Julian Voss-Andreae at Southeast Campus

[APPLAUSE] JULIAN VOSS-ANDREAE:
Hello, everybody. Thank you for coming. I appreciate that. My name is Julian Voss-Andreae. I’m going to talk a little bit about
my work and where it came from, what you see here. I made the piece outside. And these are images of other works. OK, so I’m going to
start with a double slit experiment, which is how I always
start my talks because it’s so fascinating. And that’s where I come from. So my background is in physics. I studied experimental physics. And this is an ancient experiment. I need my both hands for this. It shows that if you have
two openings in a slit and you have a wave going through
those two slits, then in the middle they do this. So you have a lot of light there. And right next to it,
they go like this. So they cancel each other
out, the two contributions. So there’s nothing to see. So that’s the standard experiment– 1802– that shows light
is actually a wave. Turns out later, light
is also particle, so there’s many variations
of this experiment. And it turns also
out that particles, like this jacket here, for example,
or these are human beings here, or what they are made
of, is also a wave. So what my graduate thesis
was about was an experiment that took a pretty
big chunk of matter, in this case a Buckminsterfullerene,
carbon 60, shaped like a soccer ball, and subject
that through this double-slit setup. And what happens is the same thing. That’s the set up. It’s a little more
complicated than just with light, as you can imagine. In fact, that’s the set
up there in reality. That was 1999. That was the team back then. Maybe you can recognize me. I look a lot younger 20 years ago. [LAUGHTER] And so that’s the
experimental outcome. So we see in the middle is
the peak I was talking about, where what’s measured or detected
as a buckyball has been going through two openings at the
same time magically somehow, then interfered with
itself to do this. You’ll see a lot of buckyballs
right in the middle. And right next to it, it’s
somehow interfered with itself to not be there. And it’s less likely
to be detected there. So that’s really strange. And that’s like a key experiment to
see just how bizarre the world is that we think is actually easy. We think this jacket
is here and not there. But in quantum physics,
it’s all different. So that was really intriguing
that long ago for me. Now it’s still intriguing. That kind of sums
it up pretty well– 1940, Charles Addams. You know, we detect
this one particle, but something’s really
bizarre on the way. [LAUGHTER] So, that was in Vienna. And my job was to, after this
experiment was successful, to look into bio-molecules. Basically, we want to
eventually get sent this person through the
double slit, you know, to see how would that feel like. And the next step from a buckyball
to a person is maybe a protein. We were thinking a
virus at that time. Naive as physicists
are, we thought viruses are same symmetry like a buckyball,
so it should be pretty simple. Turns out, the smallest
virus is like 30 times bigger than a buckyball. And it’s basically impossible
with the experimental stuff we have these days. So the next step was
to go into proteins. Proteins are the
building blocks of life. They are chains of amino
acids that wind into space in specific configurations. And at that time, I met this woman
in Italy. (LAUGHING) There she is. [LAUGHTER] And she’s a neuroscientist. At that time she was. And I asked her, so
what would be a molecule that we can image, like a
protein that we can image well? And she’s like, oh, have you looked
into a green fluorescent protein? And has like, never
heard about this thing. And turns out, that’s a protein
that’s encoded by a piece of DNA in a jellyfish. So it makes certain jellyfish
glow green in the dark, actually out here in the Pacific. And you can take that DNA that
encodes this green little lantern, and then you can stick it
into a bunny, for example. And then, if you shine
UV light on the bunny, that’s how he looks like. He glows green, literally. It’s true. And so this molecule has
been used a lot in research, including Adriana’s research. And that was the beginning. And I fell in love with her
and then came to Oregon. Because she was here, and
that’s basically why I’m here. [LAUGHTER] So, so much for green
fluorescent protein. Sounds boring, but it’s fascinating. [LAUGHTER] So then I came here, I
enrolled in art college. And one of the first
classes we had– one of the first assignments in
sculpture was– and I have to say, sculpture at that point had
not interested me, really– but that changed very
quickly, because we were tasked with taking a piece
of lumber, like square lumber, and cutting it into
compound mitered cuts. So if you have a picture
frame, for example– I don’t see one here– but you
do a 45-degree angle, flip it, and then you have
a 90-degree corner. You can do the same in
3D, as you see there. And so when we made
those little sculptures, I realized that’s
