Duality: Art & Science Inside and Outside the Polar Vortex

Sebastian Alvarez. "Phototaxis (series)"; Berndnaut Smilde, "Nimbus", 2012; Katie Patterson. "100 Billion Suns," 2011; Jacolby Satterwhite. “Reifying Desire,” 2012; Storyboard P. "Black Magic," 2012. Courtesy Hyacide Magazine; Sanford Biggers. "Big Ass Bang!!," 2004.

Sebastian Alvarez. “Phototaxis (series)”; Berndnaut Smilde, “Nimbus”, 2012; Katie Patterson. “100 Billion Suns,” 2011; Jacolby Satterwhite. “Reifying Desire,” 2012; Storyboard P. “Black Magic,” 2012. Courtesy Hyacide Magazine; Sanford Biggers. “Big Ass Bang!!,” 2004.

As the arctic cyclone or Polar Vortex 2014 descended on Atlanta I was reminded of Ghost Nature, an upcoming art exhibition that explores a new age of ecological awareness. According to curator Caroline Picard, Ghost Nature“exposes the limits of human perspective in the emergent landscape that remains: a slippery, network of sometimes monstrous creatures, plants, and technological advances.” Picard invited me to write an essay for the exhibition catalog to be published later this year in English and in French. I wrote about artwork (see above) that immerses us in the “mesh of nature.” The polar vortex is cold enough that when meteorologist Eric Holthaus tossed a pot of boiling water into the air outside his Wisconsin home this happened:

The hot water vaporizing in the below freezing air reminded me of Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde’s Nimbus series that I include in my essay. In the video below Smilde talks about duality, specifically “inside versus outside, temporality, size and function of materials.” Like Holthaus and the hot water Smilde is interested in simulating phenomena such as clouds.

When writing about the work in Ghost Nature (Smilde is not included) I was challenged to delve into game theory and object oriented ontology and what sort of questions these ideas pose for art and aesthetics.

So how would OOO, in its various orientations, engage with and deliberate on art and aesthetics? How would this ‘schematic of being’ help artists understand their own work or reinterpret its historical significance? –Matthew Stadler

Jacolby Satterwhite is also included in my essay. His use of virtual 3D modeling and immersive 3D space blurs the lines between what is physical (something we can touch) and what is experienced virtually. We can all experience the polar vortex but it is not until we directly interact with or become aware of our immersion in ‘nature’s mesh’ that certain phenomena become real. Immersion (in art) makes us more open to the possibilities of exploring ‘What is there?’ Artists and scientists do that often.

Jacolby Satterwhite. "Reifying Desire," 2012.

Jacolby Satterwhite. “Reifying Desire,” 2012.

Ghost Nature, in collaboration with La Box and Paris-based Laboratoire du Contemporain, will host a symposium will take place between April 16-18th, 2014. The purpose of this symposium is to invite students, artists, academics and the general public to discuss the remarkable ecological times we live in, using a series of curated talks, performances and workshops that challenge and revise the way humankind conceives of itself in the natural world. My essay is to be included in the companion catalogue for the exhibition.

I learned a lot through writing Ghost Nature, Art and the Secret Realities of an Object-Oriented Universe. The essay helped me to link my work in virtual 3D spaces like Second Life to teaching Constructing the Moving Image and Augmented Reality (AR). This week I will moderate a panel with Jacolby, Coco Fusco and Saya Woolfalk who was featured in an article for The Huffington Post. For me, art and technology remains an inspiration and anchor for my work (that now includes STEM).

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