Jun 11, 2014
If you're reading this blog, you probably know that ASKlabs strives to explore the intersection of science and art. We aim to document stories of creativity at the art/science interface to inspire global audiences of all ages. We have a blast interviewing brilliant hybrid folk and hanging around with our cameras while they're at work exploring, building, inventing.
However, since our September 2013 Nerd Nite talks, the arrival of the $1000 genome, and the rise of consumer genomics, a number of big ideas have been swirling around ASKlabs. First off, facial morphology is an indication of how genetic syndromes present and there are often behaviors associated with the syndrome as well. Second, while many people are getting their genomes sequenced affordably now, there still isn't much information understood about which genes do what. Deciphering the human genome will be the work of molecular biologists, and bioinformaticians over the next few decades. Third, these are exciting times for genomics so we are developing a documentary exploring genetic privacy and the complex issues surrounding it.
We all see from family resemblances and identical twins that our faces are genetically-determined. However scientists do not yet know which genes do what. What if someone were to quantify a huge amount of facial data? Could we then link facial features directly to disease and behavior, forgoing the need for genetic data? We know that this is a big, impossible, and totally wacky idea but we think it could be an interesting dataset to add to the personal genomics mix. After all, if we don't ask, and if we don't measure, then we'll never have the data, and we'll never know the answer, right?
In short, we are getting obsessed with the idea of exploring the connections between genes and faces. There are a couple of big challenges we will need to figure out first such as: how will we acquire a large amount of facial data? How accurately can we measure human faces?
Watch this space for news and updates on the face project.
Apr 17, 2014
The STEM to STEAM educational movement strives to put the "A" (Art/Design) in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning. As the STEM to STEAM movement grows, it is important to document STEAM-specific learning. In gathering evidence about STEAM learning, we are showing how well STEAM works and how integral all the subjects in STEAM really are.
We recently had the opportunity to document an educational project from start to finish. On the one-year anniversary of the 2013 Boston Marathon, which was a day of both tragedy and bravery for the Boston community, Advent School students created artwork as a memorial in honor of the Marathon and a celebration of the City of Boston. The Advent School, a Boston independent elementary school dedicated to innovative teaching and learning styles, developed a project for their older students to create an installation of flowers made by hand. We filmed the process - not only to document the outcome but to show that learning is an integral part of project design. You can watch the video here:
A visiting artist, Amy Flurry, Co-Founder of the Paper-Cut-Project, led the students in creating “Flowers for Boston.” Amy brought plants and flowers for the students to study and instructed them on how to recreate the shapes and structures of flowers with bristol paper. We filmed as the students used investigative processes and learned to transform their observations into representative artwork. It was fascinating to capture the students’ careful examination of the details of flowers, and then to watch as they put that new knowledge to use in engineering sculptural interpretations.
Documenting learning helps children, parents, teachers, and administrators to learn, teach, and understand. Not only does it encourage reflection and memory for students, but strengthens planning and curriculum development as well as engagement from parents and administrators. Making learning visible means that everyone involved in the educational process can take an active role in evaluating progress and discovery.
Thanks to Advent Art Instructor Saskia Van Vactor and David Van Vactor for making this art/science learning possible at the Advent School. The “Flowers for Boston” installation can be seen at J.P. Licks, 150 Charles Street on Beacon Hill, until Friday, April 25.
Mar 26, 2014
The first time I visited Storm King was to grab a couple of shots for my Serra documentary for Gibbs Farm.
"Seeing the Landscape: Richard Serra's Tuhirangi Contour" DIR. Alberta Chu. 2003. An ASKlabs Production for the Keystone Trust.
Serra’s work at Storm King, Schunnemunk Fork, is comprised of four walls that express the fall of the land. This time the work was different than other times I had seen it; the grass had grown very tall around the pieces. I thought that Richard would probably prefer the tall grasses to be cut.
Richard Serra. Schunnemunk Fork. 1990-91. Storm King Art Center
We spent a perfect Fall afternoon at Storm King exploring large-scale sculptures by Di Suvero, Calder, Lewitt, Nevelson, and Snelson, to name a few. I was pleased to experience a couple of the more recently installed works: Maya Lin’s earthwork was quite substantial and the kids had a blast with its topology; Goldsworthy’s wall meandered and crossed a brook.
TOP: Maya Lin. Storm King Wavefield. 2007-08. BOTTOM: Andy Goldsworthy. Storm King Wall, 1997-98.
The next day we visited Dia: Beacon. Dia was formerly located in Manhattan’s Chelsea district but moved out of the city to a spacious Nabisco plant several years ago. I will never forget first seeing Serra’s Torqued Ellipses at Dia's raw warehouse space in the late 1990s. Dia: Beacon is a stunning art museum, the ceilings are shaped like the teeth of a saw and let in all this amazing natural light. It’s just huge: Heizer, Serra, Flavin, Lewitt, Warhol, De Maria, Beuys, Irwin, Neuhaus, the list goes on.
Works by (L) Michael Heizer and (R) Dan Flavin at Dia: Beacon. (By advance appointment you can get inside the barrier around the Heizers to get a closer look.)
On these art pilgrimages, I love experiencing art with kids, and am also encouraged by the promise that their minds are developing new connections.
We've talked about STEM (science + technology + engineering + mathematics) to STEAM (science + technology + engineering + arts + mathematics) before, and more voices are joining in on this movement. On Arts Advocacy Day in April 2013, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma spoke about the importance of arts education for the future of our nation. Ma discussed the national STEM to STEAM education movement stating: “STEM without STEAM loses steam, but STEM with STEAM will power our country forward. The qualities crucial to success in the 21st Century workforce will not come just from studying science, technology and engineering and math, as important as those disciplines are.”
Kenneth Snelson. Free Ride Home. 1974. Storm King Art Center.
And there’s proof that art makes kids smart - good news for educators fighting to keep arts funding. In 2008, university researchers completed three years of studies on the relationships between the arts and cognition. The Dana Consortium Report Learning, Arts, and the Brain showed strong links between cognitive abilities and arts education (press release here). These projects were preliminary, and did not lead to the identification of definitive causal relationships.
A more recent study, according to an op-ed piece in the New York Times by Brian Kisida, Jay P. Greene and Daniel H. Bowen, took advantage of the "perfect opportunity" to investigate links between art and its educational benefits. A few years ago, a Walton (Walmart, Sam’s Club) heiress opened the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. School field trips to the museum are free, thanks to a generous endowment, but the local schools far outnumber the available slots for visits so a lottery system was instituted. This creates a unique opportunity for social scientists to conduct research on the effects of museum visits on school age children: to study groups of kids who had never been to art museums in an educational setting (and to have control groups in the kids who had not yet been chosen by lottery). Their findings indicate significant benefits in critical thinking, arts engagement, and diversity of ideas. Though research in this area is still in its early days, it provides strong support for strengthening arts curriculum in schools.
Get inspired by art and grow your brain connections! Storm King Art Center reopens for the 2014 season this week, so dust off your picnic blankets and put some air in your bicycle tires. (While you're in the area, we've heard the Hessell Museum at Bard College is worth a visit too.) Happy trails!
TOP OF PAGE: Sol Lewitt. Five Modular Units. 1971. Storm King Art Center.
Feb 24, 2014
James Turrell was part of the Southern California Light and Space movement in the late 1960s like Eric Orr, the artist behind Electrum. 2013 was a big summer for Turrell with concurrent shows in Los Angeles at LACMA, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, TX, and the Guggenheim in NYC - and this was his first solo show in New York City since 1980.
For a time (around the turn of the millenium, after completing the Electrum documentary) I was obsessed with Turrell’s Roden Crater project, and made queries about helping to document the creation of this monumental and notoriously secretive work. At the time it seemed like a huge undertaking that would never see completion; now it is nearly finished and open by invitation to generous patrons of Turrell’s work.
L: Portrait of Turrell by Chuck Close on the cover of New York Times Magazine (June 20, 2013) via http://jamesturrellcatalogues.blogspot.com/; R: Roden Crater, satellite photo USGS
This Fall, when a friend called with an extra ticket to the sold out James Turrell Symposium at the Guggenheim I jumped at the chance to go -- the show was to come down in less than a week. After securing our symposium tickets, we were met at the museum’s side entrance, VIP style, and taken to see the Turrell works. The works we saw, First Light Turrell’s aquatint renderings of light cubes, were so luminous that on first impression I thought there actual lightboxes lit from within; only upon closer inspection I was amazed to find that they were paintings. They were sublime. Wow. In two adjacent galleries there were light works, one a light projection into the corner of a room Afrum I (White), and another projected onto a flat wall. On our way down the ramp, there was a long line to see Ronin a very tall light work maybe two stories tall that juxtaposed walls to create the perception of an entire wall being ajar. We wandered through Aten Reign in the Guggenheim rotunda on our way to the symposium taking place in the basement level auditorium.
We took in talks by scholars of art history, religion, and modern art as they discussed the way Turrell’s life experiences have influenced who he is as an artist, and the rituals and philosophies of light and perception apparent or inherent in his works. Nat Trotman, Co-Curator of the Turrell exhibition, moderated a conversation among the three presenters.
I got to experience Aten Reign for myself while my pals waited in the long line (45 minutes) for Iltar in the highest exhibition room. I found a spot on the chaise bench that circled the perimeter of the room and got comfortable. The light gradient shifted so slowly it was initially imperceptible. The light intensity and color gradient change with the passage of time.
Aten Reign in the Guggenheim rotunda, September 2013
Iltar was to be experienced in small groups of fifteen or less, hence the long wait. The room was quite dim. There was a rectangular piece on the wall which initially seemed like a grey rectangle painted on the wall, but was in fact, an unlit opening to another room. So really it was nothing. But we waited so long to see it so I stayed for a while. It made me think of the Emperor’s New Clothes, but I did enjoy it very much.
Amazingly, I got another chance to see Turrell's work at his retrospective at LACMA over the holiday break while visiting with family and friends in LA. It was a much more extensive show than that in NYC, and more experiential. For one piece, we donned booties and entered a large room transformed into a color wash chamber with a group.
Unbelievably, on our day to visit the Turrell show at LACMA, there had been a couple of cancellations and we got the hottest tickets in town -- sold out for the entire duration of the show: Perceptual Cell and Dark Matters. Each 20-minute appointment to see these works (individually and in pairs, respectively) is spoken for; most of the museum staff hasn't even had the chance to experience these works.
