Jul 9, 2013
One thing that is so exciting about the intersection of science and art is the pervasive spirit of innovation and experimentation. Inspired in part by some of the work we saw in Synergy’s Ocean Stories exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Science (closed June 9 but coming soon to New York!) and the always amazing MIT museum, we thought we’d pull together some great experimental sciart short films available online and off. To be honest, when we’re talking about sciart shorts, the word “experimental” is pretty much implied. Whether the experiment is in the science or the art (or both!), here is a little taster of what’s out there.
Of course we have to start with Doc Edgerton’s films. We’ve mentioned them before, but they’re worth the repetition. If you haven’t yet, or you haven’t lately, check out MIT’s digital archive for some of Doc’s films, stills, and other experiments, as well as biographical information and more. Another early experimental sciart filmmaker was Jean Painleve. His work relied less on the popular techniques of sets, editing, and other manipulations of reality to create surreal films. He stated instead that nature itself is surreal, and he dedicated himself to capturing that on film. An online archive provides short snippets of a selection of his films, and a DVD collection is available either through the BFI or the Criterion Collection.
Much more recently, IBM released A Boy and His Atom, hailed the “world’s smallest movie” - and it must be. The stop-motion animation was created by literally moving atoms around one by one, capturing each shot through their scanning tunneling microscope. The results are pretty great, harking back to early video game graphics in their pixelated simplicity.
The Durance. Photo by Wolfgang Staudt
Audiovisual sciart creations have also been put to work for the science and communities they represent. A series of works called “Interlaced Waters” were made in the early 2000s to explore and teach about the Durance River’s ecosystem in France. Intended to help scientists research the ecosystem of the river, these films were compiled using the new (at the time) technology of DVD, as well as to educate the public and tourists about the region’s environment through exhibition, workshops, and lectures, ultimately working to help protect that environment from detrimental influence. Another more recent project, TheBlu, brings the oceans of the world to your desktop computer via thousands of artists and animators. According to their website, “TheBlu turns the Internet into a globally-connected 3D digital ocean, providing an immersive experience that is both fun and educational for all ages.” With connections at MIT, National Geographic, and the Animation Director of Avatar, this is one seriously exciting and massive sciart collaboration.
Screenshot of TheBlu taken June 6, 2013
Finally, 2011’s Subtle Technologies Festival, in Toronto, featured two curated sets of experimental sciart shorts. Dan Falk’s article pretty much sums it up (for those of us who couldn’t be there), but the programme is impressive and worth checking out, as is the work of the curators and contributors (like Stanza, Scott Arford, and Dmitry Gelfand & Evelina Domnitch).
With the growth of science festivals, science and art collaborations, and websites like YouTube, there are probably more avenues for experimental sciart shorts than ever before. Check them out - maybe they’ll inspire you to make your own!
PHOTO TOP OF PAGE: Inspired by Doc Edgerton. http://www.flickr.com/photos/21649179@N00/486540093/, Wikimedia Commons
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