Monday, September 11, 2017

Art That Raises Awareness of Forest Ecology Issues

LaynaJoy Rivas and Eva Reiska’s “Sysimetsä”, a memorial
for those affected by the fires that destroyed Lake County, as
well as for a beloved art space by the name of
Ravens Landing back in 2015.
1. Trees (and/or forests) are iconic symbols in virtually every culture;
2. Western US forests are in crisis.

Combining or juxtaposing previously unrelated ideas is how humans create new knowledge, whether with art or science. So, how are artists combining these two ideas at Burning Man, one of the country's most controversial art events?

"Ursa Mator," by Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson: a gorgeous
sculpture covered in shimmering, edge-wise pennies takes 
on additional meaning as the Man burns in the background. 
Large wildfire destroys forest ecosystems, including 
iconic wildlife.
Black Rock City--the temporary Nevada city of 70,000 people (including an airport with 800 flights per day!)--displayed numerous tree &/or forest issue themed artworks in 2017.

The most significant of these conceptual artworks was undoubtedly The Temple. Each year, a Temple is constructed as a locus of communal and personal release. People post photos, stories, keepsakes, mementos and messages relating to loved ones they have lost, or issues they are struggling with. The entire Temple is then burned to the ground on the last evening of the weeklong event in a solemn, silent ritual of cleansing and renewal that counters the rowdy, Saturnalian burning of the Man structure on the previous evening.

This year, the Temple architects chose to highlight western forest health problems by using lumber milled from dead salvage logs. This forest health theme is aligned nicely with the purpose and function of both the Temple, and the entire Burning Man ethos, which aims to alter attitudes of citizens in order to address systemic dysfunction in western culture.

More info about the Temple philosophy this year.

* * *

Burning Man is not the only group of artists working on forest issues, of course. Some artists are actively trying to change social policy.

Saving The West (STW) is a UC Santa Cruz-based, artist-led group working to create a new kind of timber industry that can use the small, torchy material that needs to come off of dry western forests in order to restore ecological function and resiliency. Without industry, there is no way to pay for the work that everyone, including loggers and environmentalists, now knows needs to be done. Meanwhile, our precious forests will continue to die off and/or burn. The current timber industry has retracted so far, and is still so focused on large trees--and lucrative salvage logging of the standing dead--that it is not useful at all in addressing this problem. Unfortunately, it's good business to let the forests continue to die.

STW recently received a grant from the US Forest Service to start a bi-state Wood Utilization Team working in California and Nevada in the Central Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Saving the West: A Whole Systems Proposal in Brief from Helen and Newton Harrison on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

First Poet in Residence at CCI

"The Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) is a unique collaboration between the University of Cambridge and leading internationally-focused biodiversity conservation organisations clustered in and around Cambridge, UK.  
CCI seeks to transform the global understanding and conservation of biodiversity and the natural capital it represents and, through this, secure a sustainable future for all life on Earth. The CCI partners together combine and integrate research, education, policy and practice to create innovative solutions for society and to foster conservation learning and leadership."

Matt Howard from RSPB on sabbatical at CCI as our first Poet in Residence.

Matt works in Fundraising for the RSPB Eastern England team. He will be spending his month of sabbatical time at CCI as our first poet in residence, starting on Monday 14 August.

Part of Matt’s role with RSPB is to explore engagement with the arts and he is the lead on the RSPB / The Rialto Nature and Place poetry competition which now additionally partners with CCI and BirdLife.

Matt’s poetry has been published in leading international magazines and journals such as The Poetry Review, New Statesman and The Dark Horse. His debut pamphlet, The Organ Box, was published in 2014.

Throughout his sabbatical, Matt will be based in the Artist in Residence studio (floor 2M of the East Tower). He will break his time up into one week a month, and he will also be at CCI some Fridays over the next few months.

In addition to providing Matt with time to write and network at CCI, the residency has a number of ambitions, all with the aim to gain a deeper understanding of how creative writing can help provide public engagement opportunities and deliver conservation objectives. Matt will be working to:
  • Host poetry events at CCI with leading poets
  • Develop the Nature and Place competition to increase its fundraising potential
  • Work with Modern Poetry in Translation magazine on an issue of international environmental poetry
  • Facilitate opportunities for other early career poets to engage with CCI to produce new work for publication and performance.
Matt will also offer colleagues from CCI member organisations opportunities to engage with the residency. Opportunities include:
  • One to ones with people interested in developing their own writing and reading
  • Establish a workshop group for those interested in writing new poems
  • Joining a mailing list to receive a fortnightly poem from the existing canon on a nature / conservation theme, with an explanatory note by him.
Matt is contactable on, please do get in touch if you are interested in getting involved. Information on the intranet can be found here.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Art of Exoplanets

"...Hurt and Pyle, who render vibrant visualizations based on data from Spitzer and other missions, are hybrids of sorts, blending expertise in both science and art. From squiggles on charts and columns of numbers, they conjure red, blue and green worlds, with half-frozen oceans or bubbling lava...Visualizations based on data can also inform science, leading to genuine scientific insights...For Hurt, the real goal of scientific illustration is to excite the public, engage them in the science, and provide a snapshot of scientific knowledge."
"We kind of cover each other's blind spots a bit"
" is as much a historical record of our changing understanding of the universe as the textbooks we write." -- Robert Hurt, IPAC Center
Read article here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Science Needs Story

A recent article in Medium has some good advice:
"Scientists need to tell their stories — stories about why they became scientists and what science has done and is doing for humanity. Remember, science is an abstract, intellectual process for most people. It is very hard for people to gain an emotional connection to science. That’s what narrative is for."
"Top GOP messaging strategist Frank Luntz gave this advice in his infamous 2002 memo to conservatives and team Bush about how to pretend you care about the climate while opposing serious action: 'A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth.' ...scientists have been trained to depersonalize their speeches, to speak literally, not figuratively. As a result, it has been easy for the Luntz-Trump crowd to create stories in which scientists are the villains."
The article recommends this book for advice on crafting stories: Houston, We Have A Narrative: Why Science Needs Story, by marine biologist turned filmmaker, Randy Olson:
"Olson first diagnoses the problem: When scientists tell us about their work, they pile one moment and one detail atop another moment and another detail—a stultifying procession of “and, and, and.” What we need instead is an understanding of the basic elements of story, the narrative structures that our brains are all but hardwired to look for—which Olson boils down, brilliantly, to “And, But, Therefore,” or ABT. At a stroke, the ABT approach introduces momentum (“And”), conflict (“But”), and resolution (“Therefore”)—the fundamental building blocks of story."

