Dolphins have uncovered a marvel of naval history: the 125-year-old Howell torpedo, the first torpedo that could be released into the ocean and follow a track to smash a target without leaving a wake. Only 50 were made between 1870 and 1889 by a Rhode Island company before the competition copied the design. There are two others of its kind known to exist, housed in naval museums in Washington and Rhode Island. Now dolphins working for the Navy have turned up a third.
One way to understand how the ecosystem of the Antarctic originated is to look at its very base: tiny organisms called dinoflagellates, the little creatures that attract bigger creatures, and thus in effect support all of life in the ocean. Dinoflagellates produce hard cysts that fossilize well, and researcher Sander Houben and his team recently published findings in Science indicating that, once Antarctic ice began to spread over what was formerly a lushly forested, warm sub-tropical continent, the makeup of the ocean’s dinoflagellate population dramatically changed.
The Antarctic ice sheet began spreading to inland Antarctica about 34 million years ago, during a climactic shift caused by a decrease in atmospheric carbon dioxide that was cooling the planet, known as the Eocone-Oglicene extinction event. The Antarctic ice sheet is one of two polar ice caps on Earth, and covers 98% of the Antarctic continent, making it the largest single ice mass on Earth. Put another way, that’s 61% of all fresh water on Earth, held in the ice cap.
Brinicles, first captured forming on film by the BBC in 2011, are hollow tubes of ice that descend from Antarctic sea ice.
They look a lot like icicles, but aren’t. As sea water freezes into ice, it excludes salt and other ions, which get trapped in brine-rich compartments in sea ice. Brine has a lower freezing temperature than water, so if the sea ice cracks, the liquid is released, and immediately freezes any seawater that it comes in contact with, creating a hollow tube of ice descending into the water.
By isolating 150 flower species against white, and flooding them with light in the height of their blossom, for his recent book Flowers photographer Andrew Zuckerman sought to make individual “portraits” of the botanicals. Read more >>
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.”
An exhibit opening this week at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions in Hollywood, California addresses climate change through daily, personal experience. An artwork by Meschac Gaba, Pollution Business, documents women of Cotonou, Benin as they wipe the faces of drivers of taxi motor bikes with linen towels. The dark residue left on the white towels reveals the CO2 pollution in harsh relief.
Artist Subhankar Banerjee created a photography and video installation, We are the ones who have everything to lose, on the Gwich’in people in Alaska. His photographs show the females of the Porcupine River caribou herds as they make one of the longest terrestrial migrations made by land animals. This migration connects fifteen Gwich’n villages in Alaska, Yukon, and Northwest Territories through subsistence food harvest. Banerjee says, “In the photograph we see pregnant female caribou from the Porcupine River herd migrating in early May over frozen Coleen River on the south side of the Brooks Range Mountains in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, on their way to the coastal plain of the Refuge for calving. It is an aerial photograph. I flew with legendary bush pilot Walt Audi and Inupiat conservationist Robert Thompson in Walt’s Cessna 206. I had taken the back door off; the outside temperature was around minus 35 degrees F with wind blowing at 50 mph.” Banerjee’s ongoing work in the Arctic began twelve years ago. Banerjee admits it challenged his expectations:
“I had thought and most people around the world think of the Arctic as a remote place disconnected from our daily lives. On the contrary, now I think of the Arctic as one of the most connected places on our planet. The connection is both celebratory and tragic. Hundreds of millions of birds migrate to the Arctic from every corner of the Earth, a planetary of celebration of global interconnectedness. Also, caribou, whales and fish migrate hundreds, and sometimes thousands of miles and connect indigenous communities of the Arctic through subsistence food harvest — local and regional connectedness. On the other hand, industrial toxins migrate to the Arctic from every part of the planet making animals and humans in some parts of the far north among the most contaminated inhabitants on Earth. Also, climate change is wreaking havoc up there as the Arctic is warming at twice the rate as the rest of the planet. We are all connected to the northern landscape and we all have an obligation to ensure a healthy future for our northern neighbors — humans and nonhumans.”
The show, (Re-) Cycles of Paradise, is open to the public from Oct 25th to Dec 16th. Check the LACE website for the accompanying schedule of performances and events.
Caribou Migration I, from the Oil and the Caribou series
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