Jos Jansen: Universe – Facts in the post-truth era

Universe, the new photo book by Jos Jansen, is an artistic interpretation of scientific research and abstract, complex thought models, looking into the hard graft and long years of research that stand behind the glamour of groundbreaking discoveries. Universe includes an essay by the photographer and an introduction by Professor Robbert Dijkgraaf, director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

In his new photo book, Jos Jansen follows a childhood fascination with big scientific breakthroughs to discover the hard graft of academic research... and, incidentally, its beauty. The photographer spent a year at the Amsterdam Science Park, looking into academic processes in a huge variety of fields and subjects - from dark matter and gravitational waves to genetics and robotics. Using found footage and data visualisations as well as Jansen's own photographs, Universe not only documents scientific research, but visualises and interprets abstract thought models and complex processes in the artist's own, subjective way. The result is a mesmerising look behind the scenes of academic endeavour.

"How do you visualise gravitational waves or elementary particles? Dark matter, DNA?" - Jos Jansen

"As I was wandering around among this variety of fascinating beta sciences, such as physics, mathematics, astrophysics, computer sciences, biology, chemistry and biomedical sciences," writes Jansen in an introductory essay in Universe, "I realised I was on a quest for the smallest elementary particle and the biggest stellar system." He had found himself in a world that was not only highly complex, but also abstract - not an easy place to be for a visual artist. "How do you visualise gravitational waves or elementary particles? Dark matter, DNA?"

The solution was to find traces of academic processes - objects referring to specific research. An eyelash that was part of a genetic research project. A stunning graphic representation of statistic algorithms. With this approach, Jansen has succeeded not only in providing his subjective interpretation of important scientific research, but also in documenting its incidental beauty.

"It may be the best of times for science, but it is also the worst of times. We are living in an age of wisdom and foolishness."
- Robbert Dijkgraaf

In a time of constant attacks on the idea of objective truth and scientific facts, Jansen was fascinated by the frequent debate present in academic culture, as well as principles such as that of reproducibility. "A stark contrast", says Jansen, "to what frequently happens on social media these days and which can be boiled down to this: science is really just another opinion."

"It may be the best of times for science, but it is also the worst of times. We are living in an age of wisdom and foolishness", writes Robbert Dijkgraaf in his introduction. "The support for science is under pressure, both financially and morally."

What Jansen found at the Amsterdam Science Park harks back to a completely different era: "I could hardly imagine a place that was more inspired and driven by the progressive thinking of the Enlightenment. The scientist as a servant of reason and searcher of truth."

For more information about Universe, see josjansenphotography or contact Jos Jansen directly via e-mail.

See below a small selection of photgraphs of Universe.

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