Art From Climate Science
Media Impacts/ Index
Contributors to the 2013 Living Data programdescribe how they value Living Data, what they have contributed and how the program may be improved. Their responses guide planning for the 2014 program for revealing the creative process of understanding through conversation and collaboration.
I am glad that artists want to talk with scientists and that they are interested in what we do - as art speaks a language that often is more broadly understood than the dense, jargon-rich language of science, my hope is that this work will contribute to improving the dialogue between scientists and the wider community, particularly with respect to something as urgent as climate change.
I contributed both as a scientist and an artist. As a scientist, I spoke on how we teach environmental science to undergraduate students in ways that draw on the creative senses. As an artist, I contributed several of my etchings depicting my response to aspects of the natural world and how we change it.
I met some great people, both scientists and artists. As a practicing scientist, it was particularly interesting to speak with artists and learn about how they perceive the same world I do but from a different perspective. This has had the effect of challenging my assumptions about how science is perceived in the community and how it might be communicated. Living Data has increased the exposure of my research, generated lots of interest and positive buzz, and opened up the possibility for developing future collaborations and funding opportunities.
As a scientist and an artist, I really appreciate the initiative of Living Data to build tangible bridges between science and art, and to erase the false dichotomy between the two disciplines. I contributed through my artwork, and through the collaboration with another artist Shona Wilson.Living Data is allowing us, as professionals from different fields to contribute to each other's pursuit for knowledge.
I value the vision mission of using the arts as a medium to make people aware of scientific data that otherwise would be hidden and not understood by the general public, which includes myself. I value the transparency and the passion behind the project leader. And I particularly value the collaborative nature of the project, where there is leadership that is however expressed via a non-hierarchical style of collaboration. I believe that this particular choice around how collaboration is embraced in itself is the strength and the success of the project itself as it offers freedom of expression, of opinions and points of view that make the project and the consequential delivery of the message stronger and more powerful.
I've contributed with a few dance performances and installations, following the vision of the project while staying true to my artistic practice. I also have contributed with co-creating a performance that offered exposure to broader audience, outside of the academic context. As the performance was presented within an artistic context it allowed for a different demographic to get engaged with Living Data, with an immersive interdisciplinary experience of music/dance/animations that cohesively succeeded in engaging the audience while allowing to reflect on the immediacy of the matter on our everyday lives.
The benefits that I have gained are the experience itself of a successful, non-hierarchical collaborative style that has become the model that I am using for my current collaborations. I have gained knowledge around climate change that otherwise it would have been out of my reach. I had the opportunity of applying my artistic practice to support a message I believe in, while placing a stronger focus on content rather than form. And it has been an important opportunity to showcase my work.
I valued the iteraction with other artists, researchers, scientists, educationalists (academics) and their respective communities. Also the ability to even carry out a major part of this remotely, to have a formal and informal place for my work in context of shared work and others work and research and the feeling of added worth and benefit from finding a receptive home of shared interest and actions.
Unfortunately I could not attend the actual show in person which would be a much more powerful experience than the remote and static documentation, but appreciate the online documentation.
I contributed some ideas on ways of working with sound and animation, an actual animation with sound for projection and online viewing that responds to scientific data on, and alerts people to, observing and thinking about the impact of even tiny temperature changes in ocean surface, depths and plant material.
Benefits to me included increased actual awareness myself of the amazing complexity of oceanic ecosystems from which we once evolved and from which we most importantly are totally dependent on for sustaining our life on earth. And the fact that oceans at least as much as forests seem important indicators of climate change, and its affects. Another benefit is new ideas for interacting with science and scientists in meaningful ways. Increased awareness of the need for and strategies for the importance of breaking down narrow discipline based tunnel vision that can occur in specialized areas of practice and research if kept in isolation.
I think the program could build on the already established web of interconnected relationships to make ongoing staggered festivals in different states and nations/countries to increase the overall impact and reach and increased value of work already done. I like the idea of creating satellite exhibitions in different states and even some sort of international links.
I don't feel completely comfortable trying to sum up underlying principles in a few specific words that can become slogans and misused or misinterpreted. I would for instance not want "true to the science" to be misconstrued or narrowly focused on mathematical and statistical coverage at the expense of the power of, experiential understandings, mystery, emotions, and puzzlement that may actually communicate, affirm or challenge, for instance, powerful unconscious belief systems and previously held models of understanding. For me this could perhaps be better expressed as responding to truths revealed in science, acting in the spirit of scientific discovery/observation/reflection/questioning... but I soon get tied up in these words too.
Clear in Language - more important for the artwork to be clear in its integrity , distinctive voice and language in terms of often seemingly abstract felt experience, tactile, kinetic, visual, musical and so on - this "clear language" could appear very abstract and not even particularly be laying out a particular narrative yet speak directly to, or even better, be in dialogue with our thoughts, memories, experiences and beliefs and thus possibly eventuate in more action than apparently "clear language" that has the directness and clarity of a mathematical sum yet for may leave many people confused, cold and or bored ( eg. may not engage any senses.)