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Trouble with Scientism: Why history and the humanities are also a form of knowledge

"While replicable fact is the domain of science, human perception and value are the domains of art and the humanities."

This New Republic article from 2012 is an excellent rebuttal to the "scientism," of those who argue that the arts and humanities are somehow less reliable and useful than science:
If Marx and Freud are favorite whipping boys for those worried about the [validity of the humanities], the compliment is readily returned...nineteenth-century physics and chemistry [were infested] with the proliferation of “ether theories.” No less a figure than Maxwell even characterized the ether as “the best confirmed entity in [science].
Rigorous mathematical studies of gene-cultural coevolution reveal that when natural selection combines with cultural transmission, the outcomes reached may differ from those that would have been produced by natural selection acting alone, and that the cultural processes involved can be sustained under natural selection...culture appears to be at some level autonomous and in some sense irreducible, and this is what scientism cannot grasp.
But there is still a deeper reason for the enduring importance of the humanities. Many scientists and commentators on science have been led to view the sciences as a value-free zone...Yet on a broader view, which explores the purposes and their origins, it becomes clear that judgments of the significance of particular questions profoundly affect the work done and the environments in which it is done. Behind the complex and often strikingly successful practices of contemporary science stands a history of selecting specific aspects of the world for investigation.
What we discover depends on the questions taken to be significant, and the selection of those questions, as well as the decision of which factors to set aside in seeking answers to them, presupposes judgments about what is valuable. Those are not only, or mainly, scientific judgments. In their turn, new discoveries modify the landscape in which further investigations will take place, and because what we learn affects how evidence is assessed, discovery shapes the evolution of our standards of evidence. Judgments of value thus pervade the environment in which scientific work is done. If they are made, as they should be, in light of the broadest and deepest reflections on human life and its possibilities, then good science depends on contributions from the humanities and the arts. Perhaps there is even a place for philosophy.
Healthy relationships between the sciences and the humanities should aspire to the condition of the best marriages—to a partnership in which different strengths and styles are acknowledged and appreciated, in which a fruitful division of labor constantly evolves, in which constructive criticism is given and received, in which neither party can ever make a plausible claim to absolute authority, and in which the ultimate goal is nothing less than the furtherance of the human good. 
 Read the complete article here.

On Sustainability and Art: artist Hannalie Coetzee

Fire-created artwork.
ART AFRICA looks at the practice of artist Hannelie Coetzee. "Hannelie Coetzee’s artwork draws attention to our warped relationship with nature through pragmatic, solution oriented interventions."

The article also includes highlights of a fascinating discussion between the artist's associates and collaborators.

Some interesting quotes from the article:
The more intuitive approach of artists can provide a window into the complex models, calculations and simulations of the scientific world… Natural world issues require more than just a technical fix. They require systems of thinking and creativity to imagine and illustrate the best possible solutions. -- Prof. Caroline Digby from the Wits Centre for Sustainability in Mining and Industry
Sustainability is not primarily a scientific problem; rather, it requires us as citizens, communities and societies to rethink the way in which we live our personal lives… This requires engaging the hearts, minds and imaginations of a wide set of people across many different spheres of society. Artists have a particularly important role to play in this regard – not only in creating a space that can help bridge and connect between different actors, but in contributing and opening our minds to completely new ways of seeing the world and our place in it. -- Dr. Reinette Biggs of the Stockholm Resilience Institute and the University of Stellenbosch
How can art and science integrate into a discipline or collaboration that aids transformative understanding?

Art is the expression of creative ideas that are likely informed by prior knowledge but not restricted by natural, economic or social rules. Science is a knowledge that we have built through methodical enquiry over many generations into how nature, economics and society work. When art is introduced into science, it gives permission to seek different ways of addressing the same problem. It enables one to leapfrog or do a U-turn. As stated in New Roles for Art Are Clarified (Carney 2010), Tim Collins declares that, “while replicable fact is the domain of science, human perception and value are the domains of art and the humanities. – Philipp Kirsch, University of Queensland

How do such partnerships reach wider audiences?

I have been astounded by how much easier it is to interest people in the science when it is encompassed in an artwork. Before, I was only talking to the small community of people who were already thinking about these issues. People like the art – and they like the idea that the art has some scientifc substance behind it. Some, not all of them, want to know more details about our science questions and I am challenged to maintain their interest and expand it. – Sally Archibald, WITS
How can partnerships between artists and scientists contribute to resilient systems and change?

The data on climate change is indisputable, but how does one develop an emotional appreciation of the potential consequences? I think this must come through experience and art is a fantastic mechanism to develop emotional experiences and consider possibilities. – Caroline Lehmann, Biogeography, University of Edinburgh

How has an artist’s work influenced your work and vice versa?

Hannelie sometimes brings aspects that I think of as ‘outside’ the system, into the discussion. At its simplest, ecology is the study of the interactions between organisms and their environment and it is refreshing to have a different take on the shape and form of these interactions. – Sally Archibald

I started to write a conference paper about the potential to re-imagine mining overburden as a building material. To change the way that the industry framed everything as waste rock, waste dumps, waste piles etc. In researching this, I uncovered the genre of Land Art. These artists have given considerable thought to moving earth to make art. I strongly believe in the potential for artists to create not just new mine closure landscapes, but to also drive improved community relations when working side-by-side with the engineers and financial managers in mine planning and operations. – Phillip Kirsch

Read complete article here.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Field Notes of a Terranaut

Artist Alan MacDonald was inspired by the notebooks of DaVinci and Michelangelo to create his recent work, Field Notes of a Terranaut. MacDonald has some lucid ideas about the creative process:
"Our senses filter out vast amounts of information unessential for survival of the body-organism. Yet still, a trickle of information enters the mind experienced as intuition, a creative spark. Aha moments. Truly creative artists are in a sense mystics, 'receiving' non local information in order to co-create local objects that inspire and extend consciousness."
I would argue that this statement applies to truly creative scientists, as well: they notice things that the rest of us filter out. Perhaps we lack a term for the truly creative perception that distinguishes transformative art and science from the merely pedestrian?

Codex Gunnison

Codex Gunnison is an art project that explores a poorly studied natural phenomenon in the Gunnison arm of the Great Salt Lake, UT. This bay is the saltiest water body on earth, yet it still manages to host life: a peculiar, salt-loving microbe that colors the bay's water pink and creates rock-like forms on the ground.
"Codex Gunnison is a mediative engagement with a unique and understudied ecological condition. It is also an effort to reimagine artistic practice as a speculative and vibrantly humanistic material science capable of interacting with and enriching conventional modes of objective inquiry. It does so by reframing representation as a process of critical engagement with the methodological frameworks employed by scientists with the artist manipulating the scope, aims, and outcomes of formal research."
Isn't this just a perhaps overly post-structural way of describing Natural History?

