May 7, 2013
Looking for a quick science fix while you peruse the web? Want a great source for up to date science-related news and opinion? We’ve got a few suggestions to get you started. From podcasts, videos, and blogs, to citizen science projects and games which allow you to compile important data, you’ll find something here that you love. So if you’re hunkering for a little science with your internet cat memes, start here and see what you can find!
First off, there’s the preeminent RadioLab. Their podcasts and shorts are available on their website, and their radio show is broadcast on public radio across the nation. The website also features blogs and videos. RadioLab covers all kinds of science-related stories, including local news (the cicadas are coming!) and philosophical debates on happiness and uncertainty. If you're a sucker for a great story check out the Story Collider website where new podcasts are posted weekly and regular live shows featuring scientists telling 8-10 minute stories occur regularly in NYC and Boston. If videos and podcasts are your thing, then definitely keep an eye on a new project called Science Studio (preview site just launched today, people!) from Rose Eveleth, Ben Lillie, Bora Zivkovic, which aims to provide a curated collection of 2012’s best science audio and video on the web. Anyone can nominate their favorite piece, which is then judged by a panel resulting in a multimedia collection that is a one-stop shop for great science content on the web. The project is funded by National Association of Science Writers and supporters on Kickstarter.
L: http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/j/MSNBC/Components/Photo/_new/130503-coslog-cicada-525p.photoblog600.jpg R: Photo credit Jurgen Freund http://nautil.us/issue/0/the-story-of-nautilus/ingenious-nautilus-and-me
Another science video project called Minute Earth gives us short videos appropriate for that brief (but needed) distraction. Created by Henry Reich, with Alex Reich, Peter Reich, Rose Eveleth, Emily Elert, and John Guittar, with music by Nathaniel Schroeder. The videos are short, and informational, about the science of things that affect our daily lives like bed bugs and frozen foods, as well as answering common questions - why are leaves green? how tall are mountains? It looks like the site was only just born (only 7 or 8 videos so far) but the short format and basic but good content make this an easy one to keep on your radar. Though not science-centered, TedEd provides loads of educational/informational videos on a variety of topics, helpfully sorted by topic. Even more exciting - users can also remix/recut videos to create their own. Scientific American is another multi-faceted source for that science fix - it includes a huge array of blogs and news articles, videos and podcasts. Finally, the brand-new Nautilus already has some great articles and blog posts (topics change monthly) that you can check out.
If you’re looking for a science fix that encourages your own participation, then check out some citizen science games and projects - the best place to start is at Zooniverse, a citizen science portal which has loads of links and information about different projects. If you want something more specific, then check these out: Foldit is a fun and fascinating game that contributes to scientific research on protein folding. EyeWire, led by Sebastian Seung at MIT, helps scientists map the brain. Or if you want to peruse the data available so far on brain mapping, check out the Human Connectome Project. Galaxy Zoo is a citizen science game that helps map the galaxy based on observations from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the Hubble Space Telescope, while Old Weather combines citizen scientists and weather archives to help build data on climate and climate change. Magic Cicada allows you to help scientists map 2013’s cicada emergence in the US Northeast by recording your own sightings. Finally, National Geographic’s Field Expedition: Mongolia lets you help archaeologists look for the tomb of Genghis Khan with the help of satellite imagery, to minimize unnecessary disturbance of the landscape.
There are, of course, also a plethora of groups and discussions on Google+, Facebook, and LinkedIn, which means you can network, read blogs, join debates and hangouts, and check out user-posted material. You can look through multiple telescopes, live (!) at the Virtual Star Party Googlehangout with astronomers explaining what you're seeing; the next one is scheduled for May 12th.
Did we miss your favorite? Please let us know via email.