Which leads me to "Attractive to the senses"... I worry that this could be misconstrued as having to be pretty ... not that there is anything wrong or undesirable about beauty BUT not everything may always appear attractive to everyone, not all facts and science discoveries are going to be beautiful so again it is more about ENGAGEMENT and DIALOGUE with SENSES, with SCIENCE and our Multiple Literacies (text,visual,audio,kinetic, haptic, etc in no defined hierarchy).
I most valued the diversity of creativity from the artists dealing with their concerns about climate change. Seeing visual responses which included topographical data allowed the subject matter to be engaged with in a visceral manner. I contributed an installation attempting to show the interconnectedness of human beings and this ball spinning in space.
I find myself pondering on some of the works and thinking what a sad and dangerous thing it would be if we - the human race - let this wonderful multifarious world become vulnerable to extinction and as a result am much more diligent about recycling and thinking about the cost - in ecological terms - of the processes I use in my art work and my life.
How could the Living Data program be improved? Perhaps if one artist worked in tandem with a scientist over the period of 6 months and displayed their results in the Muse with the other artists. Frankly that is the only improvement I can think of because the show was curated and accomplished perfectly.
It provides an excellent opportunity to bring science and scientific data to a larger audience, and provides accessibility and fresh perspectives on climate change data and our environment. I contributed technical advice and expertise. Videography and editing. Tea. I have made important new connections with artists and scientists and learnt a lot about the critical scientific issues facing the planet, and this has no doubt informed my own practice.
How could the Living Data program be improved? More art! More science! More fora (forums?) More shared data and information. What a wonderful beginning!
Providing a link between what is concrete and what is spiritual. Connecting and collecting and collating significant thoughts and materials. I contributed comments that are intuitive but honest, and being appreciative of the integrity of the work and those involved in it. Enjoying the stimulation for my brain. Feeling connected with people I respect. Interested in the discoveries, large and small.
Living Data presents the opportunity to make my research more stimulating and accessible to the general public. I also have the confidence that all artistic interpretations will stay true to the underlying science. I contributed the Living Laboratory exhibit - a fully-functioning bioreactor where algae are grown for the production of sustainable fuels.
Living Data has increased the exposure of my research, generated lots of interest and positive buzz, and opened up the possibility for developing future collaborations and funding opportunities.
How could the Living Data program be improved? I would have liked to see more interaction with the artists. We could have designed an engaging visual interpretation of the science behind our bioreactor display.
Coming from a purely scientific background I have never really been exposed to the whole idea of making art out of my data. I am just used to making graphs that make my data simple to comprehend. One thing I have most valued has been the discussions I have had with the artists in the Living Data program, about the parallels between the fields and how we go about expressing our common interests. I guess it is all about communication, whether it's through art or through written journals, the message we share can be communicated in all manner of ways.
As a member of the Algal Biofuels Group (ABG) at the University of Technology, Sydney, I provided a photobioreactor (PBR) as an installation for the exhibition at the TAFE, Ultimo.
For our group (ABG) it was very good to expose our research to the public, mainly with regards to raising awareness about why we are doing our research and to show people in the heart of the city what is being done towards developing sustainable ways for us to live.
On a more personal level, it was a very good experience interacting with the artists, to hear their interpretations of my research. The most interesting part of this for me was the sorts of questions they asked, however basic or complex. Their whole outlook on the research and the reasons for the research was very refreshing to hear and question myself about my personal drivers for doing what I do. As a scientist I spend a lot of my time and energy collaborating with other scientist in attempts to answer very intricate questions, however, it is not that often that we get a chance to step back and discuss the work with people who have a completely different outlook on the whole research field. Living Data has provided me with new found appreciation these interactions. It is very important for scientists to interact with people outside their disciplines. Who knows what ideas we will be able to generate?
The ability of this work to engage a wider public audience in a emotionally and intellectually unique way - which can have greater impact and therefore capacity to inspire and change human behaviours in relation to climate change and environmental challenges generally.
I contributed a series of sculptures and prints which focus attention on plastic's interactions with the natural world- to create fictional metaphors for possible hybrid results of this ever increasing cross-pollination. Through participation in the event I was able to engage with more scientists and artists in this field and be further inspired and energised to the task of making this purposeful art.
How could the Living Data program be improved? Lisa needs an assistant! so that she is released from all the small detail running logistics and can focus on the larger elements of curating. The support of funding bodies and institutions for greater publicity of the event.
We invest care and energy into the things we value. The Living Data programme is a great example of this in two ways. Firstly, it shows to the public that there is a range of committed professionals working hard to research, disseminate and make sense culturally of the "anthroposcene" era. Climate change is a key aspect to this age of the earth where human presence is having an overwhelming effect on current and future planetary systems and the environment. Living data has also been a vehicle to bring individuals and academic peers in contact with each other in a new context. Whether artist or scientist, there is a movement to understand and share information across research disciplines. This need for interconnectedness is paramount if we are to envisage ways to change and overcome societal inertia.