Turrell's Perceptual Cell is reminiscent of the isolation tank (aka sensory deprivation tank) popular in the 1960s, developed by John C. Lilly. The attendants (sporting A Clockwork Orange-like black derby hats with their white labcoats) give you the option of color wash or strobe effect (I chose strobe). After signing a waiver, you remove your shoes and lie on the narrow bed, with noise cancelling headphones on. An emergency panic-button is placed in your hand. Like a drawer, the bed with you on it, is rolled into the chamber, sealing the opening. Once in the chamber, the strobes created fractal-like mathematical patterns in my vision, almost inside my head it seemed. I was uncertain whether my eyes were open or closed. After a time, the assault of the strobing multi-colored light on my perception was dizzying. Here, the results of a googleimage search for 'Sierpinski carpet' can help me share what I experienced (minus the small headache.)
"Fast Fourier Transforms, Diffraction Patterns, and J" by Ned W. Allis (firstname.lastname@example.org), Jeffrey P. Dumont (email@example.com), Flynn J. Heiss (firstname.lastname@example.org), Clifford A. Reiter (email@example.com). Source: http://archive.vector.org.uk/art10007200
In contrast, Dark Matter is quiet and calm: you grope your way into a pitch dark chamber (using the railing as your vision is useless). The chamber is anechoic (dampened for noise so there is zero sound). You feel for a chair and settle in to gaze at nothing, again unsure whether your eyes are opened or closed. What is vision in complete darkness? After a while a faint glow emerges in your peripheral vision.
While I've tried to describe these works by James Turrell, its cliche but words really don't do justice. These are perception-altering works which must be experienced. I chalk it up under the category of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and my mind's eye revisits them often.
The show at LACMA is in its final days - coming down and the end of April 2014 - definitely go see it if you get the chance. (I personally plan to visit The Color Inside, Turrell's Skyspace at UT Austin this summer, as my timing to see Turrell's Meeting at MOMA PS1 has always been off...)
And I'll close with a Hollywood anecdote: an artist friend of ours has a friend who works at LACMA. One morning, early, before the museum doors opened to the public, Brangelina were spotted climbing into the Perceptual Cell together.
James Turrell page on Artsy.net
James Turrell website by Peggy Weil
Roden Crater website (implements a changing color wash effect - check it out!)
Doug Aitken INTV w Turrell in the NY Times T Magazine Website
Visit The Pace Gallery London James Turrell: Recent Works through April 5, 2014
TOP OF PAGE: Two separate shots side-by-side looking up toward the ceiling in the middle of the Guggenheim Museum in New York during James Turrell's light exhibition Aten Reign. Photos by Adam Shankbone. From http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:James_Turrell_At_the_Guggenheim_2013_NYC_Shankbone.jpg
Oct 16, 2013
Last month, Nerd Nite Boston gathered Boston’s nerds to hear some stories inspired by art, science, technology, lightning, and dystopic visions of invasive social networks. At the Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge, with nerds crowded around low tables, it appeared the husband and wife duo, Alberta Chu and Murray Robinson, were presenting to a group of eager kindergarteners, all of whom wanted to grow up to be scientists (though in reality, most of the audience probably already had). In case you missed it, here are some highlights:
Alberta started by explaining how she has forged her career in science and documentaries, showing us some great clips from her broad body of work. This included a clip of Samuel L Jackson narrating a doc on Industrial Light and Magic’s development of special effects for the Star Wars films. The clip went down pretty well, with audience respondents chanting Mr Jackson’s name and laughing at the corny, tongue-in-cheek intro. It also, of course, included some beautiful footage of massive sculptures on Gibbs’ Farm in New Zealand, which also gathered praise from the audience. The work on sci-fi shows and the engineering of big sculpture has allowed Alberta to have exciting premieres of her work and to build her expertise as a filmmaker, enabling her to pursue making films about the intersection of science and art.
The rest of Alberta’s talk featured several possible outcomes of science and art collaborations, like new science, new art, new technology, and public engagement. Alberta is fascinated with the kinds of hybrid science, art, and technologies that emerge from these collaborations, but places her own work in the final grouping, in that she creates art (films) which enable and/or enhance public engagement in science, art, and technology. Alberta’s slideshow reviewed the broad world history of science and art collaborations, including local heroes Doc Edgerton, Synergy Exhibits, Felice Frankel, as well as international technoartists and organizations: SymbioticA, Natalie Jeremijenko, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, the Exploratorium, and more. Ultimately, she argued, artists can help scientists address contemporary big issues, and can help bring science to the public in ways that make the science relevant and immediate.
Murray has been working on genes for nearly 30 years. He started out in the 1980s transferring lightning bug genes into mice to see what happened - resulting in glowing mice! Later, Murray met artist Eduardo Kac through Alberta, and his genetic work with mice inspired Kac’s later work in creating Alba, a glowing rabbit. The media maelstrom around this particular work and the process of genetic mutation seems to have died down considerably in the 13 years following Kac’s Alba, Murray argued, as glowing fish are now available as pets without any huge reaction. Over time, as the science has grown into shocking art and then into mainstream culture, the new technologies have been accepted and are no longer as shocking. Murray extended this pattern to hypothesize that the same would one day be true about public reaction toward the huge technological advance of genomics. The first human genome was sequenced less than 15 years ago, but the drop in cost for this process is phenomenal, and means that there is likely to be a sea change in how we understand ourselves in the next decade (at least). Companies like 23andme are giving consumers access to limited genetic information about themselves for as little as $99, and though the amount of data promised seems like a lot, it actually shows how little we really know about what genes are linked to. We know some things, like some diseases, some facial features, etc. Murray discusses two aspects of gene-linked traits: the controversial behavioral links, and the much less controversial idea of facial features linked to specific genes.
One of the reasons Murray became interested in genetics is because of his brother Kelly. Kelly is an enigmatic figure who is fascinated with electronics, funny, engaging, sleeps funny hours, and developmentally delayed. It wasn’t until 1998 that he was diagnosed with Smith-Magenis Syndrome, which was associated with the loss of one gene, RAI1. The diagnostic features of this gene-linked syndrome, however, included behavioral traits like a fascination with electronics. There are other genetically-linked syndromes with behavioral diagnostic elements. This is fascinating and highly controversial, given that electronics are such a recent and culturally contingent part of society, along with the nature vs nurture debates which rage among scientists and social scientists. Murray also provided two other syndromes which have associated behavioral traits. Aside from behavior, these genetic syndromes are also linked to characteristic facial features, which, again, is less controversial in terms of social narratives about genetics.
But given the huge amount of data flooding in, and the growing number of scientists and organizations working to begin interpreting that data, what will the future hold? When we do know more about our genetic data, how will we use it? Murray presented a few examples of capitalist/consumer-driven dystopian possibilities, and concluded that the issues and implications underlying this new explosion in genomics needs to be widely discussed and understood.
Both Alberta and Murray definitely agreed on a few key points - science needs to be talked about. The public needs to be in on the conversation. That’s the key importance of science and art collaboration and communication - to bring the science and the public together, to make science and technology accessible, interesting, and relevant to everyone.
Photo by Hargo
Thanks to Mary and Tim and all the folks at Middlesex Lounge! A huge thanks to all who attended! And here’s the #storify of Nerd Nite September capturing the social media around the event. Special thanks to Paul Ha, Hargo, Mark Zastrow, Snarky, Jarrett, Derya, Elena, Doreen, Alex and Max for the social media love.
-- Kat Hughes, Development Associate, ASKlabs
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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Jun 10, 2013
Collaborations between artists and scientists are certainly not a new phenomenon, particularly when the aim is to make scientific data accessible or visual for a public - among other forms, scientific illustrations are a perfect example. Recently, however, resources aimed at developing art and science collaborations have expanded exponentially, from the STEM to STEAM movement and UCSC’s OpenLab, both aimed at bringing art and science together in educational environments, to Story Collider, which brings the art of storytelling together with scientists and science experiences, and Artisans Asylum, which provides space, resources, and education on craft and technology from crocheting to building robots. Other groups support and promote research projects and artwork, like the Australian Network for Art and Technology and the NYC-based Art Science Research Laboratory. Cynthia Pannucci’s Art/Science Collaborations Inc (ASCI) provides an online forum for people interested in science/art collaborations to post calls for work/projects, conferences, and meetups.
New to the scene, Richard Lowenberg’s Scientist Artist Research Collaboration (SARC), based in New Mexico, aims to bring together artists and scientists for somewhat structured collaborative explorations. Scientist/artist collaborators can take part in seminars, a commissioning program, a festival, or interactions through social media and publishing. A similar project, based locally at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Oceans at MIT, Synergy produces science communication through its work. The results of their first collaborative project, the amazing Ocean Stories, is currently showing at the Boston Museum of Science. The project stretches beyond the museum, with the hopes of expanding the impact of the science and art. Synergy’s website includes short videos about each collaboration project, information about the artists and scientists, and links to articles and media coverage. Their new social media presence, too, is aimed at allowing them to network beyond their impressive local contacts, so that they can share the results of the fantastic collaborative art and science projects more broadly.
Watery Depths from collaboration between Bryan McFarlane and Jill McDermott. http://synergyexhibit.org/press/
For the scientists involved, taking part in the Ocean Stories collaborative project has meant that their research has now been communicated through the work itself in whole new ways and to brand new audiences. Not only do these projects take the research out of the lab and the field and into the museum, the gallery, the public space, but it also puts that research online through videos and articles on Synergy’s website, Facebook, and Twitter. Both scientists and artists benefit from these collaborations. Certainly participation in interdisciplinary projects helps scientists connect with the public, enabling them to disseminate their research through art, which can open up whole new channels of expression and interpretation. Artists, can learn about science and our world through these collaborations, and flex their communication skills in helping bring the research to their work.
The innovative modes of communication which result from art and science collaborations promise fascinating breakthroughs in scientific research, art and design, science communication, and public awareness and engagement with each of these fields. We can’t wait to see what comes next!
Photo Credit, TOP OF PAGE: Great Egret (Ardea alba) John James Audubon. From http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/03/audubons-birds-fly-again/?pid=6424
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#sciart #oceanstories #scicomm #science #STEMtoSTEAM #art #WHOI #MIT #MuseumofScience #Boston #collaboration
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!
Mar 12, 2013
When I was asked to be a part of the Boston Globe’s 25 Most Stylish Bostonians, I scheduled my shoot right away lest they changed their minds! Then I immediately began brainstorming locations for my photo shoot - I am a Producer after all. My criteria: highlighting my passion for science, technology, aesthetics, and film. Naturally I landed at the Edgerton Center at MIT.
The Edgerton Center is dedicated to science and engineering education, international development (D-Lab) and high-speed imaging; they also support many clubs and teams including the Vehicle Design Summit that I made a short video about in the Fall. They even have a machine shop. I love what they do at the Edgerton Center and I thought it would be great to raise awareness about their work among the greater Boston community. That’s right people, I modelled my styles at the very place that was ground zero for enormous technical advances in cinema and photography by MIT professor Harold “Doc” Edgerton who invented techniques of strobe-lighting and photography and won an Oscar in 1940. Yeah!
