•May 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Reveries: Metaphors of Natural Philosophers

“Knowledge of the world means dissolving the solidity of the world.”
- Italo Calvino

Why is a vortex coming out of an onion? Why is a light bulb revealed when slicing a pear? Why is there a microexplosion inside a pipe? This series of photographs is a project on speculative visual poetry – attempts to depict what goes on in the mind of an individual going through the creative process.

Discoveries of individuals are often accompanied by a discourse with the universe. I imagine that the cerebral process for creative minds become a bit obsessive, to the point that ordinary daily activities can lead to strong eureka moments, or gateways that will lead to them. Artists, scientists, writers, inventors – all see the extraordinary
in ordinary moments in space and time. These photographs are a collection of these events – hallucinations of the creative mind.

Birth of an Idea



Cosmic Firecracker, or, Ceci est une pipe

Cosmic Firecracker, or, Ceci est une pipe

Spilled Infinity

Spilled Infinity

Iced Checkers

Iced Checkers


•February 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Tesseract, Crystal, Brane

Blue Pill: Meditations of Consciousness

Series of three sculptures, dimensions variable
Beads on glass, canvas, and chicken wire

Zhuangzi ,
Who turned into a
Butterfly and was flying
In the garden
Morphed back into
The Chinese philosopher.
Seconds later, he wished himself
Back into the insect
And played happily
Among the flowers.
But his joy was short lived,
And he, soon after
Got caught
In a net.

The Butterfly Dream
Cài Ren, 700 BC

Tesseract (beads on canvas, 1 m by 1 m)

Generally, we agree that there is a dissonance between what we perceive versus what we actually see – are things like dreams, out-of-body experiences, déjà vu, and the like, figments of our imagination or actual metaphysical occurrences?

Blue Pill explores this notion of other dimensions, whether in dreams and in hidden dimensions or passages such as in physics. Three sculptures tell a story of entering another world. In the first, Tesseract interprets the beginning – the unravelling and the entering of another dimension. The second, Crystal, illustrates the actual otherworldly dimension in mathematical configurations.  The third, Brane, shows the end of a dream, when passages warp  and reach the end of a dimensional boundary.

Tesseract, detail

Crystal (beads on reclaimed glass, 1 m in diameter)

The center of Crystal are beads arranged in a Penrose tiling, which is a quasi-crystal arrangement that other dimensions are supposed to look like when projected in two dimensions. The outside is based on E8 symmetry. Ideally, it’s an ordered symmetry, but because the project deals with other dimensions, the beads are made to look as though they are crowding and almost overlapping each other, but from a distance seems to be in order.

Crystal, detail

Brane (beads on chicken wire, 1 m wide)

Brane, detail

The sculptures are created as a narrative — what it’s like to enter a new world or dimension and afterwards come out of it, hence the blank and beaded parts of the canvas in Tesseract, the ordered explosion of beads in Crystal, and the quiet flatlining of Brane.


•January 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Elements: A Movement in Paper
Eight paper sculptures
For the theme Minimalism: Removing the Unnecessary

Elements is a series of eight white paper sculptures that depict the eight basic elements in nature: heaven, river, fire, thunder, wind, water, mountain and earth. Elements is an exploration of the forms of these abstractions, using paper engineering, origami and mathematics to fulfill these intentions.

In both Western and Oriental beliefs, eight has sacred connotations, signifying luck, grace, and new beginnings. It is also a common number in the sciences and the arts. White connotes pristine beauty, and is the sum of all colors. Visually, without other hues to distract the eye, white lends an appreciation of form, and connotes simplicity and purity. Paper is one of the most basic materials; one of the first things we learn to write on.

The beauty of mathematics is that it can reduce complexities into a single equation. It is a universal language; it can be understood by any nationality. It is often described as elegant in its simplicity, because there is only one answer, despite different methods of reaching it. Equations that involve fractals, coordinate geometry, physics, etc., were used as references in the lines of investigation.

These sculptures are based on the eight trigrams of the I-Ching, using common forms found in nature (based on an exhibit on forms in CosmoCaixa Barcelona). The eight trigrams are heaven, river, fire, wind, water, mountain, and earth. The eight forms are helix, wave, hexagon, angle, spiral, catenary arch, fractal, sphere.

