Ondrizek Shares Recent Biometric Artwork at ISB + Cornish

Cornish and ISB continue their partnership in Consilience by presenting artist Geraldine Ondrizek to talk about her latest research and studio work based on findings from the Kaiser Wilhelm Archive at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin of Dr. Georg Geipel’s hand and fingerprint studies (1930-1960).

Geraldine Ondrizek is a research based artist and professor at Reed College. For the last twenty years, she has collaborated with genetic and medical researchers to make architectural based installations. She works closely with genetic scientists to trace ethnic identities, portray life spans, and depict genetically inherited conditions. 

Exhibitions in 2015-16: Global-Exo Evolution ZKM, The Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe Germany, Twisted Data, Haber Space, New York, Technology and Evolution, Phoenix Gallery, Brighten England.

Her recent 2014-15 project Shades of White was a site-specific installation that was exhibited at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (Artist Project Space) at the University of Oregon. This controversial work focused on skin color charts, the “Gates Skin Color Charts,” a tool used by eugenicists.and eugenics practices in the US. This work was based on the research of medical scholar Alexandra Minna Stern, who investigates the history of eugenics and its attendant genetic and racial discrimination as practiced in Oregon, and more widely practiced in the UW from 1900 to 1987. Yes, you read that correctly…that was 1987! 

Shades of White , Jordan Schnitzer Museum, University of Oregon, Geraldine Ondrizek, 2014

Shades of White, Jordan Schnitzer Museum, University of Oregon, Geraldine Ondrizek, 2014

This project exposes the genetic discrimination practices at play in the United States beginning in 1900 and links them to the racist pseudo-science of the National Socialists. As Stern points out in her book, the top eugenicists in the US collaborated and followed the same practice as their Nazi counterparts in 1930s Germany. 

Reading Dr. Stern’s research on eugenics and sterilization in California and Oregon, I felt it was important to make a work that would give these events visual accessibility.. Stern’s work exposes the deeply problematic charting of physical and mental anomalies and skin color by medical professionals.  For this exhibition, I will reproduce the “Gates Skin Color Charts,” a tool created by eugenicists at the University of Michigan, which attempted to chart race by color with labels ranging from “African” to “Caucasian.” These charts had practical and material effects, as they were used to determine if children were adoptable.  These racially discriminatory practices haunt us today. In fact, it was not until 2001 that Governor Kitzhaber asked forgiveness from the victims of discriminatory sterilization in Oregon’s orphanages and other state institutions.       

– Geraldine Ondrizek 

Needless to say, the work of Ondrizek could not be more timely. On February 12, Geraldine gave a rich and informative lecture on her recent artist in residence at Kaiser Wilhelm Archive at The Max Plank Institute in Berlin where she studied the work of Dr. Georg Geipel and the origins of Biometric Data at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin. The audience included research scientists from ISB, art students from Cornish College of the Arts, UW Genetics counselor, Robin Bennett and several independent artists working at the convergence of art and science, including Cummins, Steven J. Oscherwitz and Ginny Ruffner. 

Geraldine Ondrizek presenting her recent work at Institute for Systems Biology, 2016

Geraldine Ondrizek presenting her recent work at Institute for Systems Biology, 2016

The Origins of Biometric Data, Geraldine Ondrizek, 2016

In 2015-16 I was awarded both a Hallie Ford Family Artist Fellowship to continue my research on the visualization of genetics and eugenics and a year sabbatical from Reed College . In the fall of 2015 I was an Artist in Residence at Momentum in Berlin Germany, a research based artist residency to access the Max Plank Archive of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute.

I was given access to Archives at the Max Plank in Dahlem to view the work of Dr. Georg Geipel, an anthropologist and statistician who worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin from 1930 through 1960. Geipel used methods of dermatoglyphics and dactyloscopy for the study of fingerprints and handprints to link the pattern to inheritance.  Geipel assigned mathematical coordinates to the lines and curve in the hand to create a system of measurement.

Through these measurements he was able to identify inherited hand lines, similarities in identical twins based on embryology, and racial difference.  It should be emphasized, that although his ability to identify genetic inheritance was significant, his evaluation and conclusions of racial difference and mental ability had grave consequences on society during the Second World War. However, he did continue to refine mathematical identification systems after the war. Geipel’s mapping and measuring of fingerprints proved that these marks are unique for each of us. He created a system that measured the breaks and intersections of the lines in the hands which is now used in hand and fingerprint scanners today for the collection of Biometric data.