If so, it's nice to get back to that effort, which combined passion and close observation to gain understanding of natural phenomena before there was a structured practice of science to do that. Natural History combined artistic and analytical thinking and skills in a powerful way that has to some extent been lost in the process of science becoming more technical and fragmented.

These Nine Artists Will Help You Understand the Future of the Planet

Smithsonian curator Joanna Marsh highlights 9 contemporary artists whose practices are conscious-raising and problem-solving. Here are some quotes from the full article:
"Part of the reason that there is a lot of public inaction around climate change and environmental issues more broadly is because the science isn't communicated in an accessible way that triggers emotional responses and curiosity on the part of the public." -- Joanna Marsh
"I frankly believe we’re at a moment where we have some really big problems and we need as many minds that can come together from as many different perspectives as possible to address these issues because we’re not going to resolve them just within one field of study." -- Krista Caballero
"One of the challenges of our time is that people feel disconnected from – perhaps even insensitive to – the world’s great problems. We do not see ourselves as agents in a global society. Climate change, poverty, war, and illness are all challenges that vie for our attention. The overwhelming avalanche of information in society today, coupled with the PR efforts aimed directly at us, as individuals, have resulted in many of us accepting that something has to be done. Yet there is a huge gap between what we know and what we feel. How can we translate knowledge into action, and really change our behavior? Of course, it is necessary to present the facts and data supporting climate change science, but this is not where action begins. Only by embodying knowledge can we gain a sense of responsibility and commitment." -- Olafur Eliasson

Monday, June 12, 2017

Request for Journal Submissions

Dear Community:

Mapping Meaning is pleased to announce that submissions are being accepted for the first issue of Mapping Meaning, the Journal


Submission Deadline: August 31, 2017
Notification Date: January 1, 2018
Publication: May, 2018


How might interdisciplinary practices promote a reconsideration of the role that humanity plays in a more-than-human world?

In a deeply fragmented and disciplined-based world, Mapping Meaning creates a space to encounter divergent approaches toward “surveying” landscapes in the face of radical global change and ecological and social crises.

Inspired by a photograph from 1918 depicting an all-female survey crew, Mapping Meaning supports the creative work and scholarship of all those working at the margins and ecotones.

In its inaugural issue, Mapping Meaning, the Journal, seeks submissions that cross and/or challenge traditional boundaries between social, psychological and environmental ecologies with the greatest potential to revitalize dialogue and foster alternative narratives. We solicit work from scientists, humanists, and artists from within or outside the academy and are especially interested in field-based research and learning. Work will be reviewed by issue editors and the editorial board (please see website for details).

  • Experimental Knowledge Practices that utilize divergent approaches to address issues of ecological complexity in our physical, social, and spiritual worlds.
  • Collaborative Methodologies showing examples across discipline, distance, and generation.
  • (Re)Surveying Scholarship and Creative Work that uncovers unrecognized histories.


SciArt Center Microgrant: "Nature as Muse"

"Nature as Muse" Microgrants

Deadline to apply: June 16th, 2017
Grant award: $200

Grant theme:

The theme of this grant is "Nature as Muse" and is intended for artists, scientists, or transdisciplinary practitioners who draw inspiration from nature in her varied forms, contexts, and scales. This grant aims to help the grantee bring an existing project to completion. 

What we're looking for:
Are you almost done with a large-scale painting related to nature that you need some extra funds to purchase paint for? Are you $200 away from collecting your final specimens for analysis? Is there a piece of equipment that would bring your project or research to the next level? We're looking for applicants that have existing projects that are close to completion but need some help to get there. Preference will be given to trans-, cross-, and multi-disciplinary projects. Such projects include art works that engage science and nature, science research that engages nature and aesthetics, and the like.

More info here.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Bridge: Experiments in Science and Art, CFP

Are you a performance artist interested in collaborating with a geologist? Are you a programmer looking to interact with an art historian? Are you a poet who wants to work with an expert in the birth of the universe? Are you a microbiologist seeking to visualize your findings with the help of a sculptor?

"The Bridge: Experiments in Science & Art" is now open for applications. This virtual collaborative residency program creates pairs of cross-disciplinary professionals who embark on a fourth month long collaboration of their own devising. In this open call format, we find the best three pairs based on fitness, to help you meet the collaborator of your professional dreams. Each pair - which often span geographies - collaborates to inform each other's work, as well as create something new. With an emphasis on exploring the natural process of collaboration, "The Bridge" residents are not bound by rules or expectations, and are limited only by each collaboration's imagination.

Deadline to apply: July 5, 2017
Residency period: September 1 - December 31, 2017

More info here.

Open Science: Singularity and Irruption on the Frontiers of Artistic Practice

"'Open Science: Singularity and Irruption on the Frontiers of Artistic Practice' is research that deals with the work done by artists who [are trained in and] use scientific methodologies for their work production."

The publication proposes that when artists undertake science, their questions, methodologies and results are different than those of non-artistic scientists, and based in their very different "premises, ethics, prior knowledge, liberties, problematizations and aesthetics."

"The publication works with the hypothesis that art can produce knowledge, reviewing the relationship between art and science, based on interviews with five artists residing in different countries: Dmitry Bulatov (Russian Federation), Susana Soares (Portugal), Rachel Mayeri (USA), Gilberto Esparza (Mexico) and Perdita Phillips (Australia)."

Perception Is Not Static

It turns out that people with different personalities actually see different things. Artists and scientists, with their highly divergent training and experience, also see differently. Putting them to work on the same problems offers the potential for greater discovery, since we generally see what we expect to see, not what is really there.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Research support for art/sci intersections

The Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS) is dedicated to
fostering and supporting integrative scholarship addressing ultimate
questions at the intersection of the arts, engineering, the
humanities, law, and the formal, natural, and social sciences,
especially those that transcend disciplinary boundaries.

Research Support
The NDIAS offers residential fellowships for periods ranging from
three weeks to a full academic year (fall and spring semesters, August
through May). Fellowships range up to a maximum of $60,000 (gross
amount) per academic year (up to a maximum of $30,000 [gross amount]
per semester) or pro-rated amounts for shorter periods. In addition,
fellows who do not reside in the greater Michiana area are provided
with subsidized visiting faculty housing located adjacent to the
University during their fellowship. Applicants who require additional
support beyond the fellowship stipend should seek supplementary
funding in the form of external grants or sabbatical and other
contributions from their home institutions. When preferable due to
reasons such as faculty retirement contributions, ongoing employment,
or the tracking of external funding, the NDIAS will pay a fellowship
stipend directly to a Fellow’s home institution.