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Apr 23, 2013
Inspired by a recent discussion of great science documentaries on LinkedIn (initiated by Producer-Writer-Editor Bill Lattanzi also an Adjunct Professor in MIT's Science Writing program) ASKlabs creates a list of artistic science films that we either love or want to see. These films represent stories of science and art on film, both featuring and embodying feats of innovation, invention, and investigation. Among them are creative retellings using animations and associative imagery, alongside more established doc tropes like the use of archival footage and interviews. These films include artforms like animation, dance, poetry, painting, origami, and music. The films range from stories about controversial characters like Jacque Fresco and Joe Davis, to influential and renowned science-artists like Ernst Haeckel and Anna Campbell Bliss. Despite the wide array of subjects, a pattern that emerges from this group of films is their focus on the relationship between humans and the environment.
Pushing the genre of science documentary filmmaking Death by Design (Peter Friedman, 1997) uses innovative techniques to help explore cell cycle: cellular life and death. Cell operations and functions, interactions, and contexts, and the interdependence of cells and organisms are intercut with archival footage of Busby Berkeley dancers. Moving from cellular function to the phenomena of the wider environment, Dutch Light (Pieter-Rim de Kroon, 2003) explores the myth of light in Holland. Has the peculiar Dutch light really impacted art and science over the centuries? What creates this effect?
Also invested in creative and innovative form, the next few films also focus on “characters” of science and art. Hybrid (Monteith McCollum, 2000) is an example of a film about science, humans, and the environment, implementing archival 16mm footage, animation, and more classic interviews to piece together the story of filmmaker Monteith McCollum’s grandfather, Milford Beeghly. In the 1930s, Beeghly was one of the first American farmers to genetically enhance his crops, and the film follows the effects of his obsessive vision on both the agricultural world and Beeghly’s family. Proteus (David Lebrun, 2004) is David Lebrun’s fascinating voyage of discovery, exploring the work of scientist and artist Ernst Haeckel. The film uses innovative ways to portray Haeckel’s science-art vision, and its influence on biology as well as art, design, and politics of the 20th century. Future by Design (William Gazecki, 2006) is another film which focuses on a boundary-smashing figure, this time the more controversial Jacque Fresco. A “futurist,” Fresco is a prolific designer, inventor, and theorist. This film takes us inside the world of this unique character. All About Tesla: The Research (Michael Krause, 2007) looks in on the life, work, and legacy of one of our favorite scientists, Nikola Tesla. Director Michael Krause not only explores Tesla’s own work, but also finds contemporary researchers and fans to see how Tesla lives on today. Lumia (Meredith Finkelstein and Paul Vlachos, 2008) is the tale of another, less successful, inventor: Thomas Wilfred tried for decades to develop an instrument which could capture light and coax music from the rays. The film takes a look at the excitement and possibilities of the era through Wilfred’s inventions, as well as the bizarre and ambitious projects of his contemporaries, many of which failed. Heaven and Earth and Joe Davis (Peter Sasowsky, 2010) follows another controversial and often marginalized figure at the crossroads of art and science. Director Peter Sasowsky delves into the visions and struggles of Joe Davis, looking back at a strange and intriguing life as well as investigating the way science and art come together in Davis’ creations.
Less controversially, Me and Isaac Newton (Michael Apted, 1999) chooses scientists and researchers at the very top of their fields as its subject. Michael Apted side-steps their scientific accomplishments, however, and looks more closely at the personalities and lives behind the research. Arc of Light: A Portrait of Anna Campbell Bliss (Cid Collins Walker, 2012) also chooses a subject at the top of her field. Exploring Utah artist Bliss’s life and work, which combines design, architecture, mathematics, and technology, the film focuses especially on her time with Bauhaus mentors Gyorgy Kepes of MIT and Josef Albers of Black Mountain College in North Carolina.
The next two films bring together science and art in innovative ways. Between the Folds (Vanessa Gould, 2008) brings to the screen the story of artists and scientists (from MIT and NASA) who are dedicated to the art of origami. Burning Ice (Peter Gilbert and Adam Singer, 2010) depicts a journey along the coast of Greenland as artists and scientists come together on a ship. The scientists gather data on climate change, and the artists (of all varieties) learn from the scientists and try to interpret the data through their artworks. The film combines interviews and performances.