The history of biometric data skips the 1930-50 because of the negative associations.  However, the effects of taking biometric data then and the effects of taking it now as a method to keep surveillance and as an identity code for each human being, is hauntingly similar.

I have had the privilege to look at thousands of these studies and have focused on those from the 1950-60 of identical twins. Twin studies have continued to be of vital importance to genetics as they show the subtle difference in the genetic make up of each human being. 

I aim to honor those who offered their identity markers for science. It is highly unlikely that they would have known how their personal mark would have been used to establish the system we use now. However, the knowledge gained, for better or worse is part of a system of Biometric Data collection that begins at birth with the taking of a child’s hand prints and has become the standard measure of our identify world wide.

 

Geraldine and I have been collaborating for many years.  In 2009, I initiated a unique collaboration between Geraldine Ondrizek, and Robin Bennett and her team of research scientists at the University of Washington’s Medical Genetics Center. This effort culminated in the public commission and a solo exhibition, Chromozome Painting at Kirkland Arts Center in 2011. (For more on Chromozome Painting)

The notion that the grand scale of humanity is connected on the cellular level. In its visual and poetic language, a key function of art is to present a portrait of the “self” in relation to the time and place in which we live. 

–  Jane Chin Davidson, Art Historian

This notion of "portraiture"...a new way of rending ourselves...is at the heart of Ondrizek's work. It was the inspiration for a workshop I did with the Advanced Photomedia students at University of Washington (2013) called: Data-Driven Portraits: The Quantified Selfie. I am now working with Geraldine to develop a curatorial and learning collaboration at Cornish, Rendering Ourselves: BioMetric Data and the Quantified Self-Portrait, an elective offering that will activate student inquiry, research and creative responses, across the disciplines, to challenging issues surrounding bioinformatics, genetics and identity. 

For More Information on Geraldine Ondrizek: http://academic.reed.edu/art/ondrizek

 

Arts + Science Dinner Club

This past Spring, Ginny Ruffer, Josef Vascovitz, Lisa Goodman, Gaylen Vaden and myself started hosting Art + Science Dinner Connectives...at the Ginny's amazing home/studio/garden. We have been bringing together artists, philosophers, scientists and other interested folks to further conversations and synergies. Another local group formed around the same time. Phillip Thurtle, Sidhardth Ramakrishnan, Steven Oscherwitz and Rebecca Cummins rounded up a similar group of artists, scientists, and theorists interested in discussing the relationship of art, technology, and science. Their members come from diverse backgrounds (neuroscientist , plant biologist, cancer researcher, digital humanists, media artists, performance artist, etc…): some work at universities, some are practicing artists, and some work in laboratories or are in Seattle’s growing technological sector. That group is now knows as the Moleculare Shadows Salon...and we have begun to cross pollinate. 

Art + Science Dinner at the home of artist Ginny Ruffner, Summer 2015

Art + Science Dinner at the home of artist Ginny Ruffner, Summer 2015

Further Alignment with Intersecting Communities of Interest and Practice: 
This past Spring, Ginny Ruffer, Josef Vascovitz, Lisa Goodman, Gaylen Vaden and myself started hosting Art + Science Dinner Connectives...at the Ginny's amazing home/studio/garden. We have been bringing together artists, philosophers, scientists and other interested folks to further conversations and synergies. Another local group formed around the same timeTh. Phillip Thurtle, Sidhardth Ramakrishnan, Steven Oscherwitz and Rebecca Cummins rounded up a similar group of artists, scientists, and theorists interested in discussing the relationship of art, technology, and science. Their members come from diverse backgrounds (neuroscientist , plant biologist, cancer researcher, digital humanists, media artists, performance artist, etc…): some work at universities, some are practicing artists, and some work in laboratories or are in Seattle’s growing technological sector. We starting to cross pollinate. (Others include FOSAP, Science Dinners, 9 Evenings Festival, etc…)

SEP makes room for an Artist

Artists and designers play an increasingly key role in translating and interpreting advances in the sciences. For the first time in its 25 year history, SEP made room in their 2015 cohort for a Washington Arts educator...(me!). 

This past Spring, I was selected to participate in the 2015 Science Education Partnership (SEP). Through this work, I am interested in creating avenues for communicating the educational aspects of scientific research in the lab as well as highlighting the role of artist and designer in communicating scientific phenomena. Customarily, the SEP program is set up for K-12 science teachers in Washington State. My Cornish colleague, Renee Agatsuma, suggested that I apply anyway...as we have both been working to develop interdisciplinary coursework focused on the intersections of art and science. 

