Basket-weaving and astronomy may seem like an unlikely pairing, but artist Nathalie Miebach’s work is evidence that the duo makes perfect sense.
Twelve years ago, Miebach was taking astronomy classes at Harvard and studying basket-weaving with a local artist at the same time. As she struggled with abstract concepts of deep space and time, she hit upon the idea of using basket-weaving as a three-dimensional grid for astronomical data in order to give it a more comprehensible physicality. She elaborates:
“Basket-weaving is my main sculptural medium through which I translate the data into sculpture because it provides me with a simple yet effective 3D grid through which to translate data. The sculpture becomes collaboration between the material, the numbers, and myself. The material I use to translate is reed, which has an inherent tension that does not allow me to completely control it. If I push it too hard, it will simply break. My lack of control ensures that the numbers have as much of a say in creating the form as I do. It is the changing nature of the numbers over time as well as the inherent tension of the reed that create the shape of the sculpture. Only in certain instances do I step in and exert pressure when I sense the piece falling physically apart. I never know what the shape will be beforehand, which often leaves me scratching my head—some shapes are easier to work with than others.”
A residency at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown in Cape Cod, MA, inspired her to bring weather and climate change data into her work. In order to understand the complexity of climate, she has gone so far as creating her own weather station and collecting her own weather data– much of it collected at the Herring Cove Beach in Cape Cod. By assigning colors and shapes to variables like temperature and wind strength and providing an explanatory legend, Miebach allows her viewer to decipher the sculptures. In the work shown here, each pair of vertical spokes is assigned an hour of the day–the green round reed is twilight data, the yellow flat reed is sun data, the red and orange sticks are high and low tide readings, the blue balls are the number of whales sighted at the particular day and hour, and so on.
Miebach’s work is on permanent display at the Massachusetts College of Art New Residency Hall in Boston. Upcoming shows include one at Museum of Science, Boston, MA that highlights collaborative projects with Jon Finke of MIT and sound artist Marc McNulty, and a solo exhibit at the California Museum of Arts and Craft, Los Angeles, CA in the fall of 2013.
Twilight, Tides and Whales -Cape Cod Reed, wood, data, 30”x18”x20”, 2006. Nathalie Miebach
“This piece looks at the relationship between moon and sun rise and set, data, tidal and twilight readings taken in Provincetown, MA, and whale sightings along the New England Coast during the time frame of February-March 2006. All of the data comes from the U.S. Naval Observatory, NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), and the Northeast Fishery Science Center.”
Chicago-based artist Christopher Meerdo’s image titled Spore is currently on display at the Union League Club of Chicago. Spore is composed of 250 images of explosions appropriated from Google image search. He noted the Internet somehow levels meaning attached to the events, sometimes making it difficult to distinguish between celebrations and terror. Meerdo: “The title Spore refers not only to the formal shape of the image I produced, but also points to the scientific understanding of microorganisms which can self-replicate unaided. This becomes a sort of linguistic metaphor when linking this with the self-replicating nature of memetic culture.”
It is surprising how static the image appears, as if utterly frozen in time, given that it is an amalgam of 250 images that are by definition some of the most dynamic that you can find. The suggestion is of human strife, under the microscope. Spore is a world unto itself, where destruction (negation) forms a new, round world. It is an ending, or a volatile beginning?
Spore, by Christopher Meerdo, 2011
Using photographs made on a three-week trek to the summit of Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua German photographer Michael Najjar created a series of visualizations titled High Altitude tracking the global stock market indices over several decades. The crags and peaks of the Andes were digitally manipulated to create a landscape tracing the ups and downs of market data from 1980 through 2009. The re-mapping of the mountaintops in the shape of the boom and bust cycle merges immoveable fact—dense geological mass recording deep time, and the temporal, shifting abstractions of commerce. What we see are are mountains literally made in the shape of information—and for a moment, the mountains move and a rift occurs. Najjar writes:
“The information society has brought about a tectonic shift in our understanding of space and time. Humankind is confronted with a process of such dynamic complexity that the borderlines we seemingly identify at one moment are already sublimated in the next. In future the virtual value system could demand its proper reincarnation in the real world. The jagged rock formations of High Altitude are emblematic of the thin edge separating reality and simulation.”
This photograph is part of the exhibition Seeking Silicon Valley at the new ZERO1 garage on 439 South First Street San Jose, CA. The ZERO1 Biennial emphasizes art and technology through exhibitions, public art installations, performances and lectures, through December 8th, 2012.
Nasdaq 80-09 (from the High Altitude series), 2008-10
Courtesy Michael Najjar/ZERO1 Biennial