exactly what nature does. When nature goes from
one dimension of DNA– that encodes information
into essentially– it turns it into these
chains of amino acids. And they wind into space. And so, I realize I can take
spatial data from proteins and turn them into cutting
instructions to make mitered cut protein sculptures. And that’s how I kind of
got all into like sculpture. This is an early piece. That was an attempt to make
a green fluorescent protein. And I was getting a little
cocky, I thought, I can do this. Now, I wrote the software. I know how to do it. So I made another
one at the same time. And turned out, it was a
pile of junk at the end. I couldn’t assemble it. It was just, the cuts
were not accurate enough because of the one-dimensionality. It adds up. And also the joints weren’t
strong enough in wood. So I had two pieces
of parts, basically. And the nice thing about science
is, in science, you would scrap it and never could publish a paper. In art, you can put it
on the gallery floor and call it Failed
Protein Biosynthesis and call it piece of art. And so, I was like, that is cool. I need to get into art. [LAUGHTER] So, and because of that,
I had to learn welding. I realized the only way
to hold up against gravity is I need to make it out of steel. So that’s my first steel piece. That’s based on a small, like
really strange molecule– a protein from an
African herbal medicine that’s used in Zaire by the
people who are indigenous there. When labor slows down
in childbirth, they give a tea made out of that plant. And that molecule actually
accelerates labor again. And then, of course, I
finally was able to make my green fluorescent protein. That’s already the second version. That’s now at the place where the
GFP, this protein, was discovered. It’s on San Juan Island,
not too far away from here. Then I got into cutting up trees. I realized is this one
repeating motif in proteins that’s called the alpha helix. And I thought, I want to do that. And then I understood that
Linus Pauling is from here. He’s from Portland, and he was the
guy who discovered the alpha helix. And so I reached out
and tried to find people who would be
interested in maybe making like some sort of
something to memorize him, like a sculpture to
celebrate his work. And I found people. And then so my student work, or one
part of it was to make a big piece. Here I am welding in
the studio and grinding. So I took a piece of square tubing– used to make a
skyscraper, for example– and cut it up into
those mitered cuts. And then that’s the piece
on Hawthorne you might know. And that’s since 2004. So that’s where that came from. That’s the structure
of an alpha helix. Then a little later, I made probably
the most ambitious protein piece at that point. There’s this amazing molecule
called the anti-body. It’s a key molecule
in our immune system. It looks like this. It has not just a few, but
over 1,000 amino acids, so it’s pretty tricky to make. And I was intrigued by the
analogy between the human body and the human anti-body. It’s kind of bizarre. You know, it’s, of course,
scaled to that size. But it’s not in any ways distorted. So that’s actually just
superimposed like this. And the funny thing is,
these two arms there, they actually do this too. They have these hinge
regions in this area. So it’s made to grab onto
pieces of a virus, for example. And that’s how your immune system
recognizes these things and attacks them, so that it can
be destroyed so you can enjoy yet another day the next day. Because otherwise we wouldn’t. We would be gone right away. That’s the
three-dimensional structure. So from the idea, I wanted to use
the analogy to the Leonardo guy. And so I kept the rays as today
pointing at where the head would be if it was a human. That’s the design. And then of course,
the big, real problem is how do you make
this thing in real. In this case, we printed
a two-dimensional stage. X and Y was taken
care of by this image. I put in these posts so to
take care of a third dimension. And that’s kind of
like an early attempt of how do you figure out
how to actually build these things in real. And that’s been an ongoing
really challenge and struggle, and exciting one, too, because we
you so many engineering problems. You know, there’s the piece– a 12-foot diameter ring. That’s in my old studio. That’s the piece installed. That’s in Florida at the
Scripps Institute there. They opened the new
campus at that time. This is a later protein in, 2013. That’s at Rutgers University. And it’s funny, when I started
making these protein structures, I reached out to scientists. And I found this institute where
they house all the structural data. And that’s like incredible,
incredible depository of all these data, which I just
love to just browse and think of proteins I could
make as sculptures. And so, at that point
they reached out to me because they finally had a building
that actually was associated then with this whole protein research. And then they wanted
a sculpture there. And so, I used the data from
