22. Sept. 2022

Štěpánka Piskáčková, a student at the Faculty of Art and Design of Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem, is behind the idea to connect two seemingly disparate fields, such as art and science. As part of her doctoral studies, she explores the common denominators of natural sciences and art. Based on this, she has prepared a pilot project called Art and Science Laboratory, in which she allows artists and scientists to be part of the research and subsequent creation. The aforementioned exhibition, Art in the Nanoworld, is the practical part of her dissertation. Interested visitors can see the art & science works from 30 September in the foyer of CEITEC BUT.


What will the upcoming exhibition offer to visitors?

The exhibition will feature six interdisciplinary works in various forms, from experimental sculptures to photographs, light installations and a zine (a non-commercial periodical). One of the installations by Klára Samcová and Jan Michalička works with flies. Klára has dressed flies in gilded sweaters, which will fly around the object thanks to an electric motor, whose shape is based on an image of a gold crystal from a transmission electron microscope. The works are all interesting and rewarding, and because we had a large space, they could be large. The largest work occupies 16 m2 of the foyer. 

Why did you choose CEITEC scientists?

As part of the practical part of my dissertation, I was looking for a suitable candidate to collaborate on an interdisciplinary work, and due to my interest in particle physics, hence the nanoworld, a friend from the university recommended Jan Michalička, who works at CEITEC. Jan was intrigued by the opportunity to be part of a work that intersects artistic and scientific approaches, and so we began our collaboration. Over time, we came up with the idea of reaching out to other colleagues from CEITEC Nano and students from the Faculty of Art and Design to create what we call an art-science lab, a concept that is quite common in the field of international interdisciplinary work, in which the fusion of art and nanotechnology is often found, although there are also fusions with other fields such as robotics or neurobiology. Many thanks to Kateřina Soukupová and Michal Urbánek for their help in organizing and reaching out to CEITEC scientists.

What was the collaboration with the scientists like?

I didn't want to immediately assign a specific scientist to an artist. Last autumn, there was a joint meeting at CEITEC, where the artists presented their focus and the scientists presented their research. And then we thought about how we could grasp this. In the end, the idea was for the artists to analyse the findings from the scientific research and come up with innovative solutions on how to apply these findings in the field of art. Scientists, in turn, were interested in applying their findings in a different way and communicating them in an understandable form to lay people. Thus, some of the works in the exhibition bring technology closer, while others just hint at its essence or point to something interesting that scientists are working on.

The output from the scientists was data or material?

This varied, each contributing to the interdisciplinary work in a slightly different way, and so the outputs were varied. For example, Jan Čechal, who worked with Laura Fiľáková, participated in a movement workshop together with other colleagues from CEITEC. This was recorded in the photographs that are part of the aforementioned zine. Peter Kepič made a wafer (a silicon disk used for making chips for digital devices) with a hidden message. While Ondřej Červinka did various tests of the hologram for several months and you can see the result in the exhibition.

Do you think that art, as a field difficult for many to understand, can explain a completely different field that also requires a great deal of involvement? Wouldn't the result be doubly complex?

You're certainly right, both fields are complicated in that sense. Even for me, and I come from an artistic background, it is sometimes difficult to grasp a work of art. And I've also come across the opinion of experts that collaboration between scientists and artists doesn't work for various reasons. Maybe one of them is the one you mention. On the other hand, I think that artists and scientists have a lot in common, for example, creativity or imagination. And the scientists at CEITEC have been an ideal model of collaborators for me. Apart from being incredibly smart, they were helpful, open and could explain everything with ease. Moreover, they wanted to be involved in the artistic part and came up with ideas themselves. So the exhibition is really based on the fusion of art and science and at the same time reflects this fusion.

And as far as understanding is concerned, it happened in our group. And it remains to be seen whether the outside observers, the visitors to the exhibition, will also understand. However, we have tried to make it understandable, and the explanations of the individual works will help.

Can you introduce one of the works in more detail? 

Certainly, and gladly. For example, the installation by Václav Mach and Jan Michalička, who worked with stainless steel. Václav has created a series of steel objects that are based on the analysis of the atomic structure of samples of this commonly used metal. The objects have a shape derived from the shape of the martensitic structure, which was accidentally discovered while observing it under a transmission electron microscope. The martensitic needles were in a very interesting and regular arrangement, which Honza managed to capture from several angles, thus creating a relatively accurate diagram of the arrangement of the objects. The resulting installation essentially gives the viewer a glimpse of an otherwise unseen component of steel.

Are some of the pieces interactive?

For example, the installation of 32 photographs called Behind the Image of Spin Waves, which I created together with Michal Urbánek and Ondřej Wojewoda. I was inspired by the basic principle of spin waves, which propagate in magnetic materials by precession (like a spinning duck). We created an installation in which a motion sensor is activated to move a grid of photographs, thus interacting with each other and telling different stories. Similar to how magnons (the quantum name for a spin wave) transfer information and energy to each other, or how when we encounter stimuli and situations that change our point of view and direction.

The works will be on display in the lobby of CEITEC BUT until 24 October. Where will they go then?

A large part of the exhibition will move to the House of Art in Ústí nad Labem at the beginning of December.

Do you plan to continue collaborating with CEITEC scientists?

I would be very happy if others would be inclined to do so. I am definitely planning to create a catalogue for the collaboration and the exhibition, which should also include expert texts dealing with the possibilities of interaction between natural sciences and art.

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