Iconoclastic Harold Eugene “Doc” Edgerton (April 6, 1903-January 4, 1990) was a groundbreaking and innovative engineer, and a Professor at MIT. (This biographical memoir for the National Academy of Sciences by Dr. J. Kim Vandiver and Pagan Kennedy is an excellent read.) His work with stroboscopic photography is legendary - in fact, while his name is relatively well-known, the images he produced over the years are instantly recognizable and have become a part of our popular imagination. Edgerton earned his masters degree in 1927 and his doctorate in 1931, both from MIT. He then taught there until 1977. A beloved teacher both for his dedication to education and learning, and for his kind demeanor and generosity toward students. As he was cresting in his career, the gorgous images he produced in collaboration with Gjon Mili frequented the covers of national magazines and won copious awards throughout their long-standing partnership.
Their innovation? Photographing fast-paced events like milk dropping into liquid, balloons bursting, and bullets hitting apples, bananas, playing cards, etc. Aside from the iconic and captivating demonstration of stroboscopic possibilities, Doc’s work had real-life applications, too. For instance, it extended to capturing images of nuclear blasts, and he worked to develop seabed scanning for undersea wrecks, resulting in the locating of the Britannia shipwreck. Quicker’n a Wink, a short (one-reel) documentary film about stroboscopic photography, won an Oscar in 1940.
To honor Edgerton’s life’s work at MIT, the Edgerton Center was opened in July of 1992. This is a hands-on lab and educational resource for MIT faculty and students, and also provides K-12 outreach. The Center provides space, equipment, and advice for students and researchers, continuing Edgerton’s dedication to teaching and learning, particularly his emphasis on practice and hands-on experience. On any given day, students are there building stuff. It’s enthralling to watch Ed Moriarty and his happy band of technology pirates make an electric violin, or repair a musical harp that employs lasers instead of strings. The Corridor Lab is a series of cool interactive displays which are designed to enhance knowledge of science and engineering phenomena. The Edgerton Center also continues Edgerton’s work at the High Speed Imaging Lab and the Strobe Project Lab, which dedicates work and darkroom space to high speed and scientific imaging. MIT courses are available which split time between lectures and hands-on image-making. As a part of the Edgerton Center Outreach Program, which works with K-12 students in science and engineering learning, the Center also provides a program called You Go Girl, a four day summer course aimed specifically at young girls entering high school, encouraging interest in science and engineering in a typically ignored and even discouraged population. On Obscura Day 2012, I was able to take my family to the Edgerton Center and we got to take our own milk drop photos and play with balloons, fast cameras, and strobes:
L: MIT Professor Jim Bales explains and demonstrates how the milkdrop shot is set-up, R: captured by yours truly moments later!
Want to know more? There are great resources for learning more about Edgerton, including the Digital Collections website which offers loads of films and images, along with articles and personal stories from his students, friends, and colleagues. Amazingly, it also provides digital archives of his laboratory notebooks from 1930-1990, allowing total access to the designs and thought processes of this visionary engineer. The MIT Museum also dedicates a website to Doc. Doc Edgerton’s photography work and estate are represented in Boston by the stylish Gallery Kayafas and by Gus Kayafas at Palm Press.
STROBE! CAMERA! ACTION!
Photo by: Alexandra Metral
For my Boston Globe fashion shoot, we had initially planned to utilize the strobe lights to do some crazy stuff but ultimately the idea was dropped in favor of simplicity. They chose a dark setting with one prop - yes, that’s Doc Edgerton’s invention: the world's first commercial strobe light - behind me in the shot! The photographer took over 600 photographs, and we had two costume changes.
It was fantastic to work with Pullitzer-prize winning photographer Essdrass Suarez, and his assistant Cecile, and special thanks to my pal and stylist for the shoot, Alexandra Metral who is in fact one of the smartest dressers around... say, I think I’ll nominate her for “the list” next year! (Who do you think should be named “Boston’s Most Stylish in 2014?” You can nominate them here.) Thanks again to the Boston Globe for including me in the 8th edition of their “Most Stylish!" Here I am with Pedro Alonzo, one of the Curators at the ICA, commiserating about our disappointment in not making the cover.
Photo by: Hargo
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!
Special thanks to Professor Jim Bales, Ed Moriarty, Camilla Brinkman and everyone at the Edgerton Center. Also Marni Katz, Arlette and Gus Kayafas, Geoff Hargadon and PLV.
Mar 8, 2013
ASKlabs’ dynamic film and TV productions often highlight creativity at the interface of art and science. Naturally, we’ve taken an interest in the STEM to STEAM movement, the educational policy initiative to incorporate art and design into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). On the final day of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) meeting this year in Boston, we attended the “Benefits Beyond Beauty: Integration of Art and Design into STEM Education and Research” panel to see what scientists, artists, and educators have been doing to advance innovation and creativity; many have brought art and science together.
The panel was organized by Rieko Yajima, Project Director of Research Competitiveness at AAAS and Gunalan Nadarajan, Dean of Art and Design at the University of Michigan. They brought together “four national art + science initiatives, including three that are funded by the NSF, that illustrate how art and design are affecting the practice of science education, public engagement, and research collaborations”. The speakers were Gunalan Nadarajan; Brian K. Smith, Dean of Continuing Education at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD); J.D. Talasek, Director, Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences, and Marina McDougall, Curator at the Exploratorium Museum.
One way in which this panel immediately differed from others we attended was its structure: panelist talks were reduced to ten minutes apiece so that the whole group could then interact and hold breakout sessions in smaller groups to discuss experiences and ideas. The educators, scientists, artists, and media-makers in the audience could share their ideas and questions, as well as their own experiences in research and in the classroom.
At the National Academy of Sciences, J.D. Talasek runs the DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER) program, inspired by LASER. Though he started out as an engineer, Talasek is also trained as an artist and teaches a Museums in the Digital Age class at John Hopkins University. He posited that both Art and Science represent important human inquiry. Through his work with the National Academy, he has been developing programs (including an app) aimed at visual iconography and the history of science. Talasek pointed out that there are strongly formed social and academic perceptions about science and art, and it is a challenge to move beyond those ideas. In fact, bringing art and design into scientific inquiry can be seen as a career threat for some scientists, presenting difficulties in funding at the very least. However, he argued, the recent conflux of data streams are meaningless unless we can visualize them! Some of the best examples he provided of data visualization work were Katy Borner’s Atlas of Science, and the Edna Guenther Digital Arboretum.
Computer scientist and Educator Brian K Smith presented “STEM to STEAM: Developing New Frameworks for Art/Science Pedagogy,” Smith heads up the STEM to STEAM initiative at RISD where President John Maeda is a vocal proponent in the effort to change education legislation. While internationally known as an art and design school, RISD is not necessarily in the business of producing artists; rather an education at RISD aims to provide students with tools for innovation and creativity; the ideas and methods that fuel entrepreneurship and the US edge on innovation. Smith explained the need for art, design, and creativity in the field of learning sciences and at the interface of computing and technology learning. He shared William Bennett’s (former Secretary of Education under Reagan) recent op-ed piece in the Detroit Free Press declaring that STEM-based education in the US is missing its mark. Smith feels that a STEM-deficient education holds back the economy, and that together with a drop in creativity (see The Creativity Crisis), there is a serious need for rethinking STEM education. This needs to include innovation and experience, particularly at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts: he asks, how does design fuel the experience and the intersection of technology and arts? With funding from the National Science Foundation, RISD has been heavily involved in this rethinking via its STEM to STEAM initiatives, which have helped to formulate House Resolution 51 re-introduced on February 4, 2013, by US Representative Jim Langevin (D) to turn STEM to STEAM. The petition can be signed here.
“Art allows new ways in and through scientific material and thought.”
Science Communicator and Founder, The Institute for Figuring
Curator Marina MacDougall of San Francisco’s Exploratorium presented “Exploratorium: Art and Inquiry” talked first about the place of the Exploratorium at the intersection of art and science. The unique museum, which was founded by Frank Oppenheimer in 1969, is a hybrid museum and lab, focused on education. Artists have been key to the formation and continuation of the museum: its first show was Cybernetic Serendipity. An early artist in residence program at the museum has resulted in a long term exhibit by artist Bob Miller which explores light and shadow. In fact, art has continued to be an integral part of the museum’s methodologies, which understand art as a cultural tool to advance human knowledge. MacDougall explained that the Exploratorium views art as a way of knowing. They believe that art is an open ended process of working, investigating, speculating, and going along unknown paths - with the unknown something being a discovery. The world eagerly awaits the re-opening of the Exploratorium in its new location in April 2013.
“Art is a culturally evolved strategy for human cognition related to complex problems.”
Artist and Curator
Finally, Dean Gunalan Nadarajan spoke the 2010 National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) conference which explored the intersection of art and science and potential collaborations. The result of this meeting was a national network called SEAD (science, engineering, art, design). This network was established to respond to complex problems with multidisciplinary teams.
This panel was an excellent survey of ongoing art-science collaborations. It was also a great way to connect with current and interested practitioners from around the world. We loved seeing that art is an integral part of scientific research, communication, and education. Art and design-thinking are vital to the complex problem-solving of scientific and technological innovation and the broad spectrum of art and science programs represented at this symposium indicates the huge potential for work which bridges these fields.
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!
Thanks for livetweeting the #AAASsciart panel: @sgalla, @ktraphagen
Feb 28, 2013
The recent AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) conference, organized by the publishers of Science, brought thousands of attendees to Boston's Hynes Convention Center. This year's #AAASmtg, entitled "The Beauty and Benefits of Science" grabbed our attention because that's exactly what we focus on here at ASKlabs. Read on to hear about the most interesting #sciart talks of the conference: "Artful Science" which looked at the science and math behind the natural world; and the "Beauty and Utility of Scientific Images" symposium which presented tools scientists have developed to visualize the invisible - from cells to stars.
Organized by science and art education pioneer John R. Jungck of Beloit College, WI, the Artful Science symposium made connections across disciplines, exploring the intersection of art and science through mathematical equations and biological forms. Panelists Maura Flannery, Robert J. Krawczyk, Jo Ellis-Monaghan, and mathematician/engineer turned sculptor George W. Hart dazzled participants with examples from botany, seashells, and mathematics-inspired sculpture. Professor Flannery opened with "Herbaria are works of art that are essential to science." Herbaria, an early field of science gave rise to botanical illustrations. With the advent of the printing press and reproducible drawings the field of botany was born.
