Ian Lemmonds, The Art of Science, 2012
Ian Lemmonds Art of Science St Jude

Above: Separation Gradient in Test Tube (Image courtesy of: Biomolecular Imaging Center)

THE ART OF SCIENCE

An Experiment which pairs an artist with a scientist from St Jude Research Hospital.

Artist: Ian Lemmonds | Scientist: Dr. Rachael Keating

Much of what I create is is directly related to biology and what I call 'biological imperitives'. So when I was approached by the Art of Science to pair with a scientist, it seemed like a logical fit. The image / process I chose was 'gradient seperation'.

This is Dr. Rachael Keating's description of it:

The gradient separates particles according to density by employing a gradient of varying densities; at equilibrium each particle settles in the gradient at a point equal to its density. This separation can be achieved gradually, such as the separation of serum from blood over time. Alternatively, separation can be accelerated using centrifugal force, generated through centrifugation, the scientific equivalent of a washing machine on a spin cycle. The result is the separation of an input material into its components, each which specific qualities. -Dr Rachael Keating

This is the accompanying text I wrote for the exhibit:

"There are battles being fought on a global scale. In these battles there is no surrender, no truces, and no chance for a lasting peace. The armies in this war have no rules - there is no Geneva Convention to limit their weapons, and no morality to guide their actions. Civilians can always be targeted. Chemical weapons are used constantly.

You have a stake in these violent skirmishes. As a matter of fact, you are the sole stakeholder, even though you are completely unaware of this war, and the soldiers themselves are completely unaware of your existence. The real estate these soldiers are battling over is yours. It is the only real estate you will ever own: your body.

The tiny, cellular organisms fighting inside you comprise massive armies. Many fight for you, and the sum total of their existence is you. They fight a world war, for the only world they know: you. Similar battles are being fought inside everyone you know and love.

The tiny, cellular organisms fighting inside you comprise massive armies. Many fight for you, and the sum total of their existence is you. They fight a world war, for the only world they know: you. Similar battles are being fought inside everyone you know and love.

As an artist in "The Art of Science", I am reminded of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War". One quote stands out: "Confront them with annihilation, and they will then survive; plunge them into a deadly situation, and they will then live. When people fall into danger, they are then able to strive for victory."

Listening to the scientists at St Jude describe their research, made me realize the distance between art and science was very small, like the distance between two white blood cells fighting side-by-side. Artists and scientists may not seem similar, but we both continually try to get better, to know more, and to follow the truth no matter where it leads us. "

Typically my work is more conceptual than literal, but this is one case in which being almost documentarian served the projects concept as well as the core science behind it. Here's how.

On a literal level the idea of seperating a gradient in a laboratory is to divide a substance into its various parts. But the sum total of this process, and all the other processes related to the science done at St Jude relates to one of the few things in life that is more binary: life and death.

A month after this pairing was made, I was invited to a fundraising event for St Jude. It was in an airplane hangar by the airport, and the large hangar doors were open. The sun was setting on a cloudless day, and the bright light pouring through the opening created a chirascuro effect, where there was very little gradient. Only bright light coupled with deep shadowed darkness.

Posters were set up on easels around the room, each featuring a different child who was being treated at St Jude. I spotted one near the catering tables just in front of this silver / gray curtain. The light framed it, and as I stood there with my camera my own shadow fell on the floor. I was suddenly aware that this child was someone's child. Depending on which way his treatment went, his life could very will disappear behind the curtains.

-Ian Lemmonds, March 2013