Application Instructions

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Mechanisms of discovery

Discovery is the creation of new knowledge. Both art and science are ways of combining previously unrelated elements to create this new knowledge.
"In designing this project, I have been looking for the right proportions and contrasts that set associations in motion, that invite the sort of very human experience of engaging through curiosity and being rewarded with discoveries...I think it’s an important skill to be able to read things in multiple and often contradictory ways." -- Artist Todd Gilens
But what are the mechanisms involved in this discovery process? The philosopher David Hume argued convincingly that the human mind does not invent: it combines previously unrelated elements to create something new:
"What never was seen, nor heard of, may yet be conceived; nor is anything beyond the power of thought, except what implies an absolute contradiction...But though our thought seems to possess this unbounded liberty, we shall find upon a nearer examination, that it is really confined within very narrow limits, and that all this creative power of the mind amounts to no more than the faculty of compounding, transposing, augmenting or diminishing the materials afforded us by the senses and experience. When we think of a golden mountain, we only join two consistent ideas, gold, and mountain, with which we were formerly acquainted." 
"If all we had to go on were impressions and ideas, we could not do much more than have perceptions and notice past experiences. Hume, however, develops a powerful account of the mind by identifying the ways in which ideas may be related to one another. We can mentally link ideas together in three ways:
  1. Resemblance: A and B share similar features;
  2. Contiguity: A and B occur together in space and/or time;
  3. Cause and Effect: A brings B about.
...Hume argues that all human beliefs [and mental processes] result from applications of these simple associations. From our simple ideas and associations we build very complex systems of thought and belief. Yet, no matter how complex an idea or belief system, it is always possible in principle to analyze it into its simpler component parts: ideas and relations between them.

This theory of mind and method of analysis provided the tools that Hume used to arrive at remarkable conclusions about knowledge, understanding, metaphysics, the self, morality, justice, religious belief, and a host of other key philosophical topics." Much of Hume's work has been confirmed by later science. Read more here.
* * *

So, how does someone actually effect this productive recombination? Artists and inventors have a particular need for novelty; here are a few of the tools they have used to explore new hybrid ideas:

Surrealism is an art movement creating artworks that feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur. The result was achieved by by combining conscious and unconscious awareness, with the goal of effecting social change.
  • Inventor Thomas Edison also famously accessed the power of his unconscious mind by power-napping at his desk with a handful of ball bearings. When he drifted off to sleep his hand would relax, dropping the heavy metal balls to the floor. The noise woke him to record his unconscious answer to whatever question his conscious mind had been pondering.
  • Artist Salvador Dali used the same technique with a spoon and metal plate. Dali was intrigued with the images which "occur at the boundary between sleeping and waking that occur when people are falling asleep, or when they are starting to wake up. These images tend to be extremely vivid, colorful and bizarre".
  • Though it slightly predated the Surrealists, Freud's work with free association, dream analysis, and the unconscious mirrored and inspired their goals. Despite significant errors, Freudian analysis led to a revolution in psychology, ultimately transforming it from essentially voodoo into a more scientific discipline.

Humor uses startling juxtaposition of apparently unrelated elements to convey new concepts, and to build new coping mechanisms and emotional connection to the ideas and the people expressing them:
"Humor also bestows social, psychological, and physical benefits. It attracts attention and admiration, softens criticism, delineates social boundaries, and alleviates conflict between people with different worldviews (Gervais & Wilson, 2005; Keltner, Capps, Kring, Young, & Heerey, 2001; Martin, 2007). Humor even helps people cope with anxiety, embarrassment, grief, and physical pain (Gervais & Wilson, 2005; Keltner & Bonanno, 1997; Martin, 2007)."
The roots of humor include:
  • Being reflective of, or imitative of reality 
  • Surprise/misdirection
  • Contradiction/paradox
  • Ambiguity
The comedian Roland Atkinson goes so far as to state that a person or object can become funny in one of only three ways: by being in an unusual place, by behaving in an unusual way, or by being the wrong size. 

Perhaps because of its transformative power, humor itself has often been seen as subversive: in Confucian China, in the medieval Islamic world (where comedy was dissociated from Greek drama and re-associated with Arabic poetic forms), and in more modern culture, where jokes can unite, or at the expense of national, religious or social identities can work to enforce tribalism, misogyny and racism.

However, for its transformative capacity humor is often seen as the enemy of fanaticism. In fact, "the topic of whether Christ ever laughed was hotly debated by theologians over many centuries. So, if Christ never laughed, and priests should be models of Christ, then humor and laughter were counter to true religion" (which is conservative and rejects re-interpretation).

Magic upends expectation, exploiting object behavior that obviously must be following the laws of physics, yet appears to break them. Artist and inventor John Edmark says,

Explanation of the strobe effect seen in Edmark's dynamic sculptures:

Source: Removable Thumb Magic Trick by ViralHog on Rumble

Emily Dickinson’s Herbarium: A Forgotten Treasure at the Intersection of Science and Poetry

 "In an era when the scientific establishment barred and bolted its gates to women, botany allowed Victorian women to enter science through the permissible backdoor of art, most famously in Beatrix Potter’s scientific drawings of mushrooms and Margaret Gatty’s stunning illustrated classification of seaweed. Across the Atlantic, this art-science adventure in botany found an improbable yet impassioned practitioner in one of humanity’s most beloved and influential poets: Emily Dickinson (December 10, 1830–May 15, 1886). 
Long before she began writing poems, Dickinson undertook a rather different yet unexpectedly parallel art of contemplation and composition — the gathering, growing, classification, and pressing of flowers, which she saw as manifestations of the Muse not that dissimilar to poems."

Read entire article here.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Society for Arts and Technology Annual Symposium on Immersion

Founded in 1996, the SAT is a non-profit organization internationally recognized for its active and leading role in the development of immersive technologies and virtual reality by the creative use of high-speed networks. The Satosphère is the first permanent immersive environment dedicated to activities related to artistic creation and visualization. Its dome forms a spherical 360-degree projection screen.


I'm Marine from the Society for Arts and Technology in Montreal. I'm contacting you to let you know about our annual Symposium on Immersion that is coming on May 30th, 2017 and promises to be a very rich edition.