The final group of films also focuses on climate change and the environment. The Hollow Tree (Daniel J. Pierce, 2011) is the story of a community coming together with innovative engineering to save a beloved dead redwood in Vancouver. One of our favorite films ever, The City Dark (Ian Cheney, 2011) starts as an investigation about the loss of visibility of stars in urban life, which takes filmmaker Ian Cheney on a much bigger journey as he tries to get to the bottom of what living in perpetual light and light pollution really means. Finally, Symphony of the Soil (Deborah Koons, 2012) takes a creative approach to understanding the science, structure, and life of soil. The film also explores humans’ relationship with and impact on the soil, and our interdependence with the health of the soil.
We hope these films will inspire you to explore the world of science and art.
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Photo Source (Top of page): http://www.media-alliance.org/article.php?id=2125
Apr 9, 2013
The Cambridge Science Festival 2013 is here at last! This is the sixth year of this innovative festival, which was the first of its kind in the US. Events take place all over Cambridge, with several events further afield, highlighting all the great venues and great science to be found in the Boston area. Follow the Festival on Twitter (@CSFtweets) for up-to-date info. Please consider making a donation to the Cambridge Science Festival here: http://bit.ly/ZkQvaU
Of the 152 exhibits, events, and recurring programs ranging from the "Party for the Planet at Franklin Park Zoo" in celebration of Earth day, to the MIT Flea Market, the following events really jumped out at us: some #sciart, with a little innovation, storytelling, #scicomm, and education thrown in.
Friday, April 12
What: SoundScience Fun! @ The Museum of Science, ScienceLive Stage
When: April 12, 5:30pm - 6:15pm
Why: Learn about the science of sound through singing and demonstrations. Free!
What: The Edge of the Map @ Harvard University Science Center, Rm 302, 1 Oxford St., Cambridge
When: April 12, 8:00pm - 9:00pm (and again April 13, 2:00pm - 3:00pm & 5:00pm - 6:00pm & 8:00pm - 9:00pm, and April 14, 5:00pm - 6:00pm)
Why: A collaboration between Harvard biology students and theater-maker Calla Videt, this piece explores social issues and biology through genetics.
What: Operation Epsilon @ Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
When: April 12-8:00pm - 10:00pm (and again April 13, 3:00pm - 5:00pm & 8:00pm - 10:00pm; April 14, 2:00pm - 4:00pm; April 17, 7:30pm - 9:30pm; April 18, 7:30pm - 9:30pm; April 19, 8:00pm - 10:00pm; April 20, 3:00pm - 5:00pm & 8:00pm - 10:00pm; April 21, 2:00pm - 4:00pm)
Why: This play is based on real transcripts which were secretly recorded during Hitler’s “Uranium Club’s” captivity in England. How close were the Nazis to an atomic bomb? What was really happening among these top scientists under Hitler?
Sunday, April 14
What: Artisan's Asylum Open House & DIY Festival @ Artisan's Asylum, 10 Tyler Street, Somerville
When: April 14, 1:00pm - 5:00pm
Why: Check out the Artisan’s Asylum - what they do, and what you could do too!
What: MIT Museum Art & Science Studio Showcase @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave, Cambridge
When: April 14, 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Why: See awesome current projects from MIT students, staff, and researchers.
What: Visual-Eyes Art: The Visual Ecology Exhibit @ MassArt Student Life Gallery, Kennedy Bldg., 621 Huntington Ave., 2nd Floor, Boston
When: April 14-1:00pm - 4:00pm
Why: Anatomy, evolution, and art - MassArt students’ multi-media work on animal eyes.
What: Making Science Toys IV @ Beaver Brook Reservation, Waltham line, Waverley Oaks Road
When: April 14, 3:00pm - 5:30pm
Why: Aimed at kids, this course teaches how to make cool science toys - can adults come too?
What: H2Oratorio: A Deluge of Songs @ The Museum of Science, Cahners Theater
When: April 14, 5:00pm - 6:30pm (and again April 21, 2:00pm - 3:30pm)
Why: Songs about H20 with scientifically accurate lyrics? Sounds pretty good.
What: Hi-Fi-Sci: Music & Science Animation @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave., Cambridge
When: April 14, 7:30pm - 10:00pm
Why: Composers and scientists come together for a presentation of musical interpretations of scientific visualizations. Science communication and art!