Robert Krawczyk, an architect from Illinois Institute for Technology, explores chaos theory. He says, "Scientific phenomena have an artistic aesthetic. I may see things in there that scientists may not see." You can see his works online: www.bitartworks.com
Why do we have such an immediate aesthetic response to seashells? Because seashells are self-similar, there is a sense of a repeating shape, a pattern. Presenter Jo Ellis-Monaghan spoke about "Seashells, Math and the Natural World" arguing that mathematics is both a creative language, and a language for describing reality. If she could write down the equations for a shimmering ocean surface, she said, she would give them to friends in the midwest. Seashells have helical spirals, and their mathematical model can also be used to recreate fossils and to figure out the structure of ancient ammonites. Seashell models are also a good introduction to vector modelling for students. On the left below is an example of Delauney triangulation and on the right, Voronoi fractals:
(L-R: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c4/Delaunay_Triangulation_(100_Points).svg/250px-Delaunay_Triangulation_(100_Points).svg.png http://www.wblut.com/2008/04/01/voronoi-fractal/)
George W. Hart, (creator of the scupture shown below) is inspired by various forms and aesthetics, many of which are found under the sea. His large-scale works, made from materials ranging from books, and steel, to plastic from 3D printers, can be seen in major museums and public spaces. He recently helped to establish the Museum of Mathematics in NYC, AND he's Vi Hart's Dad! How cool is that?
Professor John R. Jungck, founder of Bioquest, emphasized the importance of beauty, fun, and collaboration. "Mathematics is a lens that allows us to see," he says, and adds that seeing is: doing, measuring, re-visioning, and modelling, all of which leads to a deeper understanding of how forms and patterns come about. He recommended Ernst Haeckel's book Art Forms in Nature and pled for educators to combine art and science in the classroom. And of course no presentation on form is complete without mention of D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, pioneering mathematical biologist, author of the definitive tome "On Growth and Form" (1917). His observations of phyllotaxis (numerical relationships between spiral structures and the Fibonacci sequence) have become a textbook staple.
The symposium The Beauty and Utility of Scientific Images organized by Kartik Sheth, Associate Astronomor, NRAO (moderator) and Margaret Meixner, Astronomer, Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) transported participants beyond the visible worlds of seashells and plants, diving into invisible worlds. This symposium included diverse perspectives on the use of scientific imagery for research and public engagement in the fields of astronomy, environmental sciences, molecular biology, and neuroradiology.
Each speaker explained the process of creation and the use of imagery in making visible what is otherwise unseeable, with the aim of showing how visualizations contribute to new and pivotal research, as well as inspiring global movements and engaging the public. Stefi Baum pointed out that sophisticated instruments allow astronomers to capture images of phenomena on other wavelengths that are not on the visual spectrum. This not only creates beautiful and fascinating imagery, but also provides new data for astronomical interpretation.
Molecular Biologist Tom Kirchhausen uses multimedia imagery to both develop and communicate his research. He included examples of “molecular snapshots”, live movies, and “molecular movies” to illustrate the ways that visualizations aid research in the study of cellular clathrin coats. Both Kirchhausen and Baum gave evidence that images help scientists study phenomena which are either too far away or too small to see or observe. In fact, Kirchhausen provided an excellent dynamic visual to illustrate scale (check it out!) to explain just how tiny his object of study is, and why molecular snapshots and molecular movies are needed for his lab's work. Kirchhausen asked: are scientific images simply a visual record of our work? How can they be used to transmit knowledge and interpretation? Should visual aesthetics influence the scientific endeavor?
David Yousem, Professor of Radiology at the John Hopkins Medical Institution in Baltimore, MD, explained that images can aid surgeons -- images of the brain and its pathways mapped onto surgical cases can help surgeons avoid disrupting important functioning parts of the brain. Yousem claims that these radiographs have also been mistaken for paintings when hung on a wall!
Imagery is an integral part of research across scientific fields. At the intersection of science and art we find the fuel that drives innovation and advances technology, knowledge, the humanities, culture, and society. Scientific imagery is also a key aspect of communicating science to the public and engaging the public in the importance of science research. This year's AAAS meeting was an amazing gathering of scientists, visualization and communications experts, and educators, exemplifying the fascinating and dynamic relationships between science and art. Whether researching the visible world around us, microscopic cellular functions, or galaxies far far away, scientists' utility of images and visualizations are a vital part of the scientific endeavor.
Stay tuned for the scoop on #scicommsecrets and Social Media for Scientists #AAASsms.
Feb 5, 2013
Another awesome day for “New Form at the Farm: Anish Kapoor’s Dismemberment Site 1”. The Peabody Essex Museum was a popular destination on Saturday as the closing day of the "Hats" exhibit concurred with the opening day of the museum’s new exhibit, "Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India After Independence" and our screening.
A big THANKS to everybody who came along for our Saturday screenings at the Peabody Essex! We hope had as much fun as we did. Our audience included families, filmmakers, design geeks and of course the South End hipsters rolled in, which made for lively Q&A discussions!
Gibbs Farm is indeed visible on Googlemaps satellite photos and the Kapoor sculpture is quite prominent: (See if you can spot the Serra!)
We especially want to thank Jennifer Evans, Manager of Programs at the PEM for putting these fantastic screenings together.
Jan 31, 2013
ArcelorMittal Orbit http://www.arcelormittalorbit.com/images/hi-res/25_mediagallery_download.jpg
This weekend’s screening of “New Form at the Farm: Anish Kapoor’s Dismemberment Site 1” at the Peabody Essex Museum chronicles Kapoor’s largest permanent outdoor sculpture to date at Gibbs Farm in New Zealand. But Dismemberment Site 1 isn’t his only large outdoor piece. In fact, the sculptor is well known for his large public works. We’ll share a few here, from the simple and remote The Eye in the Stone in the northern reaches of Norway to the mammoth and controversial ArcelorMittal Orbit, part of London’s 2012 Olympic Park.
Many of Kapoor’s outdoor sculptures are what he calls “Mirror Objects.” The most famous of these is Cloud Gate, otherwise known as “The Bean,” in Chicago’s Millenium Park. Though Kapoor dislikes the work’s nickname, it is an extremely popular sculpture, drawing tourists and film crews alike. In fact, several Chicago-set films have used Cloud Gate since its completion, including Source Code (Duncan Jones, 2011), The Break-Up (Peyton Reed, 2006), and The Vow (Michael Sucsy, 2012). The work itself is shaped like a bean, and is highly reflective on all sides. Its shape allows visitors to pass under the sculpture, adding to the interactivity of the already reflective piece. On Kapoor’s website you can find some cool plans and drawings for the work, too.
Other Mirror Objects include the various Sky Mirror pieces. These are both permanent and travelling pieces, concave mirrored discs often placed at an angle or hammered irregularly so that they both reflect and distort. These can be found permanently at The Nottingham Playhouse in England, and The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Other versions have appeared in exhibitions at the Rockefeller Center in New York, Kensington Gardens in London, and the Brighton Pavilion Gardens for the Brighton Festival in England. Last year a similar mirror object was attached to a wall at the Storm King Art Center, and one is currently in place as a part of Koelnskulptur 6 in Germany.
Dismemberment Site 1, while similar to several of Kapoor’s other works (mostly indoor works, such as Marsyas at the Tate Modern 2002) is another beast altogether: huge and red and constantly changing in relation to perspective, it both complements the famous mirror objects and doesn’t merely reflect the landscape: it transforms it. Find out for yourself at Saturday’s screenings, 11am and 2:30pm.
Jan 30, 2013
It's never too early to get your children interested in innovation, collaboration, engineering, and the design process! The scale, playfulness of design, color, and the aspiration of great art all make “New Form at the Farm: Anish Kapoor’s Dismemberment Site 1” a great documentary for kids. It’s showing this Saturday at 11am and 2:30pm at the Peabody Essex Museum, so the timing is perfect too! To gear up for these screenings, we thought we'd share other documentaries about art that the whole family can enjoy.
Legendary documentary filmmakers Albert and David Maysles (also hailing from Boston) have a slate of films about the large-scale outdoor works of artist Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude. From “Christo’s Valley Curtain” (1973) to “The Gates” (2007), the collaboration between filmmakers and artists has meant that many of these temporary works, and the struggles behind them, are preserved for future audiences. While Kapoor’s Dismemberment Site 1 is a permanent installation in the landscape, “New Form at the Farm” likewise captures the difficulty of getting artwork of such proportions built. Other films in the Maysles/Christo vein are “Running Fence” (1978), “Islands” (1986), “Christo in Paris” (1986) and “Umbrellas” (1994). For older kids, Albert Maysles also made a more involved film about the planning and building of LA’s Getty Center, called “Concert of Wills: Making the Getty Center” (1997).
If your kids are into design and architecture, they would also love “Eames: The Architect and the Painter” (2011), a film directed by Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey about designers and artists Charles and Ray Eames, narrated by James Franco, which is streaming on the PBS website.
Or, if you think your kids might be more interested in watching other kids achieve artistic heights, there are some great films about children in the arts. “First Position” (2011) is a film directed by Bess Kargman, documenting a handful of entrants in the Youth America Grand Prix, a ballet competition. The film focuses on the stories of the competitors, and the hard work and sacrifices necessary for these kids to follow their dancing dreams. “Mad Hot Ballroom” 2005, directed by Marilyn Agrelo, is another film about kids dancing, this time in the New York based city-wide elementary school ballroom dance competition.
Films are definitely a fun way to introduce children to art and artists. Even more so, films about huge, temporary, or faraway artworks allow kids to experience the process of thinking up great art, and then making it happen. Show your kids how to think big, following Anish Kapoor’s example. We hope to see you Saturday at the Peabody Essex Museum for our screenings of “New Form at the Farm”; admission to these screenings is FREE with museum admission. Hope to see you there!
Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/443575572363099/
PEM Museum listing: http://bit.ly/QVvyEI
Boston Central Listing - Family activities - includes some reviews: http://bit.ly/VGuT90
Jan 28, 2013
How exactly did Anish Kapoor manage to build Dismemberment Site 1? This question is part of the appeal and fascination of the huge sculpture, and our documentary short film “New Form at the Farm” helps to explore the process of conceptualization and creation.
Kapoor and Gibbs worked closely with engineers and architects who could take their dramatic ideas and make them material. Kapoor’s frequent collaborator, Cecil Balmond, is himself an exhibited artist, and is well known for his collaborative work on large sculpture and sculptural architecture projects. In fact, after Marsyas and Dismemberment Site 1, the two won a bid to build the permanent sculptural aspect of London’s 2012 Olympic Park: the result, an interactive, massive (tallest sculpture in the UK), and intriguing sculpture called the ArcelorMittal Orbit.
Balmond, educated in Sri Lanka and the UK, worked with reknowned engineering, architecture, and design group Ove Arup Group for many years before moving away to form his own Studio, based in London and Columbo. His work combines geometrical concepts of spatial organization and natural occurrences such as fractals, with high-level architectural design. In fact, while with Arup he founded the Advanced Geometry Unit, dedicated to research and design.
