ART x BIOPHILIA
Hundreds of artists flock to Tulum to gather inspiration and unlock their new creative side every year. Inés Gutiérrez is known for her biological findings and is a science writer for renowned journals like Newsweek, merging art and science. She is based in Mexico City and performs together with her music producer partner, Isaac Soto, in some of the best music and arts festivals like MUTEK MEXICO. Ines recently came to Tulum to get some new ideas for her future art projects and visuals.
Tell us about the scientific work and research that you do? How did you then make that into an art form?
Cirrina Lab started around 5 years ago when I was studying Biology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). I had been in love with microscopes since the very first time I used one in high school.
While I was studying at UNAM, the classes I liked the most were the ones that took place in the laboratory, where we had to use a microscope to identify or analyze different things. Everything we saw looked beautiful and intriguing to me; it was already art.
One day I bumped into a lab from my faculty that specialized in microscopic images called Microcine. There I met Alejandro Martinez Mena, who became my mentor and taught me everything he knew about microscopic imaging. I learned on my own how to crystalize different substances and started exploring other reactions to produce microscopic videos and photographs. I also became friends with the scientist in charge of my university’s aquarium, who provided me with microscopic beings to look at and record.
My research and art have now evolved to think about the type of art I would like to produce visually and then search online for elements that can help me produce what I have in mind. Once I have the necessary materials, I go to my microscope and film. Most of what happens are spontaneous and come from freely exploring interactions of tiny beings. I don’t have a plan per se.
What is your day-to-day research like? You also write for Newsweek and other magazines regarding scientific topics. What do you mainly research?
My day to day currently revolves around science journalism. I freelance and write for different national and international outlets like Newsweek, Science, Nexos, etc. I research and write about many scientific topics, including organisms, diseases, environmental issues, and science policy. I also write scripts for a Mexican science podcast called Mándarax.
I read about science news on Twitter or in different magazines or scientific journals almost every day and find stories I think are worth talking about. I think science journalism is key in today’s world because it’s directed to citizens and is critical about scientific endeavors. It contextualizes science in terms of why it matters today, who it’s made for, and by whom it’s made. I’ve written about many scientific things, like a Mexican octopus species that could warn humans when the ocean is getting irreversibly warm because of climate change.
What has been the most interesting thing you observed under a microscope?
The most interesting things I’ve observed under a microscope are the embryonic development of the zebrafish and mouse neurons.
What has it been like working and living as a female scientist in the city?
Most of the “top” scientists or science journalists I know are male, and until recently, science was done by men and for men. Fortunately, that is slowly changing now. I’ve witnessed sexist and misogynistic attitudes in academia towards other female scientists or science journalists many times. I’ve heard many stories about teachers who will sexually harass their students, mostly females. When I was doing my thesis and stayed till late, I felt scared because the place was deserted. Now, as a female science journalist who writes about subjects like sexual harassment in academia, I fear pushback in the form of retaliation, harassment, being insulted, or something along those lines.
Despite facing sexist issues in the science world, I think I’ve been lucky and careful of who I work with and, when I was a student, the teachers I took classes with. So, in general, my experience working and living as a female scientist has been very positive. I’ve been surrounded by mentors, coworkers, and teachers, both male, and female, who have been supportive and taught me a lot throughout my career. I’ve been around powerful, brave, and brilliant women who inspire me every day and remind me we are capable of anything we set our minds to.