What: Broader Impacts: How to Talk About Your Work with the Media @ MIT Building 34, Room 101 (50 Vassar St., Cambridge)
When: April 15, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Why: Science in the media: what is the best way for scientists to get their work known?
Tuesday, April 16
What: Science & Poetry @ Cambridge Public Library, Lecture Hall, 449 Broadway, Cambridge
When: April 16, 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Why: Scientists, poets, writers, discussion: how can science and poetry work together?
Storytellers Seth Mnookin and Anna Wexler from the Collider! http://storycollider.org/shows/2013-04-16
What: The Story Collider @ Johnny D's, 17 Holland Street, Davis Square, Somerville
When: April 16, 7:30pm - 10:00pm
Why: Six people entertain with true stories about science.
Wednesday, April 17
What: A Science Author Salon with Emily Anthes author of Frankenstein's Cat @ ZuZu Bar, 474 Mass Ave., Central Square, Cambridge
When: April 17, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Why: A talk about animal biotechnology from author Emily Anthes, co-presented by Nerd Nite Boston
Thursday, April 18
What: Science (Pub) Crawl, 3D Printing and Nature-Inspired Product Design Drop-in design workshops with Nervous System Design Studio @ Xylem, 287 3rd St., Kendall Sq. Free, 21+ cash bars
When: April 18, 5:00pm-6:00pm
Why: What could be cooler?!?! Plus you're probably thirsty...
What: What Will it Take: Plugging the Leaky STEM Pipeline @ The Broad Institute Auditorium, 7 Cambridge Center, Kendall Square
When: April 18, 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Why: A roundtable discussion on problems and possible solutions for the cracks in STEM programming.
Friday, April 19
What: Making Movies, Making Science @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave., Cambridge
When: April 19, 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Why: Short films by MIT students about science and technology, plus a Q&A
What: Trimpin: The Sound of Invention film screening and Q&A @ MIT Building 34, Room 101 (50 Vassar St., Cambridge)
When: April 19, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Why: Screening of doc about innovative sound artist Trimpin, his creative process, and his amazing accomplishments. Q&A with Trimpin afterwards!
What: Rites of Passage by Quicksilver Dance @ MIT Simmons Hall(229 Vassar Street, Cambridge)
When: April 19, 8:00pm- 9:30pm (and again April 20 at 8:00pm- 9:30pm)
Why: Dance interpretations including the process of evolution and movements of early lifeforms.
Saturday, April 20
What: Science & Comics @ Cambridge Public Library, Lecture Hall, 449 Broadway, Cambridge
When: April 20, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Why: Comic artists and scientists discuss the possibilities within their collaborations
What: Living in the Future: Pop Culture Meets Today's Technology @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave., Cambridge
When: April 20, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Why: Discussion and clips of futuristic films, and learn how close scientists are to those fantastic representations.
What: The Festival of Bad Ad-Hoc Hypotheses @ MIT 26-100
When: April 20, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Why: Hilarious and improbable explanations of evolutionary theory given to a panel of judges.
Sunday, April 21
What: Art and Nature: Illustrating Urban Wildlife @ Danehy Park, 99 Sherman St., Cambridge
When: April 21, 1:00pm - 3:00pm
Why: Collect real specimens and learn to make art with natural inspiration from Cambridge wildlife.
What: Sci-Fi Radio Drama Double-Feature: LIVE! @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave., Cambridge
When: April 21, 2:00pm - 4:30pm
Why: Experience science-fiction tales as they used to be on the radio, and then learn about some of the innovative sound techniques with effects artists!
What: Ocean Stories: A Synergy of Art and Science @ The Museum of Science
When: April 12-21, 9:00am-5:00pm
Why: See the experimental work resulting from collaborations between MIT and Woods Hole Oceaonographic Institution scientists and local artists. @sciart_synergy
Follow the exhibit on Twitter: @sciart_synergy and Facebook: http://on.fb.me/14XTApk
When you hit a Cambridge Science Fest (@CSFTweets) event be sure to post a photo or comment on Facebook or Twitter using #CambSciFest. We shall see you there!
