Brandon Ballengee, Wood Frog Egg, Rana sylvatica at 14 hours, 2000/01.
For almost two decades, as an artist, biologist and environmental activist, Brandon Ballengée has been creating transdisciplinary artworks inspired from his ecological field and laboratory research. Underlying his practice is a systemic methodology, which posits art practice as a means of realizing research science, and vice-versa, as well as an impetus for “ecosystem activism” implemented through field investigations and laboratory programs that stress public involvement and engagement.
Employing media as diverse as billboard sized digital prints of chemical cleared and stained multi-limbed frogs, eco-displacement installations, sculptures incorporating preserved and living materials, laboratory filmed videos and performative Eco-Actions, his work has been exhibited throughout the USA and internationally in 18 countries, including Canada, Argentina, England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Russia, India, China, South Korea and Australia.
In the summer of 2013 the first career survey of his work debuted at the Château de Charamarande in Essonne (France), and travelled to the Museum Het Domein in Sittard (Netherlands) in 2014. He holds a transdisciplinary Ph.D. in art and science from University of Plymouth (England) and teaches at School of Visual Arts (New York) in both the Fine Arts and Humanities & Sciences departments.
Brandon Ballengee, DFA 18: Triton, 2001/07.
The artist says about his work:
“Since 1996, my transdisciplinary practice has bridged primary scientific studies with ecological art and engaged environmental stewardship. Underlying my practice is a systemic methodology, which posits art practice as a means of realizing research science, and vice-versa. Inherent to this working method is an impetus for “ecosystem activism” implemented through participatory biology field investigations and laboratory programs that stress public involvement – my attempt at social sculpting. My artworks come from direct experiences with amphibians, birds, fish and insect species found in today’s preternatural ecosystems and those observed in post-natural laboratory settings. The art itself is made from diverse mediums including biological materials (chemically cleared and stained deformed specimens displayed as glowing gems, preserved specimens to represent collapsing global food webs, living plants and animals displaced in temporary mesocosums, paintings from my own blood mixed with industrial pollutants found in my own body and the living bodies of all organisms), large-scale scanner photographs representing the individuality of non-human individuals, outdoor light sculptures to encourage insect breeding and participatory trans-species happenings- all of these try to re-examine the context of the art object from a static form (implying rationality and control) into a more organic structure reflecting the inherent chaos found within evolutionary processes, biological systems and nature herself.”
Nicole Gerardo is an Assistant Professor at Emory University in the Biology Department. Her style of teaching is STEAM inspired, and her students learn biological concepts through a unique combination of biology lab and ceramics. Here is how she describes it:
“Two teachers, one an artist and one a scientist, walk into a classroom…
For the past year and a half, I have had the fortune to learn from a great teacher. She did not teach me the difference between adaptive and innate immunity, or how to do a headstand in yoga, or how to make a soufflé. She instead reminded me of the beauty of our discipline, and she inspired me to expect more from my students.
Over the course of the last four semesters at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, I have worked alongside Diane Kempler, who teaches ceramics to undergraduate students. We began a collaborative effort to incorporate scientific concepts into the ceramics studio. In the first semester, I taught the students about basic concepts of symbiosis and exposed them to images of many of the natural systems that symbiosis researchers eventually begin to consider routine. Yes, it’s true that squid actually glow. Yes, it’s true that fungus can infect an ant’s brain. Yes, it’s true that there are solar-powered sea slugs. Wait, what is routine about any of this? What we study, in the eyes of art students, business majors and undergraduates who thought ceramics would be an “easy A” can inspire awe. Students have made pieces based on coral symbioses, where the dinoflagellate symbionts are now on the outside, remaining hidden no more. They have made totem poles of aphids and bacteria and lichens — so, so many lichens. It turns out ceramics is a perfect medium for making the delicate lichen layers. Who knew? I certainly did not.
We have expanded the breadth of the scientific focus to include partnerships between student artists and scientists on campus. Other assignments have focused on microscopic images, with students starting in the introductory biology laboratory and ending up in the studio near the kiln. For the final assignment of this semester, we are delving into public art. Students are making pieces to be placed in a local community garden. The assignment is to make the unseen world of the garden seen to the many garden visitors who walk unknowingly amongst a complex microscopic world.
Assessment of whether the students are learning science has been difficult as they are coming into this experience with extremely diverse knowledge bases. Many students, however, have had the opportunity to appreciate some aspect of the natural world that they had not been exposed to before. My hope is that they also appreciate the practice of science that underlies that knowledge.
Unfortunately, Emory University is closing its Visual Arts Department, making this a piece of reflection rather than a starting point. However, there is much to take away from this and to build upon. Recently, Diane herself has created a whole series of pieces inspired by cordyceps fungi. In my mind, these pieces represent one of the finest legacies of this experience. And, I have changed my own teaching in the biology classroom in subtle ways. Diane entices her students, many of whom have never touched clay before, to work hard, to learn and to create works of art. These students, when pushed, find abilities that they did not know they had. I can strive to do the same for my students as well.”
