rendering 2

January 20, 2010


rendering 1

January 14, 2010

My first rendering is the header of my new blog (both image and text).  The image is from a flickr image blog by Ethan Hein, a Brooklyn-based teacher and writer.  Although he does not credit its source, I presume that the picture is an electron microscopic photograph of red blood cells, rendered in colour.  

Red blood cells are one of three primary cell types which comprise blood.  The viscous fluid in which the cells circulate is called plasma; numerous other proteins also circulate in the plasma, responsible for blood clotting and lysing.

I have chosen red blood cells as a metonym for blood.  They contain hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein which delivers oxygen to all parts of the body.  Furthermore, blood is a frequent (and ?hackneyed) metonym for life, liveliness, vitality.  In writing this post, however, I realize that the choice of a single anatamo-physiological  metonym to represent the organicity of life is clearly reductionist and consequently, unsettling.  How can I privilege blood over heart, lungs, brain, kidneys or “some nonnatural, perhaps unknowable , properties of living systems”   consistent with a vitalist view?(Kirschner, Gerhart and Mitchison). 

I align my perspective with Jacob’s description of integrationism.  The integrationists “claim that the organism cannot be separated into its components, but also that it is often useful to consider it as an element of a system of higher order….The integrationist refuses to believe that all the properties, behaviour and performances of a living being can be explained by its molecular structure alone” (Jacob, 6).

Perhaps I appose red blood cells (substitute in DNA helix or amino acid building blocks)  and  “life”  to draw attention to tomism/reductionism, forcing me to grapple with the latter’s limitations.  I am unsettled by Dawkins’ s description of living beings as survival machines that are receptacles for genes.  I am buoyed by Kirchner’s description of a dynamic molecular system which implies “‘vitalistic’ properties of molecular, cellular, and organismal function” (87).  This new form of vitalism, termed molecular vitalism, resonates strongly with an integrationist approach.  Molecular vitalism recognizes cellular, molecular and organismal functions within a dynamic, robust and fluctuant system.  It also resonates of Lamarck’s concept of milieu. 

The image’s rendering in a deep red hue infuses it with an otherwordly beauty.  For although vermilion does approximate the colour of oxygenated blood “in vivo”, blood cells plated and viewed through a microscope have a very muted tone.  The image’s synthetic vibrancy underscores another important issue in renderings of liveliness: the dialectical translocations of images between scientific and artistic realms, a concept which I hope to explore in more depth in the course.  The aestheticization of  images of molecules and organisms figures strongly in biology journals and scientific poster presentations as well as in galleries and other venues for “artistic” viewing. 

The phrase “vivo in vitro” in my header draws upon scientific terminology.  “In vitro” literally translates from the latin to “in glass”.  The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines “in vitro” as “(performed, obtained,or occurring) in a test-tube or elsewhere outside a living organism”.  Conversely, “in vivo” is “(performed, obtained, or occurring) within a living organism”.  A translation of my blog title might be “alive in glass”; I want to highlight the idea that test-tube renderings are far from being outside of living organisms.  They represent the interactions of scientists (living organisms) and the cultural milieu/cultural epistemology of the laboratory with the molecules, genes, plants or animals within the test tubes.

…to be continued next week

entering blogosphere

January 12, 2010