Certainly having a brilliant designer and engineer on his side like Balmond has helped Kapoor to develop and realize his visions. In fact, huge sculpture of this kind almost always requires the work of engineers. As the engineer interviewed in “New Form at the Farm” explained, there’s not much practical structural difference between a car park and Kapoor’s sculpture. But as we know, the results are wildly different!
"New Form at the Farm: Anish Kapoor's Dismemberment Site 1" screens twice at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem MA on Saturday, February 2nd, 2013. The first screening is at 11am and the second screening at 2:30pm. The screenings are FREE and open to the public. Please join us.
Jan 22, 2013
Photo Credit: David Maisel’s History’s Shadow http://davidmaisel.com/works/photo/his_xxx_m_01.jpg
Thanks to everyone who submitted to our BLUR Art & Science Pinterest Contest! Here are some ongoing and upcoming events in the world of Art and Science for you to check out:
Ongoing at FACT Liverpool: Noisy Table, an interactive ping pong table which emits sound as games are played, and Winter Sparks, a show in which four new media artists play with electricity and Tesla coils (both shows until February 24).
January 24: DIY BIO led by Romie Littrel at the Broad Art Center in Los Angeles
January 24: Maya Lin speaks at the Central Library in Copley Square, Boston
January 24: Brazilian animator Guilherme Marcondes presents the work from MIT Game Lab workshop at MIT Museum
January 28: Science on Screen at the Coolidge Corner Theatre presents Wes Anderson’s Rushmore (1998) with a talk by Steven Schlozman, MD
January 30: A Symposium with Gallery talk by Swiss Landscape Architects at Boston Architectural College
February 6: LASER event at Stanford University with talks on various subjects as well as an exercise to encourage discussion of ongoing art and science projects. (Next event April 4.)
February 14: Chemical Romance workshop led by Christina Agapakis at Broad Art Center in Los Angeles
February 15: Compass Points: Joël Tettamanti opens at the MIT Museum with work that focuses on the impact of humans on their environment and landscape.
February 16: Ocean Stories: A Synergy of Art and Science at the Museum of Science, Boston.
February 25-March 24: Encounters Between Art and Science, an exhibit at The British Library by artists on the Art and Science MA programme at Central St Martins - the work is all inspired by the Library and its science collections, and runs alongside Inspiring Science, a series of events and workshops which runs from March 11 to March 24 at The British Library.
Various events held by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences can be found here, taking place in California and Cambridge, MA.
Various events held by the UCLA Art│Sci Center and Lab
For more ideas about exhibits in the coming year, the Smithsonian blog Collage of Arts and Sciences has some recommendations too.
So check out some of these events if they’re near you while we wait for the BLUR contest results!
Jan 18, 2013
Last night’s World Premiere of New Form at the Farm: Anish Kapoor’s Dismemberment Site 1 at the RISD Art Museum was great. We were thrilled to share our films about the creation of landscape sculptures at Gibbs Farm with the RISD community, and Producer/Director Alberta Chu and Editor Stephanie Munroe enjoyed the Q&A afterwards with such an engaged audience of filmmakers, artists, and designers.
It was so interesting to see the New Form at the Farm documentary alongside our 2004 film Seeing the Landscape: Richard Serra’s Tuhirangi Contour. Thanks to Deborah Clemons, Associate Educator, Public Programs, at the RISD Art Museum for programming such a nice event. A big THANKS to everyone who attended, and especially those who travelled up from NYC and down from Boston.
A group of us from Boston jumped on the Amtrak and headed down to Providence in the afternoon to explore RISD’s Nature Lab as well as the RISD Museum prior to showtime. RISD is one of the centers of the STEM to STEAM movement, which strives to change public policy by adding the "A" (for art and design) back into the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum of public education. Last night, we learned that RISD President @JohnMaeda is a prime mover in this area. EVENT PHOTOS
We hope to see you at our next event, a screening of New Form at the Farm at Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum on February 2!
Jan 15, 2013
Dismemberment Site 1 at Gibbs Farm. Anish Kapoor. 2009
Our documentary film “New Form at the Farm: Anish Kapoor’s Dismemberment Site 1” will be having its World Premiere this week at the RISD Museum in Providence, RI. At the premiere we will also be showing our 2004 film “Seeing the Landscape: Richard Serra’s Te Tuhirangi Contour.” Both of these films explore the planning and execution of large-scale sculpture projects within a landscape, and both are set on Gibbs Farm in New Zealand, but what about other sculpture parks around the world?
While Gibbs Farm is 1000 acres, two of the next biggest sculpture parks in the world are around 500 acres each and feature internationally renowned artists: The Storm King Art Center in New York state and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in England. Storm King features work by artists Richard Serra, Mark di Suvero, David Smith, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Andy Goldsworthy, and Isamu Noguchi, while Yorkshire includes work by Henry Moore, Andy Goldsworthy, Sophie Ryder, and Barbara Hepsworth, and is free of charge. Both are must-see parks for anyone interested in large-scale sculpture. Further afield, Norway has several parks, including two which feature work by Anish Kapoor (Artscape Nordland and Kistefos-Museet Sculpture Park) as well as the largest park dedicated to the work of a single artist, the Vigeland Museum and Sculpture Park, which features the work of Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. In South Africa, the NIROX Foundation Sculpture Park, which is set in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, aims to “advance Africa’s place in the global contemporary arts” and provides a residency program, temporary exhibits, and a museum in addition to the park. On Naoshima Island in Japan, the Benesse Art Site Naoshima offers both outdoor and indoor commissioned and site-specific work, and visitors can experience the art over a series of days, as the Site also includes four hotel facilities, renovated by architect Tadao Ando.
Guilin YUZI Paradise Sculpture Park (http://www.china-tour-guide.com/uploads/allimg/110606/13314aF2-0.jpg)
Some newer sculpture parks include the Jupiter Artland in Edinburgh, Scotland, which includes commissioned work by Andy Goldsworthy, Antony Gormley, and Anish Kapoor. The park opened in May 2009. The Guilin YUZI Paradise Sculpture Park in China also recently opened to the public after an extensive phased construction, and, alongside its spectacular surrounding landscape, represents an exciting addition to the field. In Brazil, the Insituto Inhotim has a superb collection of sculpture and contemporary art which features Brazilian and international artists. Their gardens, recently officially made Botanical Gardens, hold the biggest palm collection in the world.
In Santa Barbara, CA, David Bermant’s incredible collection of sculpture melds science, technology, and art, and can be found exhibited in locations throughout the city of Santa Barbara.
Researchers at the University of Birbeck, London, with the help of San Francisco Bay Area sculptor James Benbow Bullock, have created an International Directory of Sculpture Parks. Though by no means exhaustive you can browse by location or search by park or artist name. So if you’re looking for an art pilgrimmage this site will help.
In the meantime, if you are in New England this week, you can enjoy the lush vistas of Gibbs Farm without getting on a plane at our RISD Museum World Premiere of “New Form at the Farm,” where you can learn more about Anish Kapoor and Richard Serra’s exciting work in New Zealand. January 17th @ 6:30.
FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE: http://on.fb.me/VCPVmU
Jan 3, 2013
2012 was a busy year for ASKlabs: filmmaking, social media, researching new ideas and stories, and an excellent film premiere. We participated in our first hackathon, went to our first Meetup, and made our first microdocumentary (super short film). Additional 2012 highlights include artist Tom Sachs' "Mission to Mars" installation at the Park Street Armory, Ai Weiwei at the the Hirshhorn Museum, Lauren Greenfield's documentary film "Queen of Versailles," meeting popular science author Steven Johnson, attending the World Congress of Science Producers conference in DC, and being safe inside a Faraday cage while being zapped with 1 megavolt of electricity.
We completed our film “Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm,” in February and had an excellent film premiere event at the Boston Museum of Science in November as part of their "When Art Meets Science" film series. San Francisco high-voltage engineer Greg Leyh appeared in person and Daniel Davis dazzled our audience with an amazing show of electricity in the MOS Theater of Electricity; the event was lauded in the Boston Globe and sold out. Audience members and MOS staff all agreed that our event “Lightning Strikes” exceeded every expectation. We are extremely grateful to our friend and supporter, Boston artist and inventor (and sometimes museum consultant) Steve Hollinger for making this happen. Thanks to Lisa Monrose and Jennifer Garrett at the Museum of Science. West-coast and European premieres of the film are being planned for 2013. Stay tuned for details.
ASKlabs continues to develop films that increase public awareness and knowledge of global climate change. One greatly impacted area is the coral reef ecosystem. For that project we travelled to Cancun, Mexico to film the underwater sculptures of Jason de Cairnes Taylor which are seeded to help coral regenerate. The film will be completed in Spring of 2013.
In August, ASKlabs produced the microdocumentary “Putting it Together: The Modular Car” about group of MIT students leveraging crowd-sourced innovation to build a fuel-efficient modular vehicle - this car is to be developed in 2014 will do better than 200mpge. Filmed on location at MIT's Edgerton Center, thanks to Camilla Brinkman for helping to make this happen.
We jumped into transmedia when the Zeega/Tribeca Film Festival Hackathon accepted our interactive documentary concept about the late 19th century War of Currents between Edison and Tesla; during the day-long Hackathon we created films with other media-makers and artists using the novel new browser-based editing software developed by Jesse Shapins and his crew at Zeega in Cambridge.
ASKlabs is currently in the midst of the BLUR pinterest contest - people from around the world are submitting Pinterest boards of images that say "beautiful science." We’re excited to bring the international emerging art/science community together as we approach the January 15th deadline for submissions.
At the close of 2012, we are developing what we believe is the perfect science-art documentary. We’ll reveal more as soon as we can.
Dec 27, 2012
Twitter is a GREAT way to reach out to people that you don’t know but who have similar interests or do similar work. But to catch their attention, how do we know which hashtags to drop into which Tweets? Certainly more specific ones like #physics or #illustration make sense, but what about more generally? If Twitter can help us build a community around people who appreciate the collaboration of art and science, then we need a common language to help us communicate with each other. We have looked into the most common uses, recently, of some art and science hashtags and here's what we found:
But where’s the hashtag??
Image from http://swartzentrover.com/cotor/Photos/Hiking/Birds/BirdPages/Anatomy/Anatomy.htm
So, we’ll start with the shortest, and most easily Tweetable: #artsci does bring up some interesting tweets but the feed is choked by information from the Registrars of Arts and Science departments such as Rutgers Camden or University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts and Science. On the other hand, #sciart has lots of great Tweets, and seems a lot more widely used than #artsci. Surprisingly, though it seems clunkier, #scienceart comes up with the widest and coolest array of relevant entries. These include videos of snowflake chemistry, beautiful illustrations, and calls for collaborations and submissions to science and art competitions. And finally, the very clunky #artandscience, as far as we can tell, brings up great stuff but is more institutionally based, so things like exhibits and articles are there, rather than random Twitter users sharing with each other.