50 renowned guests from all over the world (researchers, artists, developers, designers) will be present to talk about the body and how it connects to virtual spaces! Amongst other the artist-curator Ghislaine Boddington (UK) will be here, as well as the sound artist Atau Tanaka (JP) and the women that founded the innovative platform eleVR. In total, we will have 6 conferences, 11 workshops & masterclasses, VR films, specialized presentations but also 9 astonishing original immersive performances in the dome that merge several disciplines.

You'll find more information here.

If you're interested, just let me know!


Marine Gourit
Relations publiques & médias
Public & Media Relations
Société des arts technologiques [SAT]
Society for Arts and Technology [SAT]
(438) 345-1864

art*science 2017 - The New and History

From YASMIN...


“art*science 2017”, July 3 – 5 2017, Bologna (Italy), is an International conference on the relationship between artistic and scientific disciplines, curated by Pier Luigi Capucci and the cultural association La Comunicazione Diffusa. art*science 2017 topic is “Il nuovo e la storia” (The New and History), and will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the journal “Leonardo”, published by MIT Press, the most influential in the international arena on the relationships among arts, sciences and technologies.

“art*science” conference will be attended by scholars, artists, scientists, cultural operators, companies and Italian, European and International institutions engaged in supporting art/science projects.

“art*science” will be also the opportunity for a meeting among the participants to Yasmin, a mailing list on the relationship between art and science in the Mediterranean rim. A discussion on Yasmin will introduce the topics of “art*science 2017” conference.

Preliminary schedule for the conference events:

  • Day 1, July 3, 2017 - Reception of participants, including a buffet, installations and a show.
  • Day 2, July 4, 2017 - Leonardo & Yasmin presentations and conference. Presentations of European Institutions and Centers working in art/science. Art/science projects in Europe and Italy.
  • Day 3, July 5, 2017 - “Art and Complexity” conference. “The two Cultures - Rebuilding the Bridge among Science, Art, Philosophy” conference.

A Yasmin dinner is planned for the second or third evening.

“art*science 2017” main topics are:

  1. The idea of “new”. What is really the “new”, what is the meaning of the “new” and “innovation”. It is today a very inflated issue, everything must be “new”, “innovative” to get attention, to be considered, to get money. But are we really sure that “innovation” has the same meaning for a scientist, an artist, a philosopher, a sociologist, a researcher, a banker, a CEO, an athlete…? What does “innovation” implies, what does really mean? How can innovation be recognized, communicated, fostered, sustained and spread?
  2. The Countries in the Mediterranean Rim, and more in general all European countries, have a long history and heritage in art and culture, that can be valued through new disciplines, sciences and technologies. "The New and History", which is the general art*science title, suggests a relationship between two concepts seemingly in opposition, that instead can and must coexist. The "new", "innovation," has its foundation in history but it can and must revive its heritage in the future, through arts, scientific disciplines and technologies. This is a key element, from cultural, historical, social and economic viewpoints.
  3. There is much current discussion these days of initiatives to integrate the arts/design/humanities into science/engineering/medicine - sometimes called "Stem to Steam" in the USA. This is a very old historical discussion on the need for inter/trans-disciplinary problem driven research. [See Ed Wilson's 1998 idea of "consilience" (, which was criticised for its reductive and unifying approach, and Slingerland and Collard 2011 book ( which emphasised that integration of ways of knowing does not imply unification].

The topic of the preliminary discussion on Yasmin is:

“Countries in the Mediterranean Rim, and more in general European countries, have a long history and heritage in art and culture, which can be shared and revamped through new disciplines, sciences and technologies. History and cultural heritage must go beyond the status of precious and extraordinary assets just considered in a logic of past preservation. They can be projected into the future fostering the "new", "innovation," promoting new projects and agreements, through arts, scientific disciplines and technologies. History and cultural heritage can become key elements from cultural, historical, social as well as economic viewpoints, they can act as observatories of issues which combine past, present and future, fostering new economic and professional areas.”

The discussion will be moderated by Roger Malina, Nina Czegledy and Pier Luigi Capucci. Invited discussants/Respondents are:

Pau Alsina - (Spain)
Pau Alsina, is a Philosopher from Barcelona, Lecturer at the Arts and Humanities Department of the Open University of Catalonia where he coordinates, teaches and does research in the Art and Contemporary Thought area. He also teaches Digital Aesthetics, Media Art History and Art Epistemology at the Master’s degree of Media Art Curatorship, in the ESDI Higher School of Design - Ramon Llull University. Since 2002 is Director of the ARTNODES Journal of Art, Science and Technology, where he coordinated special issues on Arts and Sciences such as Mathematics, Biology or Complexity Sciences. He has authored /coauthored several publications on Art, Science and Technology and Contemporary Philosophy. He is now member of the Board of Trustees of Hangar Foundation, a Barcelona center for artistic production and research. He has also co-curated exhibitions such as "Cultures of Change: social atoms and electronic lives" (2009-2010) at Arts Santa Monica Center, or co-chaired Symposia like “Synergy: encounters between Art, Sciences and Thought” (2011), International Conferences such as Art Matters (2014) Interface Politics (2016) or Art and Speculative Futures (2016). With a strong interdisciplinary background he has been doing research in four areas which he tends to blend: 1) Software Studies and Bioart. 2) Media Archaeology 3) New Materialist Philosophies. 4) Science and Technology Studies applied to the study of Art and Design. @paualsina

Elif Ayiter - (Turkey)
Elif Ayiter is a designer, educator and researcher whose creative interests are based in three dimensional online virtual worlds and their avatars, as well as in developing and implementing hybrid educational methodologies between art & design and computer science. She teaches full time at Sabanci University in Istanbul. Her texts have been published at academic journals such as the Leonardo Electronic Almanac, the Journal of Consciousness Studies, the Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds, International Journal of Art, Culture and Design Technologies, and Technoetic Arts, and she has authored many book chapters in edited academic books. She has presented creative as well as research output at conferences such as Consciousness Reframed, Siggraph, Creativity and Cognition, SPIE, Computational Aesthetics and Cyberworlds.

Wafa Bourkhis - (Tunisia)
Wafa Bourkhis is a Tunisian multidisciplinary artist (painting, engraving, digital art, video art), she has exhibited her artworks in many cultural events and spaces. She has collaborated with many international artists, like Fred Forest, Mark Skwarek, Patrick Lichty, etc. She has achieved her PhD in 2013, entitled “Les territoires numériques comme espaces de création artistique”, to have her title as Doctor in sciences and techniques of arts at Universities of Tunis and Artois (France). She is working as Assistant professor in fine arts at the High institute of Multimedia arts at Mannouba University.