I was excited to be able to exhibit sculpture and installation works from my PIVOT series "Spineless", "Hitchhikers", "Remote Foragers" and "Pelagic". All the works deal with human impact in a marine environment. As an artist working in relative isolation in the studio, the Living Data programme allowed me to interact with artists and scientists, both within the exhibition and lecture context and through the internet and LD website. So this ability to contribute has also become an outcome as it has created new links and conversations with peers within the arts and more importantly across the 'discipline divide'.
I have received quality feedback and support for my ideas and methodology. There are a couple of strong new links and many more potential contacts and collaborative projects that may result. Living data 2013 has opened new pathways for me to extend my current research. I am hoping to be able to contribute again to this project and be part of its ongoing conversation.
How could the Living Data program be improved? The programme had a very strong impetus from the science community which was fantastic. This possibly limited the potential audience with many of the lecture participants being drawn from these academic faculties. There is an opportunity to widen this audience to the broader community through greater promotion within the art sector and general public. Resources in the future could also be channelled into ways of dissemination of the science, through the art to the community.
The core objective of the Living Data program, how to translate science into art, in which dry scientific data and arcane subject matter gets translated into a visual, audio, tactile and/or motile experience and from which the public can take away this mixture of understanding and emotions on the topic, is very valuable to me. I prefer to create art with content, which means it is primarily created for themed exhibitions and not for commercial purposes. I have a tremendous interest in biological and climate change science, and respect for those who do research in the field.
In participating, I have contributed time (hours: to pin it down, with all included at least 100 hours), all materials (including those used for experimenting, but not used for the end product) and postage for sending the pieces to Australia. So participating has cost me quite a lot of money. This is why I have a varied art-practise, in which I also make more commercial work, teach, create for commisions, etc, which funds part of my non-commercial work, which is what I enjoy most to create.
How have I benefited? Participating in this project as an artist provided me with a focus to research and create at the same time, for a specific goal (the exhibition). Contributing to this exhibition has been very meaningful for me, because environmental and climate change issues regarding the oceans and ocean science are one of the core subjects on which I base my art. The kinds of exhibitions like Living Data, usually do not result in commercial gain for an artist. What the artist gains, however, is public exposure of their work (which may result in new opportunities) and experience. It is possible, that a museum or other institution decides to buy an exhibited piece, which will recoup or even pay for the actual costs mentioned above, but that is not a given.
How could the Living Data program be improved? I think it would be very useful for the organizer of the exhibition, to try and team up interested artists and scientists as early as possible, so the scientists can share some of their research topics with an artist, who can give thought on creating a piece based on that specific information. I don't think this has to take a lot of the scientist's time, but providing info, and then being willing to give feedback on questions the artists may have, and to verify whether the science gets translated properly. I think an artistic piece can have a lot of license and freedom, but for Living Data it can not be ignorant of the proper science. So trying to team up artists and scientists well in advance would be a major suggestion from my part for future exhibitions. Another benefit of this is that it will give an artist more content and authority to define their project when applying for grants.
There is the option for an artist (depending on country of residence) to apply to several granting organizations to fund a piece made for the exhibition. Depending on the funds, these could range from covering material costs, installation and shipping and even paying for the artist to come attend the opening or arrive early for creating work on site. The organizers of the exhibition can also look into funding options for the exhibition and apply for money, so they are able to cover installation costs, production of a catalogue with essays, and even pay out artist-fees to participating artists. So in order to be able to apply for funding, a more structured theme and approach would have to be in place early in the process, to allow for grants to be submitted and awarded. Connected to this are suggestions on how to make the art even more closely connected to the science. Now that Living data is in its second year of exhibiting for the Ultimo Science festival, and has even grown exponentially, some more advance planning becomes more feasible. Hopefully, there is an increased roster of artists and scientist who would like to participate again, or other artists and scientists who are starting to hear about this event and want to come on board. Curatorial decisions must still apply. In my case, I made art based on things I have been reading on ocean science in general, but not fitted to specific research of a scientist. I can imagine, that the scientists would like to see more pieces like Lisa Roberts's Krill animation, which was created for a very specific body of research.
I most value how Living Data brings critical engagement across diverse artforms that all are responding to climate change, and how it fosters dialogue between climate scientists and artists working on climate change. I have contributed a new work /When I Was A Buoyant v2/ made specifically for Living Data 2013, and I gave a talk on the panel about 'how we act on what we measure' about my work on climate change.
I have most benefited by meeting other artists working on climate change and seeing their work in person, and in particular meeting climate scientists as dialogue and collaboration with cliamte scientists is integral to my pratctice.
How could the Living Data program be improved? One suggestion I have is to combine all the panels into a day long symposium, rather than have them on separate days, so that there is more chance for dialogue between attendees. Also, although The Muse is a very nice gallery, it seemed that more engagement with UTS staff and students would happen if it was staged on UTS campus, to attract passing foot traffic.