This is not to say these hashtags are going to continue to be used this way. Social media is constantly evolving. If nothing else, it will remind you of the variety of ways you can search for cool ideas and inspirations in the world of art and science, which you can then use for your BLUR Pinterest board contest entries! Entries are due in just a few weeks on January 15, 2013. You can SUBMIT via Facebook message to our FB page: ASKLabs Documentary Film.
Announcing revised ASKLABS BLUR Pinterest Contest Prizes:
1st place: $200 Visa Gift Card and collection of three ASKlabs “Science as Art” documentary films featuring sculptures by Richard Serra, Anish Kapoor, and Eric Orr.
2nd place: $50 Visa Gift Card and collection of three ASKlabs “Science as Art” documentary films featuring sculptures by Richard Serra, Anish Kapoor, and Eric Orr.
3rd place: Collection of three ASKlabs “Science as Art” documentary films featuring sculptures by Richard Serra, Anish Kapoor, and Eric Orr.
Dec 19, 2012
Looking for some inspiration to help prepare your BLUR contest entry? Here are some of our favorite recent blog posts from the world of Science and Art.
Visual Science is a frequently updated blog from Discover magazine which presents new work, interesting issues in scientific imagery, and current exhibitions. A recent post highlights the work of local artist Nathalie Miebach, who combines basket-weaving, climate data, and climate change in her sculptures. Miebach’s work can be seen at the Massachusetts College of Art New Residency Hall in Boston, or at any of her upcoming shows, including a collaborative exhibit at Museum of Science, Boston and a solo exhibit at the California Museum of Arts and Craft, Los Angeles, CA in 2013. Exciting stuff!
If you want to know more about upcoming exhibits in your area, Symbiartic, which is a great blog from Scientific American run by bloggers Kalliopi Monoyios and Glendon Mellow, has brought back its “SciArt Buzz” segment, which lists regionally relevant SciArt exhibits and events. Even if you can’t make it to any of the events they’re promoting, you can check out their blog posts, which frequently focus on illustration and visualizations. We enjoyed and shared their shock and horror about sugar contents of common snacks as visualized by Visual.ly!
For more conceptual inspirations, we’d recommend At the Interface, by UK Blogger Johanna Kieniewicz, who works at The British Library. Her recent posts discuss the “how” and “why” of art and science collaborations. Or, if you want something entertaining, check out this post from Hayley Gillespie’s Biocreativity, which highlights the finalists from the Dance Your PhD competition, in which science PhD students choreograph their research! Hayley, who is also the owner/founder of Art.Science.Gallery in Austin, TX, has some great information about regional Texan events and resources, too.
Just wanted to give you some ideas for your BLUR Pinterest board entries! Entries are due in just a few weeks on January 15, 2013. You can SUBMIT via Facebook message to our FB page: ASKLabs Documentary Film.
Nov 22, 2012
The film's world premiere at Boston's Museum of Science was a huge success; thank you to everyone who helped make it happen and all who came out and had a great time! It was great to see some of the "Lightning Dreams" Boston film crew: Eric Masunaga of Modulus Studios, and Composer P. Andrew Willis. Thanks to Museum of Science's David Rabkin, Lisa Monrose, Jennifer Garrett and Patricia Meegan and to Boston artist/inventor Steve Hollinger for making it all happen. Special shoutouts to everyone who participated in mad-scientist demonstrations and turned out Steampunk, and to our Steampunk fashion judges Tina Cassidy, Jill Palese, and Aricia Symes-Elmer. Thanks to Boston Globe reporters Ethan Gilsdorf for his wonderful piece in the BOSTON GLOBE (11/6/12) and June Wulff for featuring our event for the Globe's To-Do List (11/7/12) on the day of the event and to journalist Astrid Lium (@astridspeak) for our blog interview.
It was a terrific event. EVENT PHOTO GALLERY. The film was extremely well-received and was followed by high-voltage engineer Greg Leyh's presentation of his plans for the ambitious Lightning Foundry project. The museum's own resident high-voltage physicist Daniel Davis moderated a conversaton with Greg Leyh of Lightning on Demand and Survival Research Labs, and filmmaker Alberta Chu. Afterwards, Daniel Davis amazed all with his Theater of Electricity show and mad-scientist demonstrations. Several lucky audience members including the winners of the Steampunk Fashion contest had their 15 seconds of fame in the Faraday Cage.
Nov 7, 2012
Photo: Boston MOS' Daniel Davis and Greg Leyh
Last night, Greg arrived from San Francisco and we had a meeting at the Museum of Science with Jennifer Garrett to plan tonight's events. Daniel Davis and Greg Leyh had a lot to talk about. Here they are chatting inside one of the spheres at the top of the MOS' Van de Graaff generator - I have to say that Greg was impressed with the Theater of Electricity and we're all set to have a BLAST tonight!
A FEW TICKETS LEFT: http://bitly.com/PxYRvr
Nov 6, 2012
Alberta Chu: So let’s catch up - what have you been up to since Electrum (completed in 1998)?
Greg Leyh: Electrum offered a unique opportunity to test the engineering and scaling laws needed for designing very large coils -- ones large enough to replicate some of the more esoteric features of natural lightning. The construction and testing of Electrum provided invaluable experience towards developing the Lightning Foundry design. Measurements of Electrum’s output waveforms showed how critical the control of phasing and initial polarity is towards enhancing arc formation and growth.
The Advanced Lightning Facility was the original concept with two towers. A couple of years ago we evolved the Advanced Lightning Facility into the Lightning Foundry project, based on discussions with researchers and new theories addressing relativistic avalanche phenomena in natural lightning. Although the Lightning Foundry is more closely tailored for pursuing relativistic phenomena, it’s also been optimized to be built from ‘obtainium’ (parts that can be obtained rather than bought) so that we can begin construction without waiting for flaky funding sources that might not ever materialize. Average power for the Lightning Foundry design is lower than the original ALF, but the peak power and output voltage should be slightly higher. With luck, the Lightning Foundry should just be able to reach the regime where relativistic effects begin, providing a first close look into the secret gain mechanisms of lightning. Gamma-ray bursts will be the first relativistic calling card we’ll be watching for. Lightning Foundry will run on 4 megawatts, the equivalent of 2 million iphone5’s
AC: What is your most gratifying high-voltage project to date?
GL: Without a doubt the development work towards the Lightning Foundry facility has been the most satisfying. Since the project isn’t funded, we’ve avoided a tremendous amount of political, regulatory and PR overhead, allowing us to focus purely on the key physics and technical issues. This has allowed us to advance the design effort at a wonderfully fast and efficient pace.
Pictured: Typical large scale data center (non-Google)
AC: What else are you up to these days?
GL: Recently I started a new job at Google, working on data center power distribution. Data centers are huge, warehouse-sized computers that convert 100’s of megawatts into kitten videos. Many data centers process more grid power than the SLAC 2-mile linear accelerator where I used to work. A new datacenter will often reclaim abandoned aluminum smelters or factories, or any location with a strong power grid connection and a good water source. Demand for cloud computing and social networking is growing rapidly, so there’s tremendous research directed towards gaining every last bit of efficiency out of a data center and focusing even more power into them. In many ways the job is similar to power conversion work back at the SLAC accelerator, except that instead of producing a megawatt beam of relativistic particles, the output stream is megawatts of… internet.
AC: What do you consider your greatest technical achievement?
GL: Hopefully that’s yet to come!
Boston's Museum of Science welcomes High-voltage engineer Greg Leyh in-person on November 7th, 2012 @ 6:45 pm to present the world premiere of filmmaker Alberta Chu’s documentary “Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm.” Greg will give a presentation about the proposed Lightning Foundry project, followed by a reception in the Theater of Electricity. Buy your tickets in advance: http://www.mos.org/events_activities/events&d=5620
Nov 5, 2012
Alberta Chu: How is it safe to be inside the Electrum’s sphere while measuring streamers?
Greg Leyh: Electrum was also the first coil designed to operate at power levels higher than 100,000 watts. This required developing a unique 4-armature rotary gap design, 3-phase-to-DC power conversion, and a finite-element high voltage electrode design large enough for a person to climb inside.
After we got the Electrum working, we had to operate it a maximum capacity for a required number of hours in order to test it. These turned into big events in San Francisco. We even got the chance to stage some performance art of our own. Oddly enough, the space inside Electrum’s high voltage electrode is one of the safest places to be while the coil is operating. The person inside the electrode is protected by Faraday’s Law, which states that the electric field inside a conductor is zero. Ironically, the audience standing around the coil is exposed to much higher electric fields as they marvel at the brave soul inside the electrode. A couple of months after this photo was taken, we shipped the Electrum off to New Zealand.
AC: We’re all dying to know - how does one build the world’s largest tesla coil? Tell us about the unique ‘firsts’ for the Electrum sculpture.
Greg Leyh: The Electrum sculpture lives outdoors and needs to withstand exposure to a harsh seaside climate for decades. This is definitely a first for Tesla Coil design. To guard against the harsh environment the entire coil form was literally built ‘inside-out’ -- The secondary coil is molded to the inside wall of the cylindrical fiberglass tower, and the primary drive coil resides *inside* the secondary coil. Although there was no precedent for this approach, calcs and simulations supported the idea, and ultimately the test of time proved it out.
The Electrum consumes the power of 50 homes when it’s being operated.
AC: You visited the Farm to do a tune-up on the Electrum a couple of years ago - how did you find things there?
GL: In 2009, about 10 years after the initial installation, I was asked to visit the Farm and diagnose an apparent internal arcing issue with Electrum. Fearing the worst, I brought a full complement of diagnostic gear, and scheduled 10 days to work on the problem. As it turned out, the salty environment had managed to corrode an open hole through a 3/8” steel plate at the top of the tower, allowing saltwater, cobwebs and bird guano to freely enter and completely coat the high voltage windings inside the tower. Fortunately there was no permanent damage, and I only had to spend a couple of days hanging from a rope inside the tower, cleaning the winding surfaces. Once cleaned and the steel plate replaced, the coil ran just like I remembered. Aside from Electrum, the Farm itself changed dramatically between 1998 and 2009. So many new and incredible sculptures. I walked around the extents of the Farm for days. It’s a fantastic, very meditative place.
TO BE CONTINUED
San Francisco High-Voltage Engineer Greg Leyh, the builder of the world’s biggest tesla coil, will be appearing in-person at the Boston Museum of Science on November 7th, 2012 @ 6:45 pm to present the world premiere of filmmaker Alberta Chu’s documentary “Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm.” Greg will give a presentation about the proposed Lightning Foundry project, followed by a reception in the Theater of Electricity. Buy your tickets in advance: http://www.mos.org/events_activities/events&d=5620
Nov 2, 2012
Alberta Chu: What are some of the other fun things that you built in collaboration with Survival Research Labs?