Heaven | Space-Time Continuum

River | Sine Waves

River | Sine Waves

Fire (Combustion of a hexagon, because carbon has an atomic number of 6)

Fire (Combustion of a hexagon, because carbon has an atomic number of 6)

Thunder | Angles

Wind | Spiral

Water | Catenary Arches

Mountain | Fractal

Earth | (Incomplete) Sphere


•January 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Perceptions of the Mysterious
Wire, stained glass paint, reclaimed door
For the theme Babel Tower: Culture and Prejudice

Perceptions of the Mysterious is a project that fuses neuroscience, philosophy and literature. Set in the framework of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in WonderlandPerceptions delves into the theme of identity in different contexts – in relation to oneself, to others, and to different worlds – using the human brain as a system for exploration.

At the core of human identity is memory. How much of how we define ourselves relies on what we remember, be it childhood and adolescent memories, old habits, what we had for breakfast yesterday? When human beings acquire mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, does that person stop “being” himself? Do amnesia patients who later regain their memories reclaim their identity, despite possibly acquiring a new one in the time they lost their memories? When a person “descends into madness,” is he losing himself?

Neurons are the building blocks of the brain. Ex vivo, they can be grown as single cells or in clusters. The growth of neurons depends not just on their genome, but also on the environment to which they are exposed, including the other cells around them. This makes the brain an ideal system to explore the thematic concept of identity, as well as the questions that arise from them.

Alice in Wonderland was chosen as the setting because it embodies a person encountering a completely different universe.  Wonderland is home to an abundance of insane creatures; it is a demented world, filled with characters that defy “normal” behavior.

Initially, these ideas were explored using pen and ink drawings of the brain. I was inspired by the drawings of Santiago Ramon y Cajal, the Father of Neuroscience, who in addition to being a medical doctor, used his skill in illustration to further his field. In the final installation, I used glass paint, acetate, and wire. Glass paint mimics immunofluorescence staining that is used to observe brain sections and cells under the microscope, and also achieves the effect of “otherworldliness.” It also makes the neurons look as though they are melting. Looking at the installation from the outside, it looks markedly distinct from the world. But as the viewer enters the installation, the effect of the glass paint manifests itself on his body, thus making him a part of that world.

morphogatari Artist Statement

•January 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I grew up in the two seemingly disparate worlds of art and science; my mother was a genetics professor in a family of artists. My childhood involved Punnett squares and painting, of DNA and design. Science and art have been labelled as two different “cultures,” but I see them as not unlike the many languages I have learned to speak because of my diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Both of them have their own grammar and syntax, and can be used to tell stories.

I was trained in molecular biology and biotechnology in university, and also in illustration and contemporary art. I have always had an insatiable desire to learn, to wonder about the world we live in.  I believe that these two worlds are not antagonistic to each other but instead can be cross-explored to stimulate human curiosity. I believe that both fields try to answer the same questions about the human condition: Who are we? Why are we here? etc.

As a scientist, I am fascinated with unravelling the mysteries of the universe. I have taken the values of self-criticism and thoroughness from my scientific training. I like working with precision and order, of sifting through data and trying to create order out of chaos. As an artist, I also approach projects organically, oftentimes taking from my personal experiences. I like approaching projects in a playful manner; I’d like to think that the common theme through all of my work is wonder. Most of the time, I try to see how a child will view my work, because children are very creative and do not have the biases that adults do. I believe that creativity is the bedrock of human civilization and is the key to progress. It is how science and art can move forward, and even more so if we choose to learn from both of them.

My formative years have been marked with the struggle to choose between the sciences and the arts, eventually concluding that it is possible to navigate my way through both worlds. In this century of saturation and hyperspecialization, I believe that these alternative paths are not just valid, but are absolutely necessary. The fusion of disciplines to answer a particular question can bring about a new arena that no one has ever thought of before, and may prevent certain problems from arising. Diversity is a crucial element in today’s globalized world. I have lived and worked in diverse cities, cultures and environments all of my life. I have taken the strengths of the disciplines I have been immersed in, knowing full well that not one is the absolute, and that we have much to learn from other fields that will give us newer perspectives.

However, I am primarily a storyteller; I was a writer first before touching a paintbrush or a pipette. Throughout my explorations art and science, I have been a journalist, an editor, and a writer. Writing is the way I make sense of the world. Nothing is lost to a writer; every event, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, is the zenith or nadir of a storyline.

As a designer, I also believe in technology, and how it has the potential to bridge science and art. I believe that while art can make science tangible, and science makes art functional, technology because of its accessibility can bring these to the fore and help solve the pressing issues of mankind by constantly innovating and reshaping old ideas, at times to meet the current needs, at others to anticipate them.

I would like to imagine a future where people can approach questions through discourse in both the sciences and the arts, where these two worlds can cross over more organically, and where we can use creative technologies for a better world.

CS Young
Barcelona, January 2010


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