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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.”
The Where The Why and The How is a recent release from Chronicle books that asks 75 artists and illustrators to interpret the unsolved mysteries of science. Don’t expect answers to questions like “Why is each snowflake unique” and “Can evolution outpace climate change” — but the collection may help dispel the notion that science is best illustrated by digital renderings, graphs and pie charts.
Postcards from Google Earth is a series of screenshots artist Clement Valla took from Google Earth. These uncanny landscapes document technical anomalies in the software, which uses a technology called texture mapping. Like patterned wrapping paper covering a plain white box, a texture map is a flat image applied to a 3D model, thereby adding detail, color and surface texture.
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
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