Catalysing Creativity | Self Assemblage

Image courtesy of Romain Viguier
‘Catalysing Creativity: Stories of Change’ is a new digital exhibition curated by ASCUS Art & Science presented as part of the 2021 Science Festival, highlighting molecular science and artistic approaches as a lens through which to investigate the concept of change and the interconnectivity of people and our planet

Romain Viguier and Dr. Mairi Haddow

Self Assemblage

Through Self Assemblage by Romain Viguier and Dr. Mairi Haddow, wanted to reflect on how society reacts to change, using art and aspects observed amongst ordered and disordered molecules in materials and crystals. They found many parallels between the organised matter and society: the way materials change, adapt to their environment and how many reactions start within cracks and irregularities.

Presented here is a series of sculptures that embody these molecular processes as a means to reflect on what, we as a society, can learn from nature’s own innate ability to self organise and it’s seemingly endless capability to successfully change and restructure.

Presented by ASCUS Art and Science in partnership with ScotCHEM

Read more about ‘Catalysing Creativity: Stories of Change’ here

Online Exhibition

Viewer guidance: Please click on the text and images in the gallery below to view this online exhibition in full screen mode on your browser


The Collaborative process…

Romain Viguier was invited by ASCUS to talk about his experience in Art and Science and was fortunate to listen to Mairi’s presentation at the meeting organised by ScotCHEM at the V&A in Dundee. He was fascinated by how at molecular level, punctual irregularity or disorganisation amongst a regular arrangement, could be the focus of such great attention. If irregularity could enhance the general structure of a materials, giving it flexibility, or improving the catalytic function, then this would be an area he would like to explore in sculptural shapes.

Artist Statement

Romain Viguier is a sculptor interested in structures, systems and sequences; his work is “constructed” and results from the application of elaborate design rationales. His creative process starts from observed natural principles – those identified in biology, in our society – or as it was the case in this work – in chemistry. He is interested in principles that have universal value – and could help us make sense of the events we witness, and the events we are part of.  

His previous work lead to continuous objects, those which contained design principles within themselves (large stone knots, rotors – exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in 2015-2016, pivoting walls) and some discontinuous one (alignments and series) in which the design principle drives the organisation of the whole group and determines the way each item interact with its immediate surrounding.

Dr Mairi Haddow
Scientist Statement

Her research is concerned with disorder of atoms in a crystal structure. We often describe a crystal structure as a parallelepiped – a unit cell – that is packed in three dimensions, but sometimes these repeating units differ slightly from each other. The parts that differ are referred to as disordered and what we see is the average – that is, a superimposition of all the repeating units.

Modern analytical methods such as X-ray crystallography are easily able to identify ordered atoms but identifying the nature of disordered atoms is more of an art. In order to gain a fuller understanding of the whole structure, she is developing an algorithm that, with some knowledge of the synthetic methods of making the crystal, proposes a solution to the disordered parts of the crystal. By doing this, our understanding of the structure improves, and hence our ability to predict its behaviour.

Only recently has it become possible to study periodic (i.e. crystalline) systems using computations of their electronic structure from first principles. Describing these systems presents a challenge. How does one visualise or describe a complex pseudo-regular structure in  such a way that it might easily be understood, on both a local scale (at the site of the disorder) and non-local scale (over the entire crystal structure?)

‘Catalysing Creativity’ comprises two creative commissions supported by ScotCHEM in collaboration with ASCUS Art & Science, and in partnership with researchers at The University of Edinburgh and Heriot Watt University.

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