them to build the sculpture. And that’s a 20-foot tall piece
based on the collagen molecule. Collagen is, as you probably
know, this most abundant protein in the human body. It’s like mostly the
structural aspect. It looks like a coiled
rope a little bit. And so, I took the three
strands and gave them each a different color
with glass, kind of to show how the different strands
in this kind of research kind of, you know, contribute to the
synergy of finding new things. Then, just as a side, that’s a
piece I did a little later, which is kind of funny to me because
the people who commissioned it, actually they’re not into proteins. They don’t even know it’s a protein. For them, it’s a
modernist sculpture. But you know, for them
it’s totally abstract. But it’s actually the opposite. It’s based on something real,
which I think that’s kind of cool. It’s a very unusual protein, which
has this like loop at the end. And then the tail goes through it. It basically is used by
certain strains of E. coli to screw up the synthesis of
other proteins in other bacteria to kill them. Because the topology is so twisted,
it kind of puts them in a knot, basically. Back to buckyballs– any
protein-related questions at this point? (CHUCKLES) [LAUGHTER] All right. Buckyballs. So that’s the structure. I mentioned quickly in
passing the soccer ball. You know, this is an old, old
structure known in mathematics, since Aristotle. It’s called the
truncated icosahedron. If you take an icosahedron
and chop off the corners, then you get that shape. And that’s a Leonardo
drawing, by the way. That’s the earliest picture we
have of this with open faces. And that was inspiring me. When I made my first piece
out of college in 2004, I took a piece of
bronze sheet and cut out the hexagons and the pentagons. And I wanted to have it open-faced. So I cut out another set of them
and then another set, another set. So I nested them all inside
and held them together with 60 spokes, if you
will– pieces of bronze. At that point, that was really
especially intriguing to me because this structure echoes
pretty much the mathematical wave function in our experiment. So we have concentric
circles of wave-fronts, basically, emanating out
from one point, which is the mathematical description
of this buckyball experiment I was describing. So then, of course, I
needed to challenge myself and made them bigger and bigger. And that’s the biggest one. That’s 30-feet diameter. What you see there is
1 hexagon out of 20. And there’s 20
hexagons, 12 pentagons. I forgot to mention, you
know, this buckyball– the carbon 60 structure in that
shape is only known since 1985. We knew diamond and
graphite for like forever, basically– for millennia. And only very recently
then people started understanding that there
is another closed shell structure of graphite,
of carbon, which was really exciting at that time. So that’s why the
buckyball is so popular, because also it’s beautiful. So that buckyball here, that’s
the second time I built it. The first time around,
I tried to build it and then hit a branch so
it could support itself. But then gravity kicked in, and
I was almost able to do this. Second time around, we
were a little smarter. We built this giant scaffolding,
40 foot on each dimension, and then started from the top and
then built it down and dismantled the scaffolding at the same time. Here’s the buckyball from the side. And there it’s when you go under it. So actually it hovers
like in the air. It’s like a creek. So you can go under it and look up. And that’s this view. So then when I was contemplating the
buckyball, and I was asking myself, why do I like this so much? And I was so intrigued
with this shape. And the answer came at Starbucks,
when one of my kids at that time– you know, I’m kind of a pretty
harsh father, coming from Germany. So I don’t give them a whole,
you know, milk– you know, this sugar-sweetened stuff. So they have to share that. So they get these gigantic plastic
cups, and then to make it bigger, they bubble it up like this. And that’s what she’s doing there. And when I looked at
the plastic, you know, that’s exactly what a
buckyball looks like here. The buckyball is an example of
a very symmetric foam structure. And so I got all into foams,
because I was asking myself, what is a natural way of going
from two-dimensional foams into three dimensions? Because that’ll be interesting
to make a human like this. And so, that’s a recent
spin-off where I solved the problem in 2D, which is easy. In 3D, it’s really, really hard. In 2D, it’s easy enough to make
security screens like this. That’s at my new studio. And in 3D, that’s a
really simple approach. You just take water balloons and
then put something that hardens, like a resin in this
case, and then pop them. And then you’re left with a
foam structure, essentially. Because they want to minimize energy
together when you squish them. But that didn’t work out. I tried many things. I’m just showing some images
