avenues, which, I imagine, will not get explored to any great depth as a result of constraints of time. [Although I have managed to bend time on several occasions, I am still not entirely able to manipulate it fully to my advantage, and it seems that I’m bound by the laws of mundane physicality most of the time, and so sadly currently consider my ability to explore the world as being finite.] A hit with the aesthetic judge (a member of staff from the Arts office at the University) were the rather abstract Polaroid photograms; some having been illuminated by the naturally spectral light of a full moon, and some using electronically derived illumination (i.e. my phone screen light). And I think the boss liked the glass piece I made that is inspired by the integration of electronics and optics, and loosely illustrates a ring resonator. This week I am to take the same objects and images to an art audience (some students at Plymouth College of Art), and am intrigued to see  whether they garner a different response there. For now I am off to work on the big drawing I am making, and to see if I can master the stretching of time.

Here I planted some flower seeds yesterday, and even this morning, beneath the rays of the spring sun passing through the greenhouse glass, I can sense the burgeoning awakenings in the warm dampness of their earthy beds.

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