Gallery 111, West Hall

March 30, 2011 4:00 PM - April 15, 2011

BLUE MORPH is a site-specific interactive installation that uses nanoscale images and sounds derived from the metamorphosis of a chrysalis into a butterfly. Nanotechnology explorations are changing our perceptions of life in the world around us and this is symbolized by the newfound reality of the Blue Morpho butterfly. With the use of advanced optics it is recognized that the beautiful blue color of this butterfly is not pigment at all but rather patterns formed by nano. Blue Morpho has intrigued scientists for generations because of its subtle optical engineering that manipulate photons in amazing ways. The lamellate structure of their wing scales has been studied as a nanoscale model for the development of fabrics, dye-free paints, and anti-counterfeit technology such as that used in currency.

The optics are no doubt fascinating but the real surprise is in the discovery of the way cellular change takes place in a butterfly. The amplified sounds reveal the process both to be halting and violent contradicting our imagination of a gradual peaceful metamorphosis. In reality the cellular transformation happens in sudden surges of activity interspersed with stillness and silence. There are eight pumps or "hearts" that maintain a constant beat throughout the metamorphosis creating a pumping rhythm in the background. During the transformation through emergence each flattened cell of the wing becomes a nanophotonic structure of black protein and free space leading to iridescence.

Nano is not only making the invisible visible but also changing our way of relating to "silence" or making the in-audible audible. With all the noise of chattering technologies and minds, media artist Victoria Vesna and nanoscientist Gimzewski propose the interactivity to be stillness. In this empty space of nano we can get in touch with the magic of continuous change. The audience performs the piece that is further extended into surround sound developed at Harvestworks and premiered at the RPI gallery. This installation is co-sponsored by the David Bermant foundation and the UCLA Art | Sci center.

This exhibit runs from April 1 - April 15.


Victoria Vesna is a media artist and Professor at the UCLA Department of Design | Media Arts and Director of the Art|Sci center at the School of the Arts and California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI). She is currently a Visiting Professor and Director of Research at Parsons Art, Media + Technology, the New School for Design in New York and a senior researcher at IMeRA – Institut Mediterraneen de Recherches Avancees in Marseille, France and Artist in Residence at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Bristol. Her work can be defined as experimental creative research that resides between disciplines and technologies. With her installations she explores how communication technologies affect collective behavior and how perceptions of identity shift in relation to scientific innovation. Victoria holds a Ph.D. from University of Wales, UK and has exhibited her work in over twenty solo exhibitions, more than seventy group shows, her work in written about in many book chapters and her writings published in excess of twenty papers and gave 100+ invited talks in the last decade. Her most recent installations -- Blue Morph, Mood Swings and Water Bowls, all aim to raise consciousness around the issues of our relationship to natural systems. Other notable works are Bodies INCorporated, Datamining Bodies, n0time and Cellular Trans_Actions. She is the North American editor of AI & Society and in 2007 published an edited volume - Database Aesthetics: Art in the age of Information Overflow, Minnesota Press. Just released is a new volume she co-edited with Christiane Paul and Margot Lovejoy -- Context Providers: Conditions of Meaning in Media Arts.  Intellect Press, 2011.

Jim Gimzewski is a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles; Director of the Nano & Pico Characterization Core Facility of the California NanoSystems Institute; Scientific Director of the Art|Sci Center and Principal Investigator and Satellites Co-Director of the WPI Center for Materials NanoArchitectonics (MANA) in Japan. Prior to joining the UCLA faculty, he was a group leader at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory, where he research in nanoscale science and technology for more than 18 years. Dr. Gimzewski pioneered research on mechanical and electrical contacts with single atoms and molecules using scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and was one of the first persons to image molecules with STM. His accomplishments include the first STM-based fabrication of molecular suprastructures at room temperature using mechanical forces to push molecules across surfaces, the discovery of single molecule rotors and the development of new micromechanical sensors based on nanotechnology, which explore ultimate limits of sensitivity and measurement. This approach was recently used to convert biochemical recognition into Nanomechanics. His current interests are in the nanomechanics of cells and bacteria where he collaborates with the UCLA Medical and Dental Schools. He is involved in projects that range from the operation of X-rays, ions and nuclear fusion using pyroelectric crystals and single molecule DNA profiling. Dr. Gimzewski is also involved in numerous art-science collaborative projects that have been exhibited in museums throughout the world. He was recently elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society and received two honorary doctorates.

BLUE MORPH credits

This version of the installation would not be possible without the generous support of the Bermant foundation in collaboration with Harvestworks.

Surround sound engineering: Paul Geluso

Danaus plexippus chrysalis recording: Andrew Pelling and Paul Wilkinson

Sound processing: Gil Kuno

Head piece: Silvia Rigon    

Interactive seat construction: Romie Littrell

Interactivity: Tyler Adams

Butterfly wing imaging: Butterfly wing imaging: Marc Castagna, Senior Application Engineer, SEM operator. Thanks to Don Kenia, CEO of FEI Corp. for permission to use the Scanning Electron Microscope.

Morpho peleides and Danaus plexippus wings and pupa provided by Dr. Richard Stringer Department of Math, Science and Allied Health, Harrisburg Area Community College.

This event is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, celebrating 50 years of building strong, creative communities in New York State's 62 counties.

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