Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Art/Science on Ice

Last night, Claire and I presented a talk about our art/science collaboration to the McMurdo Station community. It was the third time we've spoken together and, to be honest, the first time I've felt completely at ease.

In these talks, Claire and I set out to convey the genuine nature of our collaboration. Claire has worked in the lab and in the field "doing science" with me and, likewise, I have worked in her studio "doing art." As a result of this cross-pollination, we are adequately versed in each other's scientific and artistic processes. I think that this is why we can spawn new ideas, provide each other with helpful critiques, and jointly apply our technical skills. In a nutshell, we bounce seamlessly between each other's worlds.
The evening began with an introduction by the McMurdo Station manager, Terry Melton. The story of how Claire and I met at the Devon B&B in Christchurch followed (an interesting tale of serendipity), and then we launched into examples of Claire's art followed by some biological facts about foraminifera. The heart of the talk was a discussion of our InterfaCE project, which involves a process that Claire and I developed to study pseudopod ("false foot") structure and motile behavior of Foraminifera on textured surfaces. Claire's art provides templates for microlithographic fabrication of the substrates that the forams move along. (More thorough descriptions are found on Claire's website or mine.)  We finished by discussing the art/science work we're doing this season in collaboration with Katherine Glenday and Christina Bryer. This year's project involves the use of porcelain grains (derived from Katherine and Christina's pieces) as shell-building particles by the forams that we study. In a sense, it is a collaboration between me, Claire, Katherine, Christina, and Astrammina triangularis :-)

Our talk was structured to be a conversation, hoping to avoid too much didactic content. The approach apparently worked: The people we spoke with afterwards thought that the evening was unconventional, and opened their eyes to the commonalities of art and science rather than their differences.

How could it fail when I'm speaking with Claire about art, science, and Foraminifera?

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