Tom Otterness on the International Art World

Question: Is making art different in Europe?

Tom Otterness: It is distinctly different and it’s one of the dilemmas of making work here in the United States is that it’s a democratic process here or… And in Europe, it’s much more autocratic. It’s clearly decided by a people that… maybe museum directors or people that have a very frontline knowledge of what modern art is and they make decisions, and the public be damn. It’s, you know, they’ll live with it. The public will live with it and it’s a kind of a European take. And it results in some of the best work being made there and it’s sort of this dilemma here that we have this democracy that ethically is… should be stronger but makes, we’re very deluded public art possibilities here. It really limits the possibilities in sort of frontline work. The fact that Richard Serra cannot work in this country and can’t get a public commission in the United States is, I think, one of the shame, you know, it’s something that we should… It’s a national shame, you know. It will be seen historically that way, you know, one of the greatest sculptors of the period and unable to work in our country. What is that mean? I mean, in the reversal is to say, “Who could work in Germany in the 30s?” It’s that kind of intolerance, but it’s strange because it has, it’s a result of this democracy, I think. So, it’s one of those dilemmas I haven’t resolved. I don’t know what the answer is to it.

Tom Otterness notices an autocratic streak in Europe’s art scene.

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

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  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.