We spoke to Dr Logan about collaborating with artist Charlie Tweed and a shared interest in technology.

What inspired you to respond to the call out for this project? Have you had experience of working with artists on art & science projects previously?

I have never worked with an artist before, but I have a longstanding interest in engaging the wider public in science through non-typical means. I’ve previously worked with video games producers and various online projects (including web chats and Wikimedia based projects). When I heard about the opportunity to explore more abstract methods of interpreting science through art, I had to learn more!

Has working with an artist and explaining your research to them affected your approach to or perceptions of your practice in any way?

It did make me realize that in explaining details scientific research to other scientists (as we typically do) I assume a remarkable amount of background knowledge. I’m not sure I have ever tried to explain my work in such depth to a non-expert before, and I found it to be challenging. I certainly found myself both thinking and talking more in terms of metaphor and simile.

How are you deciding as part of the collaborative process which area of research to focus on?

As I have a range of scientific interests, we discussed which aspects of my work best suits the style and methods that Charlie excels in. Although the precise details have still to emerge, I think we are converging on a set of ideas that we are both comfortable with.

Could you tell us more about the specific elements of the science that will be covered in the project?

This will become clearer in the coming week, but our current thinking is to focus on the three levels of information that is encoded or patterned in the process of the sensory perception of smell. I think the concept is of multiple ‘codes’ -at the level of DNA sequence, gene expression, and neural wiring- each building on top of the one before, so that we all have an individual perception of the world. This reflects projects in my lab that aims to study smell at each of these levels.

What were your expectations when you first started discussing your work with the artist? Have your expectations changed at all during the development process?

My expectation was that the artist would have a superficial interest in the scientific method and technical processes and instead wish to focus on the big-picture: the consequences of the work at the ‘human’ level . I was completely incorrect in that regard, as Charlie’s interest in the interface of society with technology dovetails perfectly with the highly technology driven genomic science that underpins our research. I find this fascinating, as it opens up the possibility of us exploring the process of actually doing science. This is something I had not considered at the beginning of the project.

December 2013