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Design and development:  Sohrab Kashani

Macro or Micro? Misinterpreting the Unfamiliar ⧚ Stephen Young and Paul Kelly

Exhibition by Stephen Young and Paul Kelly

This exhibit highlighted the patterns and similarities that occur at very different scales in the natural world through images taken by satellite or with an electron microscope. The collaborative work represented here bridged art and science, raising questions about how we interpret information from various standpoints, from the broader universe or our place within it.

The microimages capture details that are typically less than a millimetre in size while the macro images show items that may exceed many kilometres. The differences in scale between the micro and macro images are a million times or more. Satellites image the Earth using multiple wavelengths, some outside the visible spectrum, such as near-infrared, thermal, and microwaves, while the electron microscope scans an object with a beam of electrons. The information outside the visible spectrum has been assigned a colour or a grey-scale in order for us to perceive the image. Some images may seem odd to you in their colouration. These images were carefully processed in accordance with typical scientific practices to present as much information as possible, and except for the colour, assignments have not been manipulated in any way. Similar images are often seen on the covers of leading scientific journals such as Science or Nature.

ARTISTS’ STATEMENT
In 2008 I (Stephen Young) was at the International Geographical Union meeting in Tunisia and I befriended a geographer from Iran. I was surprised to find that he was more similar to me that many of my American colleagues. I should not have been so surprised, however, this is a common mistake where we misinterpret the unfamiliar. We mistake the micro (single characteristic) for the macro (the whole population). Ever since that encounter, I have wanted to capture that mistake in an art exhibition, and finally, it is here: Macro or Micro? Misinterpreting the Unfamiliar. Misinterpreting the Unfamiliar is widespread. Bill O’Reilly, a popular news commentator in the United States recently said: “The reason I said that Robert Bergdahl looks like a Muslim is because he looks like a Muslim.” Robert Bergdahl is a Christian, but the reason why Mr O’Reilly thinks that he is a Muslim is that Mr Bergdahl has a long beard. When I tell people that I will be going to Iran, many have told me that I should grow a beard! Misinterpreting the Unfamiliar can be amusing – grow a beard, really? But it can also be dangerous when large groups of people misinterpret each other.

August 15 – August 16, 2015, 4-8 PM

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