Roberta Buiani - (Italy)
Roberta Buiani is an interdisciplinary artist, media scholar and curator based in Toronto. She is the co-founder of the ArtSci Salon at the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences (Toronto) and a co-organizer of LASER Toronto. Her work explores how scientific and technological mechanisms translate, encode and transform the natural and human world, and how these processes may be re-purposed by relocating them into different venues. Her work is mobile, itinerant and collaborative. She brought it to art festivals (Transmediale 2011, Hemispheric Institute Encuentro, Brazil 2013), community centers (the Free Gallery Toronto, Immigrant Movement International, Queens), science institutions (RPI) and the streets of Toronto. Recently, with The Cabinet Project she proposed an experiment in "squatting academia”, by populating abandoned spaces with SciArt installations. She holds a PhD in Communication and Culture from York University (CAN). For more information and to read her publications go to

Giorgio Cipolletta - (Italy)
Giorgio Cipolletta is a transdisciplinary artist and media-theorist. In 2012 he earned a PhD in Information and Communication Theory. At the time he is adjunct professor of Visual Art and Technology at University of Macerata. He is member of the media editorial staff of Noema / Mediaversi / Rivista di Scienze sociali. He works as a layout freelancer for the University Press of Macerata (eum). He participated to National and International conferences and in 2016 he was research-chef for the LaCura Summer School. He has published in academic journals (Flusser Studies, Heteroglossia) and his first book is "Metrobodily passages. For an aesthetics of transition", eum, Macerata 2014. He won International poem prizes. He participated also in National exhibitions with multimedia installations and performances (Corpus 2012, Chaos 2013, BodyQuake 2017). In 2014 he was a fonding partner and vicepresident of Crash (Creative Art Shocking).

Salvatore Iaconesi - (Italy)
Salvatore Iaconesi is an interaction designer, robotics engineer, artist, hacker. TED Fellow 2012, Eisenhower Fellow since 2013 and Yale World Fellow 2014. He teaches Near Future Design and Multi Platform Digital Design at ISIA Design Florence and, in the past, at “La Sapienza” University of Rome, at the Rome University of Fine Arts and at the IED Design institute. Salvatore has founded AOS in 2004, is President at HER (previously HE), and co-founder at Nefula. His focus is at the intersection of Arts, Design, Technologies, Sciences and Business. He creates projects that are at the same time artworks, scientific research and business models, addressing fundamental issues in culture, inclusion, human rights, economy and access to knowledge and education.

Katerina Karoussos - (Greece)
Katerina Karoussos is an intermedia artist. From 2012-2016 she was the Director of I-Node of the Planetary Collegium, the Greek node for doctoral and postdoctoral studies (School of Arts and Media) of University of Plymouth. From 2004 until 2015 he worked as a freelancer in the Greek Academy of Fine Arts in Athens at the Byzantine Art Studio. She holds a PhD from Plymouth University and a Master from Middlesex University. Karoussos has participated in many international conferences (ISEA, Aber, Dimea, Consciousness Reframed Series etc). She has published in many academic journals (Metaverse Creativity, Technoetic Arts etc.). Apart from her artwork as a mural painter in Orthodox churches, she has participated in many international exhibitions (Athens, Japan, New York, Frankfurt, Montenegro, Cuba, etc.). Recently Karoussos has founded ‘The Karoussos Archives’, the premier center for the study of Theōria and Karoussos Chapel, where she works as a moistmedia fresco painter.

Živa Ljubec - (Slovenia)
Živa Ljubec is a transdisciplinary researcher, trespassing disciplinary boundaries, avoiding the differentiation of researchers into artists and scientists, and attempting to mutate into a polyphibian – a “continuously newborn species with acute multisided awareness.” Her work expands beyond disciplinary research into polyphibionics – the “non-discipline” that derives solutions from the non-representable and non-preservable living knowledge. Živa studied architecture and mathematics at the University of Ljubljana. She was awarded the PhD degree by the University of Plymouth for evolving transdisciplinarity into an imaginary organism of living knowledge. In addition to actively spreading her ideas through art interventions, exhibitions and conferences worldwide, Živa was formerly a lecturer at AVA – Academy of Visual Arts in Ljubljana, where she developed a course on Transmedia / Media Theory. Being invited by her mentor Roy Ascott to lecture at his Technoetic Art Studio based at SIVA – Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts, Živa became the Coordinator of the Advanced Degree Course in Technoetic Arts as well as Director of Studies in the Detao Node of doctoral and post-doc programme Planetary Collegium, based at Plymouth University. The experience in the midst of the fastest developing regions of Far East provided Živa an opportunity to rethink the paradigms of Eastern and Western, ancient and modern connections between art and technology, thus informing her current projects.

Oriana Persico - (Italy)
Oriana Persico holds a degree in Communication Sciences, is an expert in participatory policies and digital inclusion. She is an artist and writer. She has worked together with national governments and the European Union to the creation of best practices, standards and researches in the areas of digital rights, social and technological innovation, Digital Business Ecosystems (DBE), practices for participation and knowledge sharing. Oriana writes critical, scientific, philosophical and poetical texts that connects to technological innovation, and on its cultural, sociological, economic and political impacts. She is an expert on the formal analysis of cultural and social trends, with specific focus on social networks. She creates breakthrough communication campaigns, performances, research methodologies and strategies.

Elena Giulia Rossi - (Italy)
Elena Giulia Rossi lives and works in Rome. Her research and experience have been addressing contemporary art and its relation with technology. Oscillating between tradition and modernity, and under a socio-anthropological perspective. With a degree in History of Art from the University of Roma La Sapienza (1999), she gained a MA in Arts Administration from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago (2002). She has been collaborating with different galleries and institutions in Italy and abroad, such as the MAXXI Museum (Rome, 2003-2012), P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center (New York 2001); The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago (2002); the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago (2002), and Studio Stefania Miscetti (Rome 2004-2005). She has been writing regularly for catalogues and magazines. She is the author of Archeonet (Lalli: Siena, 2003), and the editor of Eduardo Kac: Move 36 (Filigranes Éditions: Paris, 2005). She currently teaches Net Art and Theory of Multimedia Art at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome and she is founder and editorial director of the multidisciplinary platform Arshake (www.arshake).


Pier Luigi Capucci
via Rovigo, 8
48016 Milano Marittima (RA)
Tel.: +39 (0) 544 976156
Mobile: +39 348 3889844
skype: plcapucci

Monday, May 8, 2017

"Dan Goods, JPL's science seer"

Dan Goods, "Out There" at JPL.

