Along with the deliberate artworks in the "Soft Science" series, the program includes what Mayeri refers to as "unadorned QuickTimes," small snippets of scientific imagery whose evocative power often outshines the art itself — simulations of nanoscale molecular machines, glowing bacterial blooms, high-speed photography of a hummingbird, and digitized data maps whose provenance is unknown but which bespeak intense amounts of computer power. "Behind laboratory doors are some of the most astonishing outsider art projects around," Mayeri notes, "autopoetic bacteria, tethered flies, hermaphroditic slugs." In the preview DVD there were no tethered flies or hermaphroditic slugs, and I was rather sad at their absence, for Mayeri is right to suggest that beneath the veneer of Reason, scientific labs have (unconciously) become the sites for a vast array of highly innovative aesthetic experiments.
I am not so sure that it should be termed "outsider art," as science is not attempting to be art of any variety, and scientists, with their considerable authority, are surely the ultimate insiders. In responding to such enigmatic projects we do not need to collapse everything into the category of "art." Conceptually, science can enchant as well as inform, which is precisely the underlying messge of Mayeri’s curatorial impulse. Most of the time the point is made with grace and wit.
"SOFT SCIENCE" | L.A. Filmforum at the Egyptian Theater, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood | Sunday, October 24, 7 p.m. | $8 | (323) 466-FILM