Apr 2, 2013
ASKlabs relocated from LA to Boston ten years ago seeking the #sciart scene. Right away, we discovered the Boston Cyberarts Festival, the Decordova Museum, the ICA, the MIT Museum, the MIT List, MIT's Media Lab, and Arts Interactive. Lately we’ve noticed a groundswell of art and science happenings in the Boston area. With world-class scientific research and outstanding arts and cultural institutions in such proximity, it seems natural that the two would intersect, blend, even collide.
The Boston Cyberarts Festival was founded by George Fifield in 1999 with the goal of exposing public audiences to a wide range of digital and experimental media arts. The citywide biennial festival featured: new media art; music, dance, and theatrical performances; film and video; and lectures and panels. The last Cyberarts Festival was held in Spring 2011 but the organization is still very active. These days, Cyberarts produces exhibits, including Cycles, Tides and Seasons by Ben Houge, at the Harbor Island Pavilion on the Greenway Conservancy. The work opens with a reception on May 31st. Also coming up at the Cyberarts Gallery at the Green Street T station (Orange Line) is the Collision Collective’s Collision 19 show, for which they are still taking proposals. The show will run from June 14-July 27 of this year.
L: Adult Offerings at the Museum of Science. R: "Lightning Dreams" film premiere at the MOS wtih Greg Leyh, Lightning On Demand, SF; Daniel Davis, PhD, Museum of Science tesla coil expert, Alberta Chu, Filmmaker, ASKlabs; Lisa Monrose, MOS
Other events to check out include the excellent adult programs at Boston’s Museum of Science. In 2005 independent filmmaker/video artist Lisa Monrose stepped in as Program Manager of Lectures and Special Programs. She has been a driving force in science and art programs at the MOS and around town ever since. Upon arriving at the Museum of Science, she created the “When Science Meets Art” initiative featuring music performances with Evan Ziporyn and Christine Southworth, wearable technology fashion shows, a RadioLab Listening Party in the Planetarium, and lecture-exhibit-installations with artists such as Nathalie Miebach, Halsey Burgund, Alexis Rockman, Chris Jordan, and Anna Deavere Smith. In November 2012, ASKlabs was extremely pleased to have our world premiere of “Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm” (2011) chronicling the creation of the world’s largest kinetic lightning sculpture (and tesla coil) as part of this MOS “When Science Meets Art” series. The program featured high-voltage engineer Greg Leyh, of Lightning on Demand from San Francisco and MOS resident tesla coil expert Dr. Daniel Davis.
The MOS also collaborates with the Brookline, MA, Coolidge Corner Theater’s “Science on Screen” film series which launched in Fall 2005. For these events, a film with a science theme is accompanied by a scientist lecture. Films like “It Came From Beneath the Sea” are presented with University of Chicago biologist Michael LaBarbera; “12 Monkeys” is accompanied by a talk from notable science writer Carl Zimmer. This program, piloted in the Boston area, has now been awarded funds to expand nationwide.
In Fall of 2012 Catalyst Conversations (founded by artist, educator, and curator Deborah Davidson) started holding monthly events consisting of thoughtfully curated panel discussions featuring scientists and artists together. Events have included author Seth Mnookin and artists Brian Knep, David Small and Nathalie Miebach; a conversation between scientist and writer Alan Lightman and artist Felice Frankel; artist Janet Echelman and her computer-scientist collaborator Peter Boyer, video artist Sam Jury and science writer Eli Kintish. The latest event featured oceanographer and photographer Larry Pratt, and artistic director of Contrapose Dance, Courtney Peix, and biologist, science journalist and creator of the “Dance Your PhD” contest, John Bohannon.