that never went anywhere. So that’s a little 3D-printed
metal form with polystyrene balls that make Styrofoam, basically. So that makes this pregnant
woman out of Styrofoam. And then you can do a micro CT
scan and look at the foam structure inside. And I want to use
that as a sculpture. Turned out it was not
very beautiful because it was not a happy equilibrium foam. It was more like a fake foam. So I discarded that. Then I found this paper, where
people took shaving cream, basically, and then did like a super
high-resolution CT scan with that. So I made another little mold this
time, this big, and filled it. The shaving cream didn’t
work for some reason. I had to use polyurethane foam. Here it’s cut open. And I made this piece that
also didn’t really do the job, but I’m going there. I’m talking about
this the whole time. That, by the way, is
the example that I forgot to have in the slide show
of where this– this is fully calculated 3D foam. But it’s still not
a human being shape. That’s where it’s
hopefully going next. But all this research
made me look into things like how computers encode
solids, for example, in this case, human beings. And then it’s really easy to tap
into the world of mesh processing and meshing algorithms. And that’s like a
whole world in itself. And I was getting really
intrigued by that. And so that’s one example
that came out of that. You know, you can just reduce
the size and use algorithms as a raw material to do designs– in this case, a person made
of triangles, or a bigger person made out of triangles. That’s a piece for Texas Tech. It’s for the plant
sciences department. And she is holding an agave
plant between her hands. Also the triangle
idea, but in this case, I took each triangle before
we welded it together and slumped glass into them. So that’s why it
looks a little bubbly. Then I realized I wanted
to make this doable. The glass bubbles
have the disadvantage that if you transport the piece,
it will basically self-destruct. So I had to actually, on the
truck, haul it upright all the way to Wyoming to install it. And so I didn’t want
to do that again. So then I had the
same aesthetic idea, but I wanted to do
it very differently. Instead of taking laser
cut triangles of steel, I basically designed the
whole thing in the computer. And then with the emerging
technologies of the last few years, I was able to cast it in bronze and
put windows in from the outside. That’s a close-up of that. And then, another spin-off
of this triangle idea, is so, what happens if you take
trying to turn them into 3D, the natural answer is also, in
engineering, pretty ubiquitous. It’s kind of space-filling
tetrahedral thing. So talking about the scientists
and engineers, so in this case, there’s a whole community
that turns solid into stacks of irregular tetrahedra
that are space-filling, so they’re all connected. The reason is that when engineers
want to calculate anything that’s complicated, like
most things, then they do that– they cut it up into
all these little tetrahedra so they can solve the differential
equations on this whole thing. And if it doesn’t look quite
right, they just make them smaller, wait a little bit
longer for the results, and then they get confirmed, OK,
that’s actually what happens here. So they can take a piece
of steel and twist it, or they can shake it
and see resonances, which you couldn’t see in the old
methods by just using the pencil. And so then I took these algorithms
and let them run on my geometries and see what happened. What would happen if I space-filled
a human being with tetrahedra? And that’s what happens. And, oh, that’s from
today, actually– a photo. So the same tetrahedral
idea, but instead of doing it in the computer and 3D
printing and casting in bronze, that’s an idea
of taking each tetrahedron, cutting it out of steel in a
way that it comes with hinges. So we flip them over
and weld them shut. So we have over a
thousand tetrahedra and then stack them
up, like physically and with a computer and some
marks on the tetrahedra, so we know how do they go together. So it’s kind of like
a giant puzzle again. And then, these are just the legs. So that’s what we’re
building right now. It’s been ongoing for two years. It’s kind of the project that’s
on the back burner, you know, because it’s so insane. But I think it’s going
to look cool at the end. So then, another side
chain coming out of that, was a body of works where
I took the triangles and did what mathematicians
call the “dual.” It’s basically how an icosahedron
is related to a dodecahedron. So you can flip them back and forth. And if you do that
but don’t do one step, then you get something
like this, which, again, resembles very much a foam,
which is so interesting to me. That’s that piece
where she’s living now, next to this little spa,
which is kind of neat because it mirrors the color and the
shapes that you see in the water. And then, another
piece in that style is for private
commission, where they had this big rock in their yard. So I took a few hundred