GL: The Lorentz Gun was originally inspired by a high voltage mishap, where a high-energy capacitor bank fired into a set of electrodes with a thin wire filament accidentally draped across them. Even though the wire was hair-thin it easily conducted thousands of amperes, completely discharging the bank. After discovering how the Lorentz force allowed this misdeed to occur, we decided to attempt a directed energy weapon in honor of this principle.
The Lorentz Gun can direct a 25,000 Ampere plasma channel through the air, at grounded targets up to 35 ft downrange. The gun consists of 30 high pressure pneumatic dart stations, each capable of launching a tapered aluminum sabot that trails a thin 'seed wire' 0.008 inches in diameter. Cannon tilt and pan is pneumatic, and a sighting laser is located inside the cannon head.
When a launched sabot contacts the target, the Marx-configured capacitor bank automatically fires and erects the bank to 110,000 volts, igniting a plasma channel along the vaporized seed wire. The plasma channel quickly intensifies, magnetically confined in the air by the Lorentz forces of its own current. Damage to the target can vary widely. Most spectators experience some degree of sinus discomfort after several firings, due to the high brissance of the plasma explosion. The capacitor bank is currently disassembled, and newer capacitors are being added to increase the bank energy to 250 kilojoules, and the range to 50 feet.
The Spark Shooter I built and operated for several SRL shows operates essentially as a railgun, but uses a molten metal projectile instead of the the traditional sabot-armature arrangement. The box contains a 20 kilojoule storage bank, and can cover an area the size of a football field with molten metal when it fires. It’s one of my favorite SRL machines in terms of its compactness and efficacy.
TO BE CONTINUED
Engineer Greg Leyh will be appearing in-person at the Boston Museum of Science on November 7th, 2012 @ 6:45 pm to present the world premiere of filmmaker Alberta Chu’s documentary “Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm.” Greg will give a presentation about the proposed Lightning Foundry project, followed by a reception in the Theater of Electricity.
Buy your tickets in advance: http://www.mos.org/events_activities/events&d=5620
Oct 29, 2012
On this day of Hurricane Sandy, we're making our playlist for the MOS Theater of Electricity reception, and confirming our brave Faraday Cage volunteers. Confirmed guests in the Faraday cage on Nov. 7th include: Susan Battista, Geoff Hargadon, Steve Hollinger, and Dave Strickler but you can have your 15 seconds as well...
What is Steampunk? The Wiki definition. I like to think of it as Victorian, Sci-fi, Cyberpunk, retro-futuristic. Steampunk fashions will be judged by former Boston Globe fashion writer, Tina Cassidy and a small committee from the Museum of Science.
Get your tickets in advance:
MOS LIGHTNING STRIKES EVENT NOV 7th, 2012
Oct 25, 2012
OK Greg, whatever you say, but do random nerds have magazine articles like this written about them?
by David Pescowitz
MAKE MAGAZINE (Volume 11, Summer 2007)
Greg Leyh is the pre-eminent high-voltage expert and tesla coil guru responsible for building the Electrum sculpture, by artist Eric Orr for Gibbs Farm, New Zealand in 1998. He has since gotten his ambitious Lightning Foundry project underway which is an enormous twin tesla coil concept - and you guessed it - bigger than anything ever built before. Greg is known for his work with SF machine performance art group Survival Research Labs and the Burning Man Festival.
Greg will appear in-person at the Boston Museum of Science on November 7th, as part of the "Lightning Strikes" event film premiere of the documentary "Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm." On this evening, Greg will unveil his Lightning Foundry proposal.
Perhaps the Oatmeal would consider this idea for the new Nikola Tesla Science Center being planned in NY state.
Purchase your tickets in advance.
MOS event page:
Oct 31, 2012
Boston-based documentary filmmaker Alberta Chu loves to combine two passions––art and science––in her work. She does it yet again in her latest film, Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm (2011), which premieres November 7 at Boston’s Museum of Science. Alberta’s fourth documentary, Lightning Dreams highlights the story of Alan Gibbs, one of New Zealand’s most prolific art patrons.
She took the time to talk with me about her career path, the journey leading up to this film, and the voice that she hopes to offer her subjects in the fields of art and science.
ASTRID LIUM: How did you get involved with documentary filmmaking?
ALBERTA CHU: I started out as a biologist, [and] I worked as a researcher in L.A. at a biotech company. I had always wanted to get into journalism, and I thought maybe science documentaries could be a way for me to use my science background and break into documentary or journalism. I started a science consulting company, [where] scientists who were tops in their fields would consult with Hollywood screenwriters and set decorators for accuracy. We worked on one of the X-Men films to develop the Wolverine character [and] help them figure out what his supernatural powers would be. It was a way for them to bounce ideas off scientists and get more creative.
How did working as a researcher lead to documentary films?
I did a segment on volcano research. As a researcher there were tons of stories being produced all the time, and I met tons of producers and directors. Most of the stories I would pitch were science, and on one of the shoots I was producing for Sci-Fi Channel I met Greg Leyh, the guy in my film that is premiering at the Museum of Science. I found out that he was building the world’s biggest tesla coil for this billionaire art collector in New Zealand. I pitched it around L.A., but no one wanted to do it, so I decided to make an independent documentary film called The Electrum about the project in the year 2000 about the Electrum sculpture. That film played at a lot of festivals, aired on PBS, won a bunch of awards.
What is the documentary about?
The film was about a quirky group of scientists and engineers that build the world’s largest tesla coil, which ends up in New Zealand. But the guy who commissioned it––the billionaire–– gave me permission to do the film but he didn’t want to be in it. He was very private at the time. His name is Alan Gibbs and he’s ... just totally cool. He’s building a giant sculpture park and the reason he likes art is the likes the mental sparring with the artists. He likes to push them to do better work. He pushes everyone around him, you can see why he’s so successful because he never settles for anything. He’s always pushing for more ... so that’s why he’s the owner of the world’s biggest tesla coil!
How is your relationship with Alan?
He’s bigger than life. It’s been so interesting to have interactions with him, and he likes my films. So he’s been sort of like my patron, in a way. So he invited me to do the Serra film (2003-04), then the Anish Kapoor film (2009-10). Then he asked me to do a film about the Electrum sculpture in 2010, about 10 years after the original film was made. He wanted this new film to include his perspective. The new film, Lightning Dreams, is about the conception and the whole story of the sculpture.
Why do you do the work you do?
I make films about scientists and artists because they see things that aren’t there yet. They’re envisioning the future and I think that’s really inspiring. They inspire me to make films about them, and my hope is that my films will inspire other people to push boundaries of what’s known and unknown and to look and wonder and dream themselves. Because that’s the only thing that humans can do that computers can’t. There’s something about creativity that’s impossible to articulate. I mean science and art really are the same thing and they have become very divergent in today’s culture.
How do you choose the topics for your documentaries?
I’m about making films about creative people that are changing the world for the better, who want to make a difference. I make films about scientists that are making a difference, trying to make the world a better place. If I can give a voice ... I can help them announce their victories and inspire people to help with what they’re doing. I can help them get out their important messages because they are doing very important work. A lot of time they can’t explain it to a regular audience, and I can help.
Do you feel like you’re a translator in some way?
Yes, translating ideas and concepts for a general audience, totally. I hope to be. And same with artists.
It can be a challenge, though.
Yeah, it’s hard to create something. It’s not easy, none of it’s easy, it’s all work. It can be very rewarding work, but if I can help a scientist or artist expose their labors and their victories ... and their failures to a wider audience, that’s what I’m about -- finding the most interesting creative people in the world, and telling stories that really inspire people to create.
- Interview by Astrid Lium, Twitter: @astridspeak
The world premiere of Lightning Dreams is November 7, 2012, at 6:45 p.m. at Boston’s Museum of Science (1 Museum of Science Drive, Boston, MA). The screening is part of the museum’s “Lightning Strikes” event, one of the Fall 2012 adult offerings. For more information:
Facebook Event Page https://www.facebook.com/events/425196287515432/
MOS Event Page www.mos.org/events_activities/events&d=5620.
Nov 1, 2012
I first met Greg Leyh in 1997 while Producing a Sci-Fi Channel shoot for Paramount TV. We were filming with Mark Pauline’s notorious San Francisco machine performance art group Survival Research Laboratories, and Greg was tasked with operating the smoke machine during our shoot. On a documentary TV budget, DGA Director John Jopson wanted to create a post-apocalyptic look and feel in an industrial warehouse wasteland under the highway in San Francisco’s Mission District. On that day, we filmed interviews with SRL Founder Mark Pauline, Computer Scientists Eric Paulos and Karen Marcelo, and we filmed several of the SRL machines cavorting about the yard. Eric Paulos gave us a demonstration of a telepresence robot that was designed to be operated remotely over the internet, alluding to the scary and very real possibility of not knowing who is behind the controls in a war of the future.
As we were wrapping our shoot, Greg approached me in his nondescript manner, “I’m building this really big tesla coil for an eccentric and very wealthy patron of the arts in New Zealand who wants to put it on his Farm.” Greg continued, “It’s gonna be the biggest tesla coil in the world, even bigger than the one Tesla built in Colorado.”
Considering Greg’s background collaborating with Survival Research Labs he was the obvious choice for the task.
Alberta Chu: Greg, can you tell us about your first significant tesla coil. How big was it? Where’d you get the parts?
Greg Leyh: My first coil project was inspired by an accidental collection of parts I came across at a salvage yard in 1989. Sifting through palettes of used pulse capacitors, transformers and busbars from a demolished particle accelerator, I realized that the whole lot could make a decent-sized Tesla Coil. I brought the parts over to Survival Research Labs, and in a few months we assembled what was the world’s largest operating Tesla Coil at the time. We christened the coil by shipping it to Seattle and using it in the ‘Carnival of Misplaced Devotion’ performance. It stood 17 feet tall.
Photo captions: (Seattle, WA 1990) Setting up the coil for "A Carnival of Misplaced Devotion" Survival Research Labs show
AC: Tell us about your favorite SRL show.
GL: The most interesting show was the one where it actually exploded – the Seattle show in 1990, its first SRL performance. In fact the coil was shipped to that show in pieces, untested, and we were feverishly throwing it together during the few days before the show. We finished assembling everything just before the show, so I spent the first 10 minutes of the performance tuning the coil and ramping power until it was running at full bore. The coil then began to reveal some of its unexpected abilities. For instance I didn’t expect the arcs to be able to strike the ground, but they did so quite readily. We also discovered that the arcs happily punch through pneumatic tires on mobile machines. One of the robots, the Running Machine, also displayed an interesting survival trait; when it was struck by an arc, the radio control would glitch and the machine would immediately start marching in reverse. During the show I continued ramping the power, and before long the rotary gap was running well beyond it’s max speed. Near the end of the show when everything usually starts catching fire and blowing up, I discovered that in my haste I forgot to install two critical bolts holding up a large insulator between the rotors… An errant arc reached down and struck the primary winding, jolting the insulator into the high-speed rotors and transforming the gap into a swirling explosion of fire of shrapnel. The coil committed suicide just as everything else in the show was expoding and dying; I couldn’t have planned it any better.
