For centuries, scientists have sought help from artistic practice as a visual aid. This lecture will explore case studies from the 18th to the 21st century, to show that artists have often participated in the growth of scientific knowledge by disturbing and questioning concepts that scientists take for granted. Would current artist in residence programmes benefit from adopting a more sustained critical role, in light of this history?
At the ‘Serendipity City‘ exhibition at futureeverything in Manchester yesterday I saw this work – ‘A Planetary Order (Terrestrial Cloud Globe)’ byMartin John Callanan. Its a 3D nylon print of a data visualisation of all the clouds from a single moment in time. It sits on the unsealed concrete floor on its own in a corner, lit by natural light.
Serendipity City seems to have two dominant types of work. One in which browsing is almost becoming an artistic practice and process and this is perhaps a trope of current new media art. The curated tour, the combination of found internet objects, the flicker of the data stream, the city tour, the experience at a distance browsed from the desktop. And then there are the works that use open source methods and media arts techniques to have a practical impact on the world, that suggest new ways that things can be done.
But the small quiet world in the corner drew me back, as did the pigeons in David Berman’s poem ‘New York, New York’, the pigeons of the real, that come and inhabit every crack, that fly in to insist there is no clean.
The small quiet world in the corner was like one strong thread pulled from the tangle of quoteable media, a thought, a gesture, solid, considered and resonant. A fragile world, an invisible world that cannot be interrogated beneath its weather systems. It reminded me of Langlands & Bell’s piece for the multiple store , in its contained description of a moment of connection, of one filter on the globe.
It reminded me that the work that speaks most to me is not in the play of images, in a sense it is not about representation but about the power of form, mass and scale. Work that requires me to move around it, to feel its scale, to see light play over its surface. Works that are what happens when an idea is made physical, when a concept is tested against materials and results in a new negotiation with a physical world that is minutely entangled with data on every scale.