photos of the rock and then made a 3D skin of that. Then I took the top surface of the
rock, 3D printed it in my shop, put it on a piece of plywood, then
placed an actual model on there, scanned her on the fake rock,
and then made the sculpture. And then we put it
on the actual rock. So that’s a really neat
thing because you can now, today, with 3D printing
and 3D scanning, you can essentially
take the world, put something in there that
fits exactly to that world, and then do it in any size. That’s really fascinating to me. So there she sits. And she fits perfectly on this
rock that has no clear geometry. That’s one of my 3D printers,
printing a piece of that. So I got it made, a little
bigger piece like that. That was for Georgia Tech. There it is hanging,
drying, because I’m trying to seal it with certain things. I’m always trying new things
because something doesn’t work. Those are all the parts
in the computer together. I color-code them
so I know where I am in order to be able to even have a
way of seeing through this thing. There they are in my truck
as bronze-cast pieces. So the idea is you take cheap
3D-printing technology– cheap as in like, a
few thousand bucks– that it’s a DIY-type of
equipment, not high-end stuff. And you can get it to a
point that you can actually pretend it’s like a wax piece and
you do investment casting with it. So you put it into
like a plaster shell, burn it out, and put
molten metal in it. And so, when that’s doable,
then suddenly everything becomes possible, because then
you can take those metal parts and then weld them into
any shape you want. And then, you know, that’s
a six-foot tall piece. That’s pretty big, made out
of 150 of those little parts. And so that is actually the first
piece I ever did with a 3D printer. And again, I went from
the meshing algorithms and used that in specific ways
to kind of just follow my ideas. In this case, you
know, like the broccoli that looks that looks
like this, the Romanesco. And it’s intriguing because
these algorithms do things– they optimize very often, which is
very much what we see in nature. So that’s why they look so
familiar often, the results. That’s another piece–
same underlying idea– in this case, pyramids. So it feels like she’s senses
like all the electric fields, you know like a lightning rod. That’s a very recent piece
experimenting with geodesics. That means the shortest distance. If you say, if I want to go from my
sole to where I touch the ground, I go up, and then I modulate that. That’s the kind of
image you get there. So and then, finally
to the body of works that is– where this
one is an example for. And now it’s raining. So the idea, as I said
in the very beginning, is we want to eventually send the
person through the double slit. And so that’s where
the idea came from. You know, I looked at what
would the mathematical object look like of that person. So it turns out, if I walk, then
I would, as a quantum object, consist out of wave-fronts that
are perpendicular like this to my direction of motion. So that’s kind of a simple
thing, and I just kind of almost like for fun made this piece– an eight-foot tall of this
walking person out of these wave fronts by just cutting
it out of steel. And there’s another. That’s a bronze version
and a stainless version. There’s one there, I promise. It’s not Photoshopped. It’s hard to see. This one is in
Wenatchee, Washington. And that particular one was
actually, instead of welded, it was cold-connected with screws. So that’s why it’s
ridiculously perfect. That’s why that one
really disappears. Then a few years later, I started
using the direction of the gaze. When we look at
somebody’s eyes, then we have this very specific direction. So I felt this disappearing
thing is so cool. When I look at my
walking guy and there’s this one angle where everything
is different, where he disappears. And I wanted that to be the
direction of the gaze, which is like you intend your focus. You know, you’re
experiencing the world, and you direct your
attention to something. And I wanted this to be
the disappearing angle. And so I made a whole series of
works, including this Buddha here. That was the first big one I
made where a man and a woman look at each other, but
they never see each other. And that’s the piece we just
installed two weeks ago. That’s where I tried
something new out. There’s a lot of light going on. I don’t have good photos yet, but
only the Instagram photos here. Though as you can see, there’s
a hundred programmable LEDs under the base plate. And they can do all
sorts of patterns, which is kind of an interesting
challenge to turn that into something meaningful. And so we are cycling at this
point through different colors and to just try it
out, how it looks like. And it’s pretty fun. So I’ll leave you with a
little bit of footage of that. And that concludes what
I had to say today. Thank you. SPEAKER: Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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