An Endeavour in Chemistry Class

8:51 PM


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Vantablack, Anish Kapoor, Stuart Semple, paint pigments- a mod-podge of topics brewed up in my very own Chemistry class. Read on, and be enlightened. 

Our chemistry class got assigned a project titled "Science in the News"- a current event report on the latest scientific innovations pertaining to one's career of choice. Mine was on, obviously, art. What I discovered in my project was a saga of events that managed to deeply encompass topics not only on a scientific invention, but on art, its boundaries, and the intermingling of all fields. The entire situation left me deeply interested, prompting me to share it!

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My current event, and its further happenings, were rooted in the invention of Vantablack, the darkest material created by man. Standing for Vertically Aligned NanoTube Arrays, the material consists of tightly packed nanotube "straws" (10,000 times thinner than a human hair!) that absorb 99.965% of visible light and 99.85% of infrared variation. The material is so dark, it tricks the eye into thinking it a smooth surface when not. Producing and utilizing Vantablack is extensive- under the patented process, it takes over 400 hours to coat a single bottle of body spray in it! 


Here is where things creep into the artistic, almost pop culture-like realm: Vantablack's parent company, Surrey NanoSystems, granted exclusive artistic rights of the material to British sculptor Anish Kapoor. The name may not sound familiar, but his work is; he's the guy behind the infamous "Cloud Gate" installation in Chicago (that giant mirror blob all the tourists go to...). In addition to that, his work has actually proven quite breathtaking. Anyways, Kapoor's deal with the company has aroused much scrutiny from the art world, especially from fellow British artist Stuart Semple. Semple was so furious that he launched a, quite frankly, hilarious campaign urging Kapoor to #ShareTheBlack. Under that, he created pigments based off the idea of the high impact Vantablack: Pinkest Pink, Yellowest Yellow, etc. His products are available for purchase from the public, with one exception: Anish Kapoor. The website even includes the following statement: "Note: By adding this product to your cart you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this paint will not make it's way into that hands of Anish Kapoor. " Kapoor was, however, still able to acquire the pigment and posted a retaliatory picture on Instagram. The feud is humorous and petty at worst, but, to me, it brought to light some questions and topics I find important.

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The Vantablack-Kapoor-Semple situation poses many questions. Is it just for someone to "own" a material, or should all artists be allowed equal access to all resources? How can Vantablack, a material intended for use in spacecraft, be used in art? Was the Semple reaction childish, or understandable? Is it right or Surrey NanoSystems to patent the process used to make this groundbreaking innovation? Why would the company opt for an exclusive deal with Kapoor? In my opinion, the uniqueness of the problem gives reason for Surrey NanoSystems to give artistic rights to one person. With the tedious process that goes into making Vantablack, along with its intention for use in spacecraft, I feel that the company is under no obligation to work collaboratively with multiple artists to mass produce it. A one-on-one deal would allow both Surrey NanoSystems and Kapoor to be able to experiment and discover the artistic properties of the relatively new material. Semple, in my opinion, is acting disrespectful, immature, and inconsiderate. At the end of the day, it's just him fighting over who gets to use the pretty colors. 

This article also fascinated me in that it covered a variety of topics you'd think would not go together. Art, shallow entertainment, and science? It is combination not often portrayed in the media, but something that occurs daily. Fields do not exist singularly and independently, but are constantly influencing and collaborating with each other. As an artist, understanding color is essential - and that brings in science! Chemical composition and scientific properties must be understood to achieve the most impact in a piece. And, that is but one example: aesthetics and business may come together in the technical field of smartphone production, and chemistry and math in cooking. Our wondrous reality is that many minor, overlooked factors work harmoniously to produce one field.

Sound off! What are your opinions on the feud? HTPA kids: any Science in the News reports you are particularly proud of? Submit!





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