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Archive for the ‘exhibition’ tag

Science and Art- an Inseparable Marriage of Equals

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In Nature, in 1887, University of Pennsylvania Professor T.H. Huxely stated  “I imagine that it is the business of the artist and of the man of letters to reproduce and fix forms of imagination to which the mind will afterwards recur with pleasure; so, based upon the same great principle by the same instinct, if I may so call it, it is the business of the man of science to symbolize, and fix, and represent to our mind in some easily recallable shape, the order, and the symmetry, and the beauty that prevail throughout Nature.”

It is an interesting concept to think about – the artist as a scientist and the scientist as an artist.  Since the time when both fields of study were formally identified, they have been closely linked to one another, yet when viewed in modern society, it is so easy for us to separate the two. Sure, we can see how science and art intersect when discussing chemical compositions of oil based paints (lead poisoning anyone?) and light refraction on photographic lenses, but what about the more high concept of the reciprocal nature of science and art? Is one the muse of the other, and if so, which came first?  It might be easy to argue that ‘of course science came first- science is all around, and it is the beauty of nature and discovery that brings forth artistic inspiration, but what if it is the artistic influence of our surroundings that inspire the quest for exploration and discovery?

Philosophical quandries such as these are not meant to be solved with a simple Beet Street blog, but it is interesting to think about it from different perspectives.  Todd Siler, a prominent contemporary artist who’s work in based in the art/science realm has this opinion on the matter:

“The messages of this art are basic.  The universe imparts its creative processes to us.  We, in turn, impart our creative processes to the things we create. Our creations reveal the nature of our minds directly and so the universe indirectly.  This is the great current of influences that changes our lives.  The playful, purposeful work of neurocosmology is to venture into this ocean current with at least one premise:  in decoding the brain, we decode the universe—and vice versa. In many ways, the brain is what the brain creates.  Its workings reflect the workings of all its creations.”

With a doctoral degree from MIT and his art displayed at both the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Todd Siler is certainly a qualified source for opinions on the origination of art in relation to how the brain processes our interpretation of color and shape.  Much similar to T.H. Huxely’s opinion in 1887, Siler sees it as the artists job to create pieces that challenge the brain’s interpretation of visual stimuli just as much as he is challenged artistically by the complexity of the brain,  most of the time – literally. 

Currently Siler’s work can be seen at the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art in his exhibition entitled, The Mind and All It Creates. Installed in the museum’s Main Gallery, Silers work explores how the brain works by looking comparatively at the creative outcomes of the brain’s complex processes. Works from a variety of periods in Siler’s career are included in The Mind and All It Creates.  Siler’s Mind Icons, dating from the early 1990’s, are visual meditations on the life of the intellect and spirit set into shapes that resemble the human brain.  Also included will be selections from Siler’s totemic photo-metaphorms that visually compress ideas and images printed on the upwardly twisting metal sculptures.  In paintings such as The ArtScience of Grasping Synapses, 2000-2004, Siler offers an artistic, imaginative rendition of a brain synapse that expresses the explosive, energetic activity that takes place constantly in the brain.

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Science and art – it  is such a joint relationship, divorcing one side from the other just isn’t possible. Whichever side of the debate you fall on, it can’t be argued that without a muse, neither would exist as we know it today.

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More information on Todd Siler can be found on the web at:
http://www.ToddSilerArt.com.

Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art
201 S. College Ave. Fort Collins, CO
fcmoca.org

FCMOCA hours:
10-5 Tuesday through Friday;
12 to 5 on Saturday;
Closed Sunday and Monday.

Admission fees:
$5.00 adults,
$2.00 seniors over 65.
Free to museum members, students and children under 18.

Todd Siler will also be joining Beet Street for a very special edition of Science Café on March 10th.  Location and details coming soon.

Key Concepts : Creative Industries

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Last week, I wrote about creative economy, and although there’s a lot more to say and think about, today, I’m wondering about the products that make up the creative economy.  The United Kingdom’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport defines creative industries as, “those activities which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property.”  While a creative product may exist as a physical entity (think paper, film, computer disk…), its value is in its meaning and what it represents—its content.  The content/information of a creative product is boundless, but that content/information defines its value. Creativeclusters.org offers a good example, “Even with a designer T-shirt or a piece of [jewelry], it’s the style, the design that counts, not the cloth or the metal.”

This past weekend, on the Lower East side, New York, several artists and community organizations opened an exhibition, that puts this concept to the test.  HomeBase IV, is an exhibition in a vacant medical clinic.  This is not an exhibition of art created somewhere else and then transported into a pristine, neutral gallery for contemplation.  A lot of what you can see in HomeBase IV, was created from materials found in the existing space.  The creative product, the process, the content, and the experience of visiting the site give the project value.

“’When we arrived, it had nothing in it,’ said Leor Grady, the curatorial and programming director of the project.  ‘It smelled like a combination of mildew, chemicals, medical waste and sheet rock.’  Even after a cleaning, the worn peachy-beige walls, industrial carpeting and fluorescent lighting retain a sterility that serves as a palette for the sometimes unsettling works.”

A variety of artists collaborated to explore the notion of “home,” in this specific space (unused clinic) and to engage the residents of a changing neighborhood.  This means that the artists met together, talked, read, and interacted with the public to determine what would happen in the space, as well as worked to design what a visitor can see.  (See images) All at once, the meaning for the project/action is in the process and its space–the product becomes spatial, as it connects people, place, and time.  Gone is the presumption that art=object, or that art can only exist isolated from community in a building labeled as gallery or museum.  As reported in the New York Times, one of the artists, Paul Sepuya, a Brooklyn photographer of Ugandan descent eloquently describes his reality and makes his experience tangible.  “I thought it would be interesting to apply the idea of home as spatial,” he says. “When you’re not at home, it’s constructed by your family’s stories.”  His contribution to the exhibition includes portraits of friends and neighbors who like him, have some association with Uganda—a “home” that Sepuya has never visited!  Another artist, Dafna Shalom took photos of men in the neighborhood who reminded her of her father — a hand here, a hairstyle there.  Our realities are often constructed through small gestures that we don’t notice, but become intriguing when we stop and think.  If a smelly, unused, and dingy health clinic in New York, can be reinvented as a site for building community and thinking about the meaning of “home,” what are we overlooking?

Creative economy is driven by creative industry.  Products are reorganized from seeming non-existence, although the ideas and materials may already have been there.  Ideas are what transforms materials and what can transform people, neighborhoods, cities, and towns!  There are lots of creative spaces and events that promote thinking in and about Fort Collins.  This week we can think about caring for each other by simply eating out to help United Way of Larimer County.  Later in the week, think about places that used to be here but only exist as fading away signs painted on buildings in Old Town, or join others to think about an area of Fort Collins that will grow in the future.  You can contemplate exhibitions about Dreams, Floating Worlds, and art made by senior citizens.  Perhaps you’ll ride the trolley and think about public transport, or learn more about the public art that helps create a sense of place in our city.  All the details are at www.visitfortcollins.com!

The whole world is a museum without walls!

Thanks for the photographs No Trams To Lime Street, MacRonin47, and hoggardb.

Deborah Lombard