Catherine Wagner: Art & Science, Investigating Matter

“I am interested,” Catherine Wagner wrote in 1996, “in what impact the changes that emerge from contemporary scientific research will have on our culture—socially, spiritually and physically. In my work I have tried to ask the kind of questions posed by philosophers, artists, ethicists, architects and social scientist. All of these questions revolve around once central idea: who are we and who will we become?” Over a number of years and at various sites—including the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, Stanford University’s Linear Accelerator, the University of California and Washington University in St, Louis, Missouri—Wagner made photographs for her project, Art and Science: Investigating Matter. The images, shot in black and white, take a seemingly straightforward look at scientific equipment and specimens. On their surface, they seem forensic and to refer to document acts of collection, ordering, analysis, and storage. But looked at more carefully, each of Wagner’s meticulous still life photographs goes further, leading viewers to engage with the provocative issues that inevitably surround science’s goals, methods, rigor, and reach. Courtesy of Anglim Gilbert, San Francisco, and Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica