"Cacophony of a collaboration" 2020Sculpture
This is just one sculpture I made as a result of an art-science residency in an oceanographic ship, and which I presented in an exhibit at the Ocean Science Meeting 2020 in San Diego, USA. However, it is so much more than that! For me, the whole process has been a life changing experience and the starting point on how to start re-thiking and crystallising ideas that I have been engaging on for a while on the way we (modern humans) address and cultivate knowledge. On how we can work inter-and transdisciplinary. On how we can reconnect with our humanness and how we can re-thiking our present global challenges. I couldn’t just put pictures of the sculpture in this part of my portfolio, without adding information about the process, a glimpse of the experience which is for the the art piece in itself. So I guess this is not the portfolio of the work, but a portfolio of the process and of my interdisciplinary conversation with people form different areas of life. Some of the content here are part of the blogs I wrote during the residency, but it is just a start in a different path that I am starting to walk now and that I am investigating in various ways.
Art & Science Residencies
Art & Science residencies are on the rise throughout the world and disciplines. The idea of the positive impact of having artists observing, inquiring and cross-pollinating research environments grows along the call to a holistic view of knowledge which could help us confront our current global challenges. This is a glimpse on my experience at the Artist-at-Sea Program of the Schmidt Ocean Institute where I participated in the expedition “New Approaches To Autonomous Exploration At The Costa Rican Shelf Break”. This experience gave me the opportunity to share time with a group of world leading engineers and scientists working to advance the development of autonomous robots used for exploration both in the deeper ecosystems of the Earth and in outer space.
In this technological environment, I used ceramic as the media, and ancient-technology which is a humble, ubiquitous and a noble material so intertwined with human culture through the ages, that connects with people on a deeply fundamental level.
These appendages of our bodies have been shaped by evolutionary processes, allowing us to interact and shape our surroundings in novel ways. Machines have been just extensions to our appendages, but now they are starting to make their own decisions. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly) this reminds me of octopuses, which have a more diffused nervous systems where their arms can take some independent decisions from their central nervous system. Are we becoming octopus-like? Are we creating extensions of ourselves that have independent existence and that allow us to explore further our place in the world? So, in the middle of these questions in which we engaged with scientist during the research cruise, I decided to make sculptures of each of the researchers’ hands in a position chosen by them, and which represented their role in the expedition.
I worked on one hand during the residency at the Falkor, but I took videos, photographs, measurements, and notes on each of the researcher’s hand to continue working with them when I was back in Chile. Each hand sculpture shows the process of turning experience into data and knowledge, and I used image transfer techniques to put in the surface of the sculptures their handwritten notes and diagrams, data and graphs they developed in their research. Most excitingly, I worked with the scientists and crew to obtain sediment at 1741m below the seasurface to incorporate it into the clay body that I used in my sculpture. This intentional materiality, along with working with the clay sculpture process in a moving ship, anchored my creative work to this particular knowledge, place and art + science experience.
In addition, we had a Ship-to-Shore connection with a school located in Quilleco a small town in the Andes, Chile. It was a great opportunity to share the research that was taking place in the ship, but also to reflect with them on how artists can play a role in the thinking of science.
Completion of the piece and exhibit
Although the residency took place in December 2018, the piece was not finished and exhibit until February 2020. When I returned to Chile, I continue working with the material collected in the trip, and with the data that the scientist sent me through the following months. I also had the opportunity to work on the sculpture live in an art gallery in Chile in the context of “Bienal Concepción, Arte & Ciencia”, where I could engage and share the process with visitors. The early stages of scientific research, are seldomly seeing by none scientist, and it was interesting to me to try to celebrate the beautiful and productive “messiness” of this entropic stage.
The ceramic hands are supported in a wrought iron structure which I design and that the metal artist Franco Filliponi built for me. I wanted to capture the vertical movement of the research which constantly involved sending things down to bottom of the ocean, the metal haptic feeling of being inside a ship and of the machine work that was done in the expedition. Also, it resembles a 3D bar graph, celebrating the data that was being produce by this cocophony.
Once it was finished, the sculpture travelled with me to the USA as part of the Artist-at-Sea Exhibit organized by the Schmidt Ocean Institute in the Ocean Science Meeting in San Diego. The artist invited not only presented their work, but the process through scientific poster, talks and formal gatherings. The sculpture was installed in a very crowded place of the conference, in the middle of the scientific posters and where the attendees gathered for coffee and conversation, and it was very pleasing to see how it attracted people’s attention, how they came to explore its surface, they discussed the meaning of it and generated interdisciplinary questions.
This residency allowed me to witness how scientific ideas were forming in between lunchtime conversations, during science meetings, while troubleshooting when a machine failed or in the sleepless time in front of a computer. This privileged inside perspective inspired me to explore the humanness of technological innovation while reflecting and celebrating the cacophony of interdisciplinary scientific collaboration in its early stages.
Rather than always trying to answer particular questions or testing specific hypothesis, for me Art is more about opening up the conversation, generating questions and engaging people to think differently about their surroundings and their place in it. Art-science residencies support the idea that both art and science are creative process that can benefit from each other, as they push us to look at the same questions from different angles, ultimately expanding our world view. In addition to serving as a science communication tool, this residency has informed other art & science initiatives that I am currently leading such as “Bienal Concepción, Arte y Ciencia” and “ASKXXI: Arts + Science Knowledge Building and Sharing in the XXI”.
In the initiatives in which I participate and in others that were presented at the conference, we are rethinking what it is to build and cultivate knowledge worldwide, and how to move from the particularity of each locality and problem, to the global and interconnected gaze. In turn, we are rethinking the uses and limits of technology and the integration of scientific research with other types of knowledge, such as that of indigenous peoples. It was revitalizing to see the initiatives that are being worked around the world, including how the models of what is now a scientific conference are being rethought, workshops, artistic exhibitions and other forms of research.
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