TO BE CONTINUED
Engineer Greg Leyh will be appearing in-person at the Boston Museum of Science on November 7th, 2012 @ 6:45 pm to present the world premiere of filmmaker Alberta Chu’s documentary “Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm.” Greg will give a presentation about the proposed Lightning Foundry project, followed by a reception in the Theater of Electricity afterwards.
Buy your tickets in advance:
Photo Caption, Top of Page: (San Francisco, 1990) The 17ft Tesla Coil at the Palace of Fine Arts, sponsored by the Exploratorium Museum
Oct 12, 2012
This just in: the RISD Museum will be holding the world premiere screening of our 2010 film "New Form at the Farm: Anish Kapoor Dismemberment Site 1" along with an old favorite, our 2004 film "Seeing the Landscape: Richard Serra's Tuhirangi Contour." Back in 2004 "Seeing the Landscape" screened at the MFA Boston, the MIT List, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the National Gallery of art as part of the Washington DC Environmental Film Festival as well as at the Festival of Films on Art in Montreal.
Both films will be screened on the same night, and we're looking at Jan./Feb. 2013.
Hope you can make it and please help spread the word!
Oct 5, 2012
What can we do about global warming that can really make a difference? How can we really reduce automobile carbon emissions? What does the vehicle of the future look like? That's what Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students Anna Jaffe, Nii Armar, and Robyn Allen asked themselves when they founded the Vehicle Design Summit (VDS) in 2006. Six years and several experimental vehicles later, the group has grown into a global collective of designers, engineers, and specialists of every sort, representing nearly every continent (with the exception of Antarctica.) Collectively, they have built vehicles that achieve 200mpg(e) on alternative fuels. Their latest prototype vehicle called ArchiMITes, with its ability to change between different fuel systems and car bodies, will serve as a platform to develop modular vehicle parts. This leads into the 10^5 Competition, the next big project for the Vehicle Design Summit. Projected for 2013-14, the10^5 Competition which will leverage innovation around the world in an effort to build out 100,000 permutations of possible modular cars, each with the minimum fuel efficiency goal set by the XPrize: 100mpg(e).
Sponsored by GE, film distributors Focus Forward Films and Cinelan launched the Focus Forward Film Competition in April 2012. Their call for submissions: short films on innovators and inventors changing the world for the better was an opportunity that ASKlabs absolutely could not pass up -- our passion is making films about exactly this! After months of research, we thought Anna and crew fit the bill perfectly. So we spent a day in August filming at VDS headquarters: MIT's Edgerton Center.
Many thanks to Anna, Nii, and Mitsu Shinomiya for participating in front of the camera and to the following who participated behind the camera: Director of Photography Stephen McCarthy, Editor Stephanie Munroe, Animator Alex Hogan, Composer P. Andrew Willis, Audio Mix Eric Masunaga at Modulus, Post-Production Consultant: Gabriele de Simone, with thanks to Murray Robinson, Camilla Brinkman, and Alison Hynd.
Oct 2, 2012
In today's NY Times, John Tierney's article "If He Starts Nodding Off, Try Another Million Volts" reports "David Blaine, the magician and endurance artist, is ready for more pain. With the help of the Liberty Science Center, a chain-mail suit and an enormous array of Tesla electrical coils, he plans to stand atop a 20-foot-high pillar for 72 straight hours, without sleep or food, while being subjected to a million volts of electricity.... When Mr. Blaine performs “Electrified” on a pier in Hudson River Park, the audience there as well as viewers in London, Beijing, Tokyo and Sydney, Australia, will take turns controlling which of the seven coils are turned on, and at what intensity. They will also be able to play music by producing different notes from the coils. The whole performance, on Pier 54 near West 13th Street, will be shown live at www.youtube.com/electrified.
Greg Leyh, San Francisco tesla coil guru, known for building The Electrum, the world's largest tesla coil remarks, "I don't really see what the big risk is." He goes on, "If he's inside a Faraday Cage he's under no risk at all. The electric field inside a conductor is zero. If he were outside of it however that would be truly interesting death-defying work." Greg Leyh will make a rare public appearance and perform live demonstrations at the Boston Museum of Science event "Lightning Strikes" on November 7, 2012. BUY TICKETS.
Oct 1, 2012
I'm in awe of people who can envision things that don't exist yet and then actually make them a reality. The triumvurate of entrepreneur and art patron Alan Gibbs, artist Eric Orr, and high-voltage engineer Greg Leyh is a great example. Working together on The Electrum sculpture, they overcame unheard of physical and technical hurdles and in the end realized the impossible. Gibbs provided the vision and the funding, Orr made the magic, and Leyh built the device.
The making of "Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm" has been an amazing journey, which began in San Francisco waaaay back in 1997. It has been a pleasure to working with and getting to know Alan Gibbs, Noel Lane, and the entire Gibbs Family on this and other documentaries about the building of Gibbs Farm.
I had an excellent crew on "Lightning Dreams," one I'm eager to work with again. New Zealand DP Scottie McKinnon delivered above and beyond. Editor Sabrina Zanella-Foresi, Composer Andrew Willis, and the Modulus crew: Eric Masunaga, Paul McGowan, Evan Schwenterly and Frank McDonnell on Color-Correction and HD Mastering, Damon Addleman the Re-Recording Mixer. And of course my trusty "Kitchen Cabinet" who reviewed numerous roughcuts and gave invaluable feedback: Murray Robinson, Steve Hollinger, Fritz Klaetke, Susan Battista, Polly Becker, Camilla Brinkman, Alexandra Metral, Gitika Desai, and Jocelyn Glatzer. Thanks to all!
Sep 25, 2012
The Theater of Electricity at the Boston Museum of Science is a very special place indeed. It houses 3 tesla coils, the world's biggest Van de Graaff generator, and a Faraday cage. Here's some background on the Theater of Electricity and its history. This couple held their Wedding there; I'm not making any promises, but the "Lightning Strikes" event reception should be pretty colorful, perhaps along these lines: Tesla Guitar Suit Video Actually, maybe you should bring your earplugs or some form of hearing protection...
I'm having a great time working with the MOS crew to plan the reception. High-voltage engineers Greg Leyh and the MOS' own Daniel Davis are cooking up some spectacular demos and experiments that hopefully involve some fun audience participation for the bravest among us. November 7th, 2012 is going to be an unforgettable evening - get your tickets now!
Sep 16, 2012
Congratulations to Niclas Bahn - our WINNER! He and his partner run an amazing video software company Noise Industries providing special effects for film editing, and they are based right here in the South End! Maximize your color correction capabilties, photo animation and even titiing with the tools of FxFactory, and that's just the tip of the iceberg! Niklaus, the "Lightning Dreams" DVD will be personally delivered to you next week, but we must insist that you still attend our MOS premiere on Nov. 7th! Thanks to everyone for participating.
Sep 15, 2012
Sep 14, 2012
Sep 13, 2012
The MOS event venue seats 300 and the program will sell out. If you're interested in attending, please purchase your tickets right away. Tickets go on sale to the public today - Thursday Sept. 13th at 9am.
Sep 12, 2012
We didn't realize that Boston's Museum of Science holds such interesting adult offerings until recently. All-year round, a team of savvy programmers develops edgy events for the 18-and-over set to enjoy. Programs range from "Food for Thought" to "Connections" and our personal favorite "When Science Meets Art."
The November 7th "Lightning Strikes" event at the MOS will feature ASKlabs' film "Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm" along with a panel discussion by notorious high-voltage engineer, Greg Leyh, filmmaker Alberta Chu, and Daniel Davis, resident MOS high-voltage physicist.
Afterwards, a reception in the Theater of Electricty will celebrate all things high-voltage. Our mad scientist engineers, Greg Leyh and Daniel Davis are at this very moment devising fascinating (and hopefully not too dangerous) experiments and demonstrations with electricity for us all to enjoy apres screening. A lucky few may even get the rare opportunity to go inside a Faraday Cage and put Maxwell's Law to the ultimate test. And to top it all off, there will be a cash bar, for those who think the combination of electricity and alcohol make the perfect "date night."
We got a sneak peek at the brochure for MOS Fall 2012 Adult Programming hot-off-the-press, and our "Lightning Strikes" event is featured on the cover! If you're an MOS member you have the chance to get your ticket early - tickets will be made available to the general public at 9am Thursday Sept. 13th. PURCHASE TICKETS ONLINE NOW!
Sep 11, 2012
May 14, 2012
Jun 6, 2012
Mark your Fall calendars! ASKlabs is pleased to announce the world premiere of "Lightning Dreams" our documentary film about the creation of the world's largest tesla coil, permanantly installed at Gibbs Farm sculpture park in New Zealand. This fantastic Boston Museum of Science event will include a panel discussion including Engineer Greg Leyh and other special guests TBD, as well as live demonstrations in the MOS' Theater of Electricity, home to the world's largest Van de Graaff generator built by Dr. Van de Graaff himself who was a professor at MIT. Stay tuned for details regarding ticket sales.
Feb 1, 2012
The making of this film has been an amazing journey, which began in San Francisco in 1997. It has been an incredible pleasure to work with Alan Gibbs and Noel Lane, and the entire Gibbs Family on this series of documentaries about the building of Gibbs Farm.
I had an excellent crew on this show, one I'm eager to work with again. New Zealand DP Scottie McKinnon delivered above and beyond. Editor Sabrina Zanella-Foresi, Composer Andrew Willis, and the Modulus crew: Eric Masunaga, Paul McGowan, Evan Schwenterly and Frank McDonnell on Color-Correction and HD Mastering, Damon Addleman the Re-Recording Mixer. And of course my trusty "Kitchen Cabinet" who reviewed numerous roughcuts and gave invaluable feedback: Murray Robinson, Steve Hollinger, Fritz Klaetke, Susan Battista, Polly Becker, Camilla Brinkman, Alexandra Metral, Gitika Desai, and Jocelyn Glatzer. Thanks to all!
Apr 3, 2012
Mar 13, 2012
(Linz, Geneva, 13.3.2012) Creative collisions have begun at CERN with the arrival of Julius von Bismarck as the laboratory’s first Collide@CERN artist in residence. A rising star of the international arts scene, von Bismarck will team up with theoretical physicist James Wells as he works alongside the lab’s engineers and scientists for the next two months before moving to the Ars Electronica Futurelab in Linz, Austria for the second part of his residency. Von Bismarck and Wells will give a public presentation in CERN’s Globe of Science and Innovation on 21 March.
Mar 4, 2012
Mar 3, 2012