This article from the LA Times archive profiles Dan Goods: Jet Propulsion Labs' resident "Visual Strategist". Some quotes from Dan:
"I love the theme of seeing the unseen." 
"Everyone should have the opportunity to have a moment of awe about the universe. If I can create that, then I feel I've been successful."

"I've always had a good reaction [from scientists]. Sometimes their inner geek comes out: 'How did you do that?' These are huge problems these people are working on, really difficult and technical, and sometimes they forget about the big picture. So when I show them something, they're like, 'Yeah, that's why I'm doing this.' Now people come to me when they want something from a different perspective. They say, 'Oh, we should just go talk to Dan.'"
See more of Dan's work at his website:

And on his Vimeo channel:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Interlochen Arts Academy land art

Brief Summary of the Project:
This new collaborative project that uses “land” as a genre to bring visiting artists, scientists, and land use planners together with high school art and ecology students.

After conducting a Forestry Management Plan, Interlochen Center for the Arts identified about 70 acres of pine plantation on our campus that need to be selectively harvested and re-forested with native hardwood trees. Ten acres of this land have been identified as a study site for ecology and visual art students to document changes in biodiversity, soil and carbon capture as a result of the timbering process. We have the opportunity to create a permanent land art installation commemorating and responding to the process.

Two classes that run simultaneously in Math/Science and Visual Arts allow students to collaborate on the project. The design of a public trail system that runs through the land-art installation provides accessible recreation to our students and the community and raises awareness about the importance of protection, regeneration, conservation and the role art has in making the process meaningful.

The impact of this collaborative project reaches beyond our students and the land on our campus to the people in our community and will hopefully be a model of how to use art to invite the public into environmentally important projects nationwide.

Project Description: Due to the generosity of WilsonArt, funds are available to both study the pine plantation before, during and after timbering, and to involve students, faculty and visiting artists in a land art installation in the subject area. Our proposed plan has the following elements:
  1. The subject area will be timbered in late 2017 / early 2018.
  2. In the school year 2017 - 18, Johnny Hunt, visual arts instructor, will offer a landscape art course, based in the Visual Arts Division, open to students of all majors. Mary Ellen Newport, Director of Math and Science / Ecology instructor, will teach an ecology class that is offered at the same time as the art course. Ecologists and artists will study ecology and landscape art separately, and then have the occasion to work together in the studio and in the field on art and science.
  3. A visiting artist will be brought in to work with instructors to plan, design, create, and ultimately install the land art project in a 10 acre area of the timbered pine off Riley Road. Elements of the plan will consider some or all of these themes:

    • Regeneration
    • Invitation / initiation / blessing of new forest
    • The replacement of the plantation with the natural
    • The way that forests and art are shaped by the passage of time
    • The creation of a special place, a grove, a sanctuary, a nursery; a space that may or may not be able to acknowledge native American sensibilities
    • The changing nature of a forest in the process of secondary succession
    • The role of (bio)diversity in creating stability

  4. Guest artists, native artists, scientists and land use planners will be brought in to deepen the experience between ecology and art. Plans for trails / paths, observation decks, planting regimes will be developed. The expectation is that some of the timbered wood from this plot could be used in building structures such as shelters for students doing data collection, bird observation decks over Bridge Lake.
  5. Here is what we have put together as a description for the artist(s) we have involved: Interlochen Arts Academy seeks collaboration with a visual artist to guide science and arts students in the creation of land art for a 10 acre pine plantation forest that will be transformed (over the years) into a native forest. There are scientific objectives to the project (document changes in soil, biodiversity and carbon storage) as well. Ideally the artist would be available to consult with students for 2 week period in the early fall 2017 (in residence), a time in late fall 2017 (by remote, if necessary) for two weeks in January 2018 (IAA's Inter*Mester program), and for a time TBD in the spring semester 2018.

Images of the land and the areas we are focusing on for this project. The zoomed in area near the lake is where the art would be installed. The pine plantation between Riley Road and Bridge Lake is the location of the project. The project location contains scrubby Scotch pine to the north and west, an irregularly shaped patch of red pine more centrally located, and a wetlands area with a path leading SW to Bridge Lake. The irregular patch is the location of the project.

Melinda Zacher Ronayne
Director of Visual Arts
Interlochen Center for the Arts

P: 231.276.7844

Interlochen Arts Camp | Arts Academy | College of Creative Arts | Presents | Public Radio

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Leonardo Abstract Services (LABS) for art/sci theses

Dear Faculty:

This is a reminder that you recommend to your students who have successfully finalized an MA, MFA or PhD thesis that in some way explores the intersection of art, science and/or technology to submit an abstract of their thesis to Leonardo Abstract Services (LABS). This database, which has over 500 thesis abstracts, can be found at

LABS offers an international platform for graduate work so that artists and scholars can participate in a dialogue with peers from around the world. Your support of their work and this project helps to invigorate the next generation and faculty who guide them. Thanks for your help with this.

All the best,

Sheila Pinkel
LABS English Language Coordinator

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Co-Evolution: Art and Biology in the Museum

Between 2010-2015, the University of New Mexico ran Advancing Integration of Museums into Undergraduate Programs (AIM-UP): a NSF Research Coordination Network program themed around natural history museum collections.

The goal of the RCN was to emphasize the critical current value of these collections by
"refining existing efforts and developing new integrated approaches to collections-based training in large-scale questions using the expertise of educators, curators, collection managers, database managers, and scientists whose work spans disciplines."
The program included field stations, as well.

As part of AIM-UP, in 2012 the museum ran a semester-long seminar called CO-EVOLUTION: Art + Biology in the Museum. The seminar connected art and science:
"Communication between fields is important within science but there also is a greater need for interdisciplinary exchange between biologists, artists, historians, and other researchers to share resources and methods for building collective knowledge. Such collaborations help identify the ties between cultural history and natural history, as we pose new questions and foster a more expansive approach to answering these questions by connecting their diverse histories. Collections can help foster the development of creativity, generative thinking, and rigorous inquiry that will be required of future leaders in research and practice. While scientific education and research offer rigorous methods for creating new knowledge, arts education and practice provide the tools to foster exploration."
The project created a blog that is a rich source of art/sci content and links. The blog was meant to be:
"A space for posting thoughts, ideas, references, resources, and works. The theme of our seminar and workshop series is 'Morphology and Geographic Variation.' We will use the natural history collection as our starting point and hear from scientists, artists, designers, programmers, musicians, and more on place-based study."

Einstein was an Artist

Einstein was an Artist? Zat Rana wrote a recent article in Medium that makes some interesting points:

"Einstein inspired a paradigm shift in physics not as a scientist but as an artist...English distinguishes a scientist as someone who systematically learns about a part of the natural world and uses that knowledge to describe and predict it. An artist, on the other hand, is defined as someone who creatively produces."