Merging STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) with Art is a defining task of the 21st century. Championed by institutions like Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), STEAM is an international movement. To find out more, please enjoy the following links:
The work of Julia Buntaine is inspired by and based on Neuroscience, the scientific study of the brain. Born in Massachusetts, Buntaine attained her BA and Certificate in Cognitive Neuroscience from Hampshire College, her post-baccalaureate certificate in studio art from Maryland Institute College of Art, and her MFA of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts. Buntaine has exhibited nationally and internationally including shows in Amherst, New York City, Baltimore, Seattle, Madison, and Toronto. Buntaine is also Executive Director at SciArt Center, and founder and editor-in-chief of the online science-based art magazine, SciArt in America. Buntaine currently lives and works in New York City.
As an artist, Julia is interested in what has proven to be the most complex puzzle, the epitome of emergence, the deepest well our sciences have examined; the brain. The instantiation of form and function united, from the molecular to the level of Neuroscience as a discipline, her work seeks to address the beliefs, theories and findings of the biological phenomenon of consciousness. Beginning with biological form or data, her work departs into the world of aesthetics as she manipulate the idea through the use of scale, metaphor, material and form. Unlike articles and raw data, scientific ideas in the form of art inherently demand subjective judgment and interpretation, and her goal as a science-based artist is to provide her viewer an alternative way to understand the wonders of biology we have discovered in ourselves.
“What neural mechanisms keep the colors of an apple where they belong? While it does not feel difficult, it is in fact remarkable that while separating the color, shape, and context of everything in our perceptual scene, all of which is processed in distinct and different parts of the brain, that everything ends up in its rightful place. You never mistakenly swap your friends skin color for the blue sky behind them, and vice versa. The “binding problem” is a term used in neuroscience and philosophy of mind literature which refers to the mystery of how the brain first separates and processes perceptual information, and then binds it all together into a single conscious experience.” J. Buntaine
Visual Objective, Julia Buntaine, 2014
“There is a discrepancy between what our eyes physically perceive and the image our brain conjures for us. The two empty spots near the center of the image represent the physiological “blind spot”. One for each eye, these spots correspond to where, in the eye, the optic nerve is situated to carry retinal information to the brain. In the center of the blind spots lies the fovea, the central point of our visual acuity. Around the periphery of the visual field, for which this photograph is shaped after, our ability to distinguish red and green diminishes, as does our ability to clearly see visual objects. In essence, this is a representation of the way the world actually looks, but because our brain fills in and smooths over the picture, the way we’ll never be able to see it.” J. Buntaine
Julia’s web page: http://www.juliabuntaine.com
Smart and playful, Loher’s exhibition turns our apocalyptic future of destroyed habitats and global food crisis into an imaginative prediction of molecular cuisine, food pills, and possibly a hope for global healing. What the future holds… the choice is ours to make. The exhibition is eye candy, a unique combination of art, science and technology.
Katja Loher is an internationally renowned video artist. More of her work can be found here.
In this interview with Krista Tippett, a mathematician Keith Devlin talks about joy and beauty of mathematical equations: http://www.onbeing.org/program/the-joy-of-math-keith-devlin-on-learning-and-what-it-means-to-be-human/5946
Based on Keith Devlin’s graphics of his equations, a vocal assemble Zambra created seven harmonious pieces: http://zambra.org/math.html
Artist Craig Dongoski collaborates with a chimpanzee named Panzee to create drawings both beautiful and smart. In the process of mark making many questions are raised: where can we find the origin of drawing, writing and language?
More about the project: http://burnaway.org/studio-visit-craig-dongoski/
The Primates Notebook, Dongoski’s exhibition at the Whitespace gallery
During the last week of March, more than one hundred events took place in what was Atlanta’s first Science Festival. The program was enriched with diverse collaborations between scientists and local as well as national artists.
Scientists from Georgia Tech and Emory University teamed up with Out of Hand Theater, to create a part theater, part flash mob interactive experience that explored the similarities of human and molecular behavior.
The sciences of music, the symphony of the stars, and robotic compositions were all explored at Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, and Perimeter College.
At Kibbee Gallery (http://www.kibbeegallery.com), rhythms of molecular behavior were translated into musical compositions. Presented in an interactive manner, the displayed audio-visual pieces managed to both educate and amaze.
Photo 1: Molecular Music, Lee W. Lerner, Brian J. Cafferty, Takahiko Tsuchiya, Jay Danner, Zane Franklin, Denise Enekwa, Steve Harvey. Photo credit: B. Ginn
The Defoor Center hosted an NSF/NASA sponsored show exploring the origins of life through a variety of literary and visual extravaganzas.
At MASS Collective (http://masscollective.org) experts from different backgrounds discussed the science and art of meditation and sustainability.
Photo 2: Sustainable Microsystems (detail), Bojana Ginn. Photo Credit: B. Ginn
Optic Chiasm, a group show exploring the esthetics of ophthalmic pathologies, took place at Oglethorpe University. Prints, paintings, and mixed media by medical doctors and visual artists gave us a glimpse into the perplexed and fragile universe of our vision.
Photo 3: Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy, Michael Stanley. Photo Credit: B. Ginn
Photo 4: Optic Chiasm, Oglethorpe University. Works by Marcia R. Cohen, Kenn Kotara, Michael Stanley. Photo: B. Ginn
The festival surprised everyone with the quality and quantity of events. Atlanta is looking forward to next year’s festival!
Catherine Lams Callero is a sculptor, illustrator, and visionary. Her work is a smart, balanced mix of beauty and cynicism. She combines 3D, 2D, various tech gadgets and text into multimedia installations. Here, we present a part of the Wonderlab installation. For more about Catherine’s work, please visit her web page: Catherine Callero.