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Researchers in the US have developed a technique that could allow neurologists to draw a detailed wiring plan of the mammalian brain by inserting genes coding for fluorescent proteins into mice. Dubbed ‘Brainbow’, the system reveals individual neurons within the nervous system in up to 90 different colours.

The work by Jeff Lichtman and colleagues in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at Harvard University uses a combination of genes from natural sources such as bioluminescent jellyfish or corals and man-made constructs to produce proteins in four different ‘primary’ colours, red, yellow, cyan and orange. The researchers inserted the genes into the mice genome using the Cre/Lox recombination method developed by Du Pont in the 1980s. This allows tissue specific modification – in this case, the genes are expressed only in the cells of the central nervous system.

One or more gene constructs may be present in a single cell and the entirely random expression of these proteins in the cell cytoplasm creates the many possible colour combinations.

‘In some cells we see a greyish colour because all the proteins are expressed about equally. But in most cells the proteins are at different concentrations giving us a range of hues,’ Lichtman told Chemistry World.

John Bonner
Royal Society of Chemistry


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In the early 1990s, while still in high school, Anna Schuleit discovered mystery by taking long walks through the deserted grounds of the Northampton State Hospital. This cluster of Victorian buildings — with its iron-bar windows, crumbling red brick, and chest-high grass — touched a deep chord in the young artist.

“I came to my work as a pedestrian,” said Schuleit…

Early on, she was inspired by abandoned institutional spaces like the old mental hospital. Or by public spaces that allowed for solitude and daydreaming.

Another inspiration was literary: Gaston Bachelard, the French philosopher who wrote about the poetics of space and reverie. “As soon as we become motionless, we are elsewhere,” he wrote of daydreaming, an activity that inspires Schuleit and informs all her work…she said she was taken with Bachelard’s idea of “immensities within ourselves.”

A workshop is important to her as an artist, but “so is always a site, a setting, a real location,” said Schuleit, “a place that can be wandered.”

It is there that a person can have “a dialogue with stillness,” she said. “I believe in the imagination. It is a muscle in the body that can carry us anywhere.”

In 1997, Schuleit’s imagination carried her back to Northampton, where she evaded guards to wander for days of walks on the old hospital grounds…On her walks, Shuleit collected chips of lead paint to display in lines of frame-like glass boxes, talked with former workers at the hospital, and studied old pictures and records. She contemplated the “doubling of misfortune” in the decay of the buildings and the decay of memory — and felt a vivid sadness for the 2,700 patients who over the course of a century had lived there…

In November 2000, after three years of struggles over funding and access, Schuleit turned the old space into “Habeas Corpus,” two days of “celebration” (including testimony from former patients) and performance art. She bought 5,000 feet of sound cable, and with the help of 80 volunteers converted the old mental hospital’s main building into a giant amplifier, “to animate all the voids of the architecture.”

At noon on Nov. 18, for 28 minutes 106 loudspeakers bounced the full sounds of Bach’s “Magnificat” into the interiors, and back out the iron grids, broken windows and ruined arches of the building onto the audience of hundreds standing raptly below…

By 2003, she put together “Bloom,” an installation art piece in Boston commissioned to mark the closing of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center’s main building, built in 1912.

As before, she let the space speak to her, asking officials there only for “a week, an office, a key to every door, and a person who knows every story.” In the end, an impression formed over the years inspired her: “I noticed that nobody received any flowers in psychiatry,” said Schuleit, in contrast to hospital stays for heart attacks or broken bones.

So using hospital records, she calculated how many patients had been committed there since 1912, “bringing together all the flowers they had never been given.” The answer: 28,000 potted — not cut — flowers (so they could be given away afterwards). Shipments included 15,000 tulips from Canada, stacked high in an 18-wheeler.

Schuleit transformed hallways into rivers of flowers. The chairs in a waiting room looked like islands in a sea of flowers. An abandoned swimming pool, used to store furniture, was filled with 3,000 blue African violets. Floors in the basement, where the laboratories had been, were carpeted with live turf “that came in rolls, like sushi,” said Schuleit.

“It was a crash course in colors,” she said of “Bloom,” — and for viewers, a font of tears for the departed and the forgotten.

Harvard University Gazette Online

Aboriginal art can be reconciled, as has become evident, within the Modernist aesthetic with considerable ease…A number of the most exciting and beautiful recent works are painted collaboratively, exuding all manner of detail, with thrilling colours that make references to places, to the cycles of life. There is an energy in these works that celebrate life while acknowledging every bit of struggle, individual and collective. As images of abstract balance and skill, they are unsurpassed. The combination of traditional and indigenous forms of representation is of course not unique to Australian culture; in fact what seems so relevant to the world at large is the successful nature of this cultural ‘bricolage’.

Desert Aboriginal ground and body, implement or rock art employs earth pigments, animal products, plants, and feathers. Each material, in a manner Levi-Strauss associates with bricolage, retains its association with its source, origin, and locale, and brings these into the work as elements of its own meaning. Thus, colour is only one basis for identifying, choosing, and then ‘reading’ a medium. But with acrylics, colour is the only basis for differentiation. This radical difference in the semiology of materials can take some getting used to, but in the end may free the artists in another sense, presenting new choices unavailable to the bricoleur.

Janet McKenzie
Mediators and Messengers: Contemporary Art in the Landscape


“Permit me to be scared stiff,” Paul Klee said after seeing van Gogh’s paintings in Munich in 1908. Similarly, the German Expressionist Emil Nolde initially considered van Gogh’s work “a bit crazy,” although van Gogh’s approach eventually taught him that “each color has a soul of its own.”

From the review of the show, Van Gogh and Expressionism, at the Neue Galerie in New York.

Martha Schwendener
New York Times

Yves Klein’s status rests on his signature “International Klein Blue” (IKB), an artificial ultramarine pigment mixed with a binder, a ‘polyvinyl acetate’ formulated by Rhone-Poulenc Industries…the color that for Klein signified “infinity and dematerialisation.” The special quality of IKB mixture, instantly apparent when you stand in front of a work by Klein and largely lost in reproduction, is that somehow the chemical binder holds the pigment together without smothering or altering it. Coloured pigment literally takes on a life of its own. The Klein who aspires to become one with the universe through his work, at the same time points to the radical use of industrially produced materials in art.

Jane Alison
Colour After Klein, show catalogue from the Barbican Gallery show