"When it comes to categories like science and art, we have a tendency to presume [incorrectly] mutual exclusivity."

"There are many smart and knowledgeable scientists. Rarely, however, are they capable of producing work that shifts our entire understanding of the world. That requires an entirely new way of looking at things... At its core, creativity is just a new and useful way of combining old ideas. It isn’t imagined out of thin air, and it isn’t completely abstract. It’s a fresh way of making sense of the existing components of reality that have yet to merge."

Rana goes on to identify several key ways of nurturing creativity:
  1. Be willing to produce subpar work
  2. Compromise today for tomorrow
  3. Don’t wait for inspiration to get moving
  4. Seek relationships between existing ideas
  5. Produce a large volume of work
Read the full article here.

Work by the Root-Bernsteins establishes that practicing art as an adult is 15-25x more likely in Nobel Prize-winning scientists than in their non-winning peers. Einstein was an accomplished violinist.

Einstein famously claimed to have conceptualized the notions behind the work that became Special Relativity while imagining what the world would look like if you could ride along on a beam of light.

This video by Eugene Khutoryansky does the best job I have ever seen of visualizing and explaining that conceit:

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Call for submission of evidence

From Roger Malina...

Dear Colleague,

We are seeking your input on a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study that is examining the evidence behind the assertion that educational experiences that integrate the humanities and arts with science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine lead to improved educational and career outcomes for undergraduate and graduate students.

The committee undertaking this study began its work in July of 2016 and the final product of our deliberations will be the publication of a detailed, evidence-based report in the spring of 2018 that will describe the known impact of integrative approaches to teaching and learning in higher education on students' academic performance and career readiness. We are currently in the information gathering stage of the study process and we would like to ask whether you, or others at your institution, have data and information to share that could inform this study.

Are there programs or courses at your institution that integrate the arts and humanities with science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or medicine? If so, what is known about the impact of these educational experiences on the students at your institution?

Has your institution ever evaluated or assessed these educational experiences formally or informally? If so, what data can you share?

Are there factors at your institutions that make integration across disciplines difficult to achieve? If so, what are they? Have any educational experiences or programs at your institution that integrated the arts and humanities with sciences, technology, engineering, math, and/or medicine ended or been discontinued? If so, why did the experience or program end?

We would greatly appreciate your input as we work to meet the charge of this study. The data and information you share will not only contribute to the evidence base the committee will examine, but will also aid us in our effort to gather sufficiently broad input to ensure that we consider all important perspectives and information pertinent to this topic. In addition to your input, please also forward this request for content to those colleagues and thought leaders, as well as affiliated partners in higher education, who you think might make a unique contribution to this study. Please note that any information you or your colleagues share with the committee will be made public, consistent with the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

If you have information to share, please submit it using this link:

It would be very helpful to us if you could contribute your input by May 1, 2017 to allow ample time for the committee to consider your contribution before the drafting and publication of the report. If we have follow-up questions regarding your letter, we may contact you by phone or e-mail, or we may request that you present more details directly to our committee at a future meeting. For further information on the study, you may emailAshley Bear.

Your efforts and input will be greatly appreciated.

On Behalf of the Committee,

David Skorton
Secretary, Smithsonian Institution

Wednesday, March 1, 2017



January 17 – May 14, 2017
Roger W. Rogers Gallery
Willamette University
Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center
900 State Street Salem, OR 97301
Hours: Monday – Friday 8am to 6pm

Winter Solstice, Leah Wilson.
In its measured and diligent investigation of minute, incremental changes in light levels at a specific site in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest over time, this series of paintings represents a seamless merger of art and science as it throws into high relief the pivotal role of change in ecosystems. It also examines the nature of perception, and the idea that by studying phenomena, we change them.

The genesis of the project lies in Wilson’s experience as an artist-in-residence at H.J. Andrews, a 16,000 acre long-term research site which is located in the Western Cascades east of Springfield, Oregon. During her residency, Wilson had the opportunity to observe scientists from Oregon State University’s Department of Forestry, who are currently in the 30th year of a 100-year log decomposition study.

The study involves deliberately placing a number of tagged logs in a wide variety of locations in and around the streams that run through the forest in order to test the effect species and size of logs have on decomposition and nutrient cycling processes. Wilson’s interaction with this research led her to realize that science in general, and ecology in particular, seeks to identify patterns (and changes in patterns) over time. It is therefore fitting that both in terms of process and product, the most evident element of the work would be repetition, rhythm, and pattern.

The selection of the solstices and equinoxes of a specific year for the collection of her “data points” connects the cycles in a specific place and ecosystem with much larger and more powerful astronomical cycles. In comparing the barely perceptible, incremental chromatic changes that occur over the course of a day with the large seasonal changes that occur during the course of the earth’s orbit around the sun, Wilson’s work underlines the universality of the forces and phenomena that affect her specific, chosen site.

While the careful, and even clinical attention to methodology, process, and detail might lead us to think that Wilson’s work is purely scientific, there is much more at work here than only a concern with science. Her work is also a symbolic and meaningful examination of the philosophical idea that change is the only true constant. Wilson points out that the nature of our senses and perception influences and changes the thing we study. She also demonstrates that the very act of studying something changes it. She explains her realizations in this regard as follows,
“Not only do our senses and brains edit information, and therefore the patterns and rhythms we perceive, but we have affected every environment and ecosystem on the earth, directly or indirectly, which also affects the way that we experience the patterns of change in the environment. Looking upstream from my location on the creek, the wild ruggedness of the old growth forest is apparent. But looking downstream is an abrupt intersection of wildness and human construction, a reminder of the way we alter our environment to fit our specific needs of that place.” 
Wilson was able to observe human interventions occurring at her site during the course of her one-year process. She explains that these human interventions affected the patterns and rhythms of chromatic change in the creek, and subsequently in her paintings. She elaborates as follows:
“Even environments that appear wild and untouched are still affected by human intervention: a road can change the speed and redirect water during a storm; national parks are highly managed to control plant and animal populations; fires are suppressed or started to achieve a desired environmental effect; and climate change affects ecosystems across the globe. I chose to observe this location on the creek because of the juxtaposition of wildness and the constructed environment created to observe and understand it. The act of observation changes the patterns that we observe, whether it is though what we construct, the instruments we use to perceive, or our own physical perceptions. …..” 
Leah Wilson is a Eugene resident and practicing artist. She obtained her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.

  -Andries Fourie (Curator, Roger W. Rogers Gallery)