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  • Cecilia Kramar

Binary ReVisions - Darian Goldin Stahl

by Liam O'Leary

The essence of art and biology is to make and interpret images. While most art is accessible to all, biological images demand specialized knowledge to be recognized and understood.

Printmaker Darian Goldin Stahl recently completed a residency with the Convergence Initiative, which provided shadowing experience and artistic collaboration with scientists in Dr. Hugh Clarke’s fertility research laboratory at the McGill University Health Centre. This resulted in a new piece called Binary ReVisions, which addresses the impact medical images can have on patients, families and on researchers themselves.

Embroidery hoops were glued together and hung into floating mobiles that recalled the shapes and images she encountered through the microscope. The flatness of the prints parallels how medical scans or microscope images which can reduce the whole, lived, three-dimensional body to a flat slice.

“My hope is that by layering macro and micro perspectives over a multiciplicity of circular vignettes, the work takes on a new dimensionality and points to the enormous amount of care put forward by these scientists for the health and happiness of future patients.”

Binary ReVisions

In her longstanding search to better show the ‘bigger picture’ of medical imaging, Darian has used many artistic mediums, including encaustic toner transfer, which allows images to be superimposed as they are in many clinical scans. Reimagining laboratory images in this way reveals the networks of materials and non-human bodies that undergird scientific research.

Microscope images of mouse ovaries (left) were reimagined using encaustic transfer (right)

Darian became interested in medical imaging following her sister’s MRI diagnosis with multiple sclerosis in 2009. Her sister’s diagnosis was made more traumatic by her clinician being unwilling to communicate what the medical scans were showing and how reliable they were. Her interest in the fertility lab was inspired by her curiosity in the difference between these MRI scans and more recent time-lapse fluoroscopy images taken for her sister’s fertility treatment. By allowing Darian to observe the daily work of scientists, this residency has provided new insights to her views on science communication.

“We all wanted the research that we do to have a wider impact beyond the studio and lab, because the implications of this research effect a vast number of people. A core struggle we share is how to best communicate these topics with those outside of our own disciplines.”

Binary ReVisions also acknowledges similarity use of materials obtained from non-human lives for both science and art. The material of many scientific discoveries are sacrificed mice and human biopsy tissue, whereas those of printmaking and bookmaking include leather book covers, rabbit skin glue, cow bone folders, silk and beeswax. Mice were embroidered in gold thread into some of the images to recognize their importance to scientific knowledge.

Binary ReVisions acknowledges the non-human life sacrificed for art and science

The exposure to the daily life of scientists and the process of creating Binary ReVisions has given Darian new insights into the overall goal of science and art.

“I learned that the purpose of science is also that of art: that the images we seek to produce attempt to capture the unseen, something beyond the tangible world, and speak to the fundamental essence of beings and environments.”

Binary ReVisions was exhibited at Toronto’s “Come Up to My Room” Art and Design Festival, and will be exhibited for six months at the Iowa University Hospital and Clinics Medical Museum in 2020.

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