Inside view of a -80° Celsius freezer. If the freezer is leaky, ice forms and accumulates on biological samples, which can be damaged if not stored at the proper temperature. © Olivier Gschwend


Olivier Gschwend

2019 — Geneva, Switzerland

About this series

The research process in science is often scattered by scientific failures: experiments that don’t work, incorrect analysis, wrong interpretations, negative results or unexpected observations. Although the latter phenomenon, called the serendipity principle, can result in breakthrough discoveries, negative results are rarely reported in publications despite their obvious importance for the rest of the scientific community. Moreover, failures are ignored and generally forgotten.

This series reveals from oversight the unexpected esthetics of those failures. It intends to question how a form of communication predominantly ignored a in a field can take a totally different meaning and be considered differently in another. It hence questions the relative constraints and boundaries of knowledge and expertise. Every individual image comes in absence of a clear context. By this process, its purpose becomes unclear, blurry, and open to imagination. It opposes the actual original scientific purpose, supposedly clear and thorough. Each item comes with a dry and precise description of its original purpose to counterbalance the abstract images.

Frame taken with a high-speed low-resolution infrared camera. The pupil size is measured as a readout of the mouse reflex and sensations. © Olivier Gschwend
Automatized quantification of claustral axons density in the cortex by pixel intensity thresholding and surface segmentation. Suboptimal coding routine led to aberrant segments. © Olivier Gschwend
Behavior box used to test the effect of light stimulation on foraging behavior in mice expressing channelrhodopsin in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. No significant increase of foraging behavior. © Olivier Gschwend
Grating used to condensate the two-photon laser beam at a correct diameter and allowing its proper alignment. Misalignment of the laser beam leads to drastic lost of laser power and imaging error. © Olivier Gschwend
Testing sample of a root used for setting up parameters of confocal microscope lasers. Suboptimal settings lead to imaging errors due to overlapping fluorescent signal. © Olivier Gschwend
Detection and color-coded labelling of imaged neurons. Because of motion artifacts during the imaging acquisition, the analysis led to errors since individual neurons were sometimes parsed and clustered into two distinct ones. © Olivier Gschwend
Granule cell layer in the olfactory bulb expressing channelrhodopsin. Brain slice not usable because of air bubbles. © Olivier Gschwend
Archeorhodopsin infection of prefrontal neurons. Because the wells containing the brain slices have been forgotten outside the fridge, moisture grew up and damaged the normal structure of the brain. The verification of the infection was impossible. © Olivier Gschwend

Photographer: Olivier Gschwend
Nationality: Swiss
Based in: Geneva, Switzerland
Instagram: @oliviergschwend

I was born in Switzerland in 1982. I followed a scientific education and became a researcher in neuroscience. In parallel, I have always explored artistic expression, from drawings to graffiti passing by dancing. In 2008, I started photography and focused on this medium.
As far as I can remember, I have always been interested in the emergence of consciousness. Though neuroscience is a way to study it, it isn’t always sufficient. Although it is done outside of the lab environment, part of my photography work tends to question concepts that neuroscience fails sometimes to rationalize fully: identity, beliefs, introspection, memory or ego.
A few years ago, I started to take advantage of my daily research to explore the imagery and esthetics of neuroscience outcomes. Following this idea, I try to explore the convergence of scientific and artistic gait by mixing different photographic, digital, sound and plastic media.


2019—Collective exhibition, Les Boutographies, Montpellier, France2018
2018—Collective exhibition, 200 pictures for the Aquarius, LargeNetwork gallery, Geneva, Switzerland
2016—Solo exhibition, « Psylocibe cubensis », FOOUND, Geneva, Switzerland
Collective exhibition, « Psylocibe cubensis », OSLO 8, Basel, Switzerland
Collective exhibition, « Psylocibe cubensis », Uno Art Space, Stuttgart, Germany
2015— Collective exhibition, « Psylocibe cubensis », ECAL Lausanne, Switzerland
Collective exhibition, « Psylocibe cubensis », F+F Zürich, Switzerland
Collective exhibition, « Psylocibe cubensis », JUNGKUNST Winterthur, Switzerland
Collective exhibition, « Catachrèse », Belfast Photo Fringe Festival, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Collective exhibition, « Catachrèse », Exposure Award, Le Louvre, Paris, France
2014—Collective exhibition, « Herding chimeras, Catachrèse », Darb 1718, Contemporary Art & Culture Center, Cairo, Egypt