Wildly oscillating molecules of unanticipated momentum: nanoscientific imaging, embodied technology and the moving image

Rassell, A 2018, Wildly oscillating molecules of unanticipated momentum: nanoscientific imaging, embodied technology and the moving image, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Media and Communication, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Wildly oscillating molecules of unanticipated momentum: nanoscientific imaging, embodied technology and the moving image
Author(s) Rassell, A
Year 2018
Abstract Historically, science filmmakers have created new forms of image-based scientific data through techniques such as stop-motion and timelapse, predominantly using optical instrumentation. These techniques enable direct observation via the lens of cameras and microscopes without further augmenting the human senses. However, these optical imaging techniques cannot capture suprasensible phenomena — those that cannot be directly perceived without further translation. These phenomena are the subject of much modern scientific study and their observation and representation must be technologically mediated on multiple levels via instrumentation, hardware and software.

My project explores technological mediation through cinematographic, scientific and video editing techniques that engage with suprasensible nanoscale phenomena. I have experimented with audio, visual and tactile presentations of nanoscientific data to create several experimental moving image works. My experimental practice has been informed by theorists in the areas of postphenomenology and technological mediation (Don Ihde, Robert Rosenberg, Peter-Paul Verbeek and Helena De Preester); in the moving image (Vivian Sobchack and Laura Marks); and in philosophy of science and technology (Lorraine Daston, Peter Galison and James Elkins). My practice is also informed by the work of artists such as Semiconductor, Paul Thomas, Victoria Vesna and James Gimzewski.

My research contributes to the processes of making scientific moving image artworks, and provides new applications and aesthetics of scientific data. The research offers up new understandings for science artists of the visualisations and data that they work with from scientific instruments, and also a set of techniques for making moving images with the Atomic Force Microscope.

The project consists of a series of interconnected science-media experiments, some of which are resolved into moving image installations. They were produced both in scientific laboratories (at the Micro Nano Research Facility at RMIT University) and in spaces of media making (behind a camera or in video and audio editing software). The experiments were also at times carried out in collaborations with scientists and a sound designer.

I use the term “experiment” due to the scientific nature of the work, and in homage to the lineage of experimental filmmakers and artists who have inspired me. “Experimental” to me as a filmmaker means multiple, normally inductive, iterations of a particular work and finding ways to challenge media practices. The term implies a practice that reflexively is about practice, process and technique. “Experimental” to me as a scientist means multiple iterations grounded in rigorous documentation and repeatability with revising of hypotheses as the work progresses. As a researcher, I combine these notions of the experimental to serve the interdisciplinary endeavour.

To my interdisciplinary mind an experiment can be part of moving toward proof of a hypothesis, or, toward an unknown outcome. Even given the traditional methodological approaches of each discipline, both art and science can proceed using either impetus. In my research, the oscillation between science and art has provided much of the rhythm and forward movement of the work. Moving between seeking an outcome hypothesised through prior experience, and playing or “just trying something”, has become a dialogic call and response within my practice. This process has uncovered the research questions, which grapple with the role of nanoscientific visualisations in moving image practice.

Throughout the dissertation, where I write “moving image work”, I refer to the individual resolved creative outcomes of my project. However, the terms “practice” and “project” also include the processes of audiovisual experimentation, the use of scientific instruments, and the manipulation of scientific data that were key to the development of the research.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Media and Communication
Subjects Electronic Media Art
Film and Television
Keyword(s) ArtScience
Moving image
Technological mediation
Science art
Nanoscientific imaging
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Created: Thu, 28 Mar 2019, 12:17:50 EST by Adam Rivett
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