Beth Gatewood and Gen Tremblay working on an SEP Transformation experiment

Beth Gatewood and Gen Tremblay working on an SEP Transformation experiment

I have been selected by scientist, Shani Frayo, who works in the Ollie Press Lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which is devoted to the investigation of novel treatments for hematologic malignancies including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, leukemia, and myeloma. This assignment is particularly personally meaningful for me because these were the diseases that my father and sister had. My involvement with this yearlong professional development program will broaden my understanding of current methods, discoveries and challenges in the field of molecular biology and cancer research. With this deeper understanding of the field, I will be positioned to translate this new knowledge and create public scholarship opportunities, ignite dialogue and meaningful collaborations across art, science, and engineering and medicine disciplines, in the service of the public good.

“Learning science is like learning a foreign language. By participating in the Science Education Partnership, teachers explore a foreign country; they get immersed. After a couple of weeks, they have begun to think like the ‘locals’ and see how the research culture really works. As a result, their students gain a better understanding of what science really is and how it influences their daily lives.”

– Nancy Hutchison, Director, Science Education Partnership, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

My experience as an SEP Participant gave me a foundation in molecular biology techniques and concepts and broadened my understanding of current methods, discoveries and challenges in the field of molecular biology and cancer research. The hands on experience and the opportunity to build relationships with mentor scientists as well as other educators inspired me to create creative and relevant pedagogical approaches to the curriculum across the artistic disciplines (art, design, dance, theater, music, humanities) I am developing at Cornish. It also has created a pathway for relevant interdisciplinary educational opportunities for our students.

In my role as Resident Research Fellow at Cornish College of the Arts, I am working to create access for artists and designers to the frontiers of molecular and biomedical science. In addition to my own lab work, I was able to explore the various imaging technologies used by researchers, and visiting as many of the labs as I could to learn about what the other 24 teachers are doing with their mentor scientists. Through my work at SEP, I hope to advocate for more SEAPs (Science Education & Arts Partnerships!) that could work in much of the same way that the SEP (Science Education Partnership) program does. Pairing scientists with practicing artists and designers who have the keen ability to ask different questions, convey excitement, and challenge results of their scientific inquiry. A catalyst for "citizen science".

I'm grateful to my colleague, Renee Agatsuma, for encouraging me to apply to the SEP program and to Nancy Hutchinson, who advocated on my behalf thoughout the proagram...and to Cornish College of the Arts for the Faculty Development Funding award supporting my participation in the program. 

 

 

 

Artful Experiments

As part of our third Teacher Lab day at the Fred Hutch Science Education Partnership (SEP) Bootcamp, we had to create our own experiment. I wanted to find an experiment that artists would be interested in...that might give them an understanding of their materials on a more granular level. So, I partnered with Jennifer Smith, a seasoned science teacher and we created an experiment that tested the  molecular movement of different pigments across a medium.

Research question: How will pigments in the Red/Magenta family (tonier ink, gouache, watercolor) separate under gel electrophoresis. Compared with provided pigments?

Prediction: Pigments will separate in the direction of their charge as given by their structure.

Artist pigments: artist watercolor and gouache, printer ink, dye (experiment results below)

Artist pigments: artist watercolor and gouache, printer ink, dye (experiment results below)

Basic Procedure: Art/toner pigements: Pure Magenta Toner, Magenta Gouache, Bordeaux watercolor, Quinachridone Red. --- Dilute with water to thin, Add glycerol to make sure it will sink into well, Adjust by mixing with a toothpick to approx. consistency. --- Select 3 kit pigments in red magenta family (Cresol Red, Phenol Red, Safranin). --- Make 1% Agarose gel with 1X TAE buffer --- Load 15 microliters into lanes 1-7 of gel as follows: Lane one: Magenta toner, Lane 2: magenta gouache, Lane 3, Bordeaux watercolor, Lane 4: Quin Rose watercolor, Lane 5 Cresol, Lane 6 Phenol Red, Lane 7: Safranin. --- Run at 100 mv until  1 pigment is close to the edge. --- Make a blot and acetate trace of the gel.

Media                                Pigment                            Prediction                        Result

Magenta Toner                Aanaline family               Positive to neg                 26mm+/32mm +

Magenta Gouache          Aanaline family                Positive to neg                 No move

Bordeaux                        Benzinidazolone              No move                           No move

Quin Rose                       Quinacridone                   No move                           No move

Cresol Red                       Cresol                              Neg to pos                       20mm +

Phenol Red                      Phenol                             Neg to pos                       25mm +

Safrinin                            Safrinin                             Pos to neg                       25 mm -