Currently on view at the Museum of Science Art & Science Gallery is Ocean Voices: A Synergy of Art and Science at the Museum of Science. This exhibit is an experiment in art and science collaboration produced by Whitney Bernstein and Lizzie Kripke of Synergy. New England artists and scientists were paired in order to build upon each other’s ideas, approaches, and perspectives to open up new modes of communication and public engagement. These pairings provide us with innovative ways of understanding oceanography, as well as interesting new insights into scientific and artistic practice. On March 3, 2013 MOS panel discussions with all of the artist and scientists involved with the project moderated by Ari Daniel Shapiro fascinated us with their reflections on the process of scientist and artist collaborations.
The Synergy Artist-Science collaborations was born out of a Climate Art Pizza event organized by science journalist Eli Kintisch. Eli began conducting Climate Art Pizza get-togethers in the Boston area in Fall 2011 when his MIT Knight Science Journalism fellowship brought him to town. More recently he has worked with the Cambridge Arts Council, Catalyst Conversations and the Broad Institute to bring together greater Boston-area organizations and practitioners of art/science initiatives to share current projects and, potentially, to prepare for collaborations, events, and further meetings.
With the national STEM to STEAM movement gaining momentum and a growing international interest in design and innovation, ASKlabs is very enthusiastic about collaborating with other area science/art communicators and educators to contribute to the national and global dialogue on art, design, science, engineering, education, and innovation which will strengthen our community and benefit all of society.
Climate Art Pizza’s Science Art Blender also took place on April 1, 2013 at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). Billed “minitalks and schmoozing,” this event highlights the massive amount of exciting art and science work happening in Boston. We heard rapidfire 5-minute presentations from: data visualizer aka “visceralizer” Kyuha Shim on Tangible Topography; GSD's Marcus Owens on Multinatural Histories an exhibit being created for Harvard’s Peabody Natural History Museum for Fall 2013 and currently accepting submissions; Marine biologist Whitney Bernstein and artist Lizzie Kripke on the Synergy Artist-Scientist collaborations experiment; RISD Journalist-in-residence Eli Kintisch on his data-driven climate change art project, Here After Now, a collaboration with video artist Sam Jury; physicist Russell Seitz on his CO2 pyramid; artists Andi Sutton and Jane Marsching of Plotform presented their Marsh Radio Island environmental art project; and artist Maria Molteni gave us a bee waggle dance demonstration to articulate the many components of her work Festooning the Inflatable Beehive. The minitalks were followed by schmoozing - it was a great event - thanks to all the presenters, sponsors and attendees!
It’s a terrific time to be exploring science and art in Boston, so go check out some innovative and inspiring work right here, right now, at the epicenter of science, art, and technology. Follow @ASKlabsAlberta on Twitter to keep up on all the latest #sciart events in the Boston area. We’ll see you there!
Photo, Top of page: http://gogreenstreets.org/sites/default/files/boston%20skyline.jpg?1334182758
Mar 20, 2013
The incredible and often ephemeral work of sculptor Andy Goldsworthy is deservedly legendary. Goldsworthy uses geometric shapes like spheres, spirals, squares, and circles, as well as archeological structures like cairns and arches, to create mind-blowing works out of, say, leaves of grass, rowanberries, intertidal sand, icicles, sticks. Goldsworthy’s interest in natural elements and materials lends itself to a study of time, decay, climate, and season. As his pieces are frequently melted, blown away, washed away, or eaten by wildlife, photography and film have been important throughout his career as a means to document both the process of creation as well as the way the work weathers after Goldsworthy is finished with it.
The Arches NZ, Gibbs Farm (2005) Photo Credit: Murray Robinson
Years ago, Andy Goldsworthy created a site-specific work for Gibbs Farm in New Zealand where I have done some work. The Arches (NZ) is a series of eleven freestanding stone arches marching to sea, and it somehow reminds one of the Loch Ness monster. The sandstone hails from a quarry near Goldsworthy’s home in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, which was also the home of art patron Alan Gibbs’ ancestors prior to their emigration to New Zealand. The Arches are held together by nothing but gravity and the principle of a perfectly-designed keystone, although very sturdy foundations were built to support them permanently. When I visited Gibbs Farm to film for the New Form at the Farm: Anish Kapoor and Lightning Dreams: The Electrum documentaries I finally got to experience The Arches for myself. The work is at once natural and man-made, complementing its environment while being shaped by it. The work is dynamic and constantly changing depending on the season, water level, tides, light, and time of day. It seems to provide a framework or lens through which one can observe nature with heightened appreciation.
The DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, located (near us!) in Lincoln, MA, has been working with Goldsworthy since 2009 to commission a permanent outdoor sculpture for their collection. The Artist proposes to build the sculpture Snow House. To support the proposal, the DeCordova ran an exhibition of photographs and films of Goldsworthy’s other work with ice and snow, as well as frequent screenings of the brilliant documentary film Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time. The museum has just recently celebrated the completion of this capital fundraising campaign and is moving forward with planning the installation.
Goldsworthy’s Snow House sculpture will be built into the bank of a lake, and it is modelled after historical structures which were used to preserve through the summer ice cut from local ponds. Into this structure a large snowball will be placed. Each summer, the structure will be opened to reveal what is left of the snowball, which will eventually melt once exposed. Then, once winter comes again, the staff of the DeCordova and community members will build another snowball from the first significant snowfall of the year, which will be closed in the structure to repeat the process the following year. This cycle of permanence, degeneration, and interactivity brings several different issues to the fore: a relationship with the seasons, a potential attendance to the effects of climate change, historical processes of ice-cutting and preservation, the passage of time, and a reliance on both the natural world and the community to perpetuate the cycle of artistic creation.
Much of Goldsworthy’s work to date with ice and snow has been extremely temporary. It will be fascinating, then, to see how Snow House plays across both permanence and cyclical decay. For instance, Goldsworthy frequently lies down just as it begins to rain or snow, creating rain and frost shadows which last long enough to be photographed and immediately appreciated before disappearing. Likewise, he has held his hand against thin, spring ice, melting away a handprint in the sheet before the sheet itself disappears with the sun. Some works depend on the melting away of snow or ice for their gradual effect: like snow heaped into a line in a field and left to thaw slowly; snow balls stained with dye from beech nuts, thawed on paper, and dried, leaving pools of stain on the paper; snowballs brought indoors (for instance at the Old Museum of Transport, Glasgow) or placed on display outdoors during summer (in London); and, finally, snow slabs, carved to let the light shine through before they melt in the sun.
The science behind Goldsworthy’s work and techniques is in many ways more intuitive than exact. Though Goldsworthy rarely talks specifically about the science or math underlying his work, his father was a mathematics professor, and his brother, with whom he lived, studied a biology course at university. In his works, Goldsworthy uses natural materials, works with colors and shapes found in nature and in the landscape which surrounds him, and relies on time and decay to add to as well as detract from the shapes and images he leaves behind. Sand sculptures rely on the relentless tide for timing, excitement, and erosion. Patterns of leaves and sticks on river or stream surfaces are pulled by the current to create only vaguely-predictable visual delights. The fact that Goldsworthy returns time and again to similar structures, patterns, and shapes, as well as materials, shows a (perhaps unconscious) alignment with practices of experimentation and redesign familiar to scientific researchers.
Part of Goldsworthy’s process involves a familiarity with space and terrain, with the entire environment of the place he has chosen to work. This includes local and available materials, histories, and seasons. He often explains that he discovers and develops the work through the materials available as they exist on the day; spending more time in a space allows him to deepen his relationship and build on previous work done there. Goldsworthy was invited to visit the DeCordova Sculpture Park during the winter of 2010. Through research and subsequent visits, he developed the project which he then proposed. For the DeCordova piece, he incorporates the changing season into his design, along with historical structures, and historical uses of natural materials like ice and lake landscapes.
We now look forward to the chance to closely observe and perhaps experience the development and creation of a Goldsworthy sculpture at the DeCordova Museum. We are ridiculously excited to welcome this permanent-ish work from Goldsworthy to our neighborhood, and can’t wait to watch as he builds it, and as it melts, shifts, and regenerates each season.
Stay tuned to ASKlabs blog for upcoming posts on the (Harold “Doc”) Edgerton Center at MIT, as well as coverage of the grand re-opening of the SF Exploratorium Museum by a special guest blogger!