SciArt Magazine - All Issues - Page 29

Weather came into the picture in 2006 when I had two consecutive artist residencies at the Fine Arts Work Center on Cape Cod. Zach Smith—a climate educator from the Wright Center for Science Education at Tufts University—knew of my work and approached me about a project on climate change. At the time, I knew I wanted to figure out a way for me to collect my own data to see how the sculptural translation process would change. Until then, I had relied mainly on data sources from the Internet. I was to field-test one of their instruments for the Wright Center on the beaches of Cape Cod while being tutored in how to collect science data. I knew very little about weather and only the most basic Climate Change 101 information. I soon realized that if there was any hope for me to truly understand the complexity of climate change, I had to first understand weather. For over 14 months, I went to a specific beach on Cape Cod—rain or shine—and collected weather data and observations. Rather than diving right into climate change, I decided that I would begin by studying weather and its systems. My theory was that if I could understand how weather interacts in my own backyard, then maybe I could, one day, truly understand the complex interactions of natural and man made factors that make up climate change. To me, the key is to make that complexity of weather tactile, to have it emerge from the flatness of the computer screen and the abstraction of the graph—to literally realize it. I built my own weather station and gather data every day. I use the Internet to collect local, historical, and global data to put my findings into a broader context. From all these numbers, I begin a translation process into the third dimension, using basket weaving as a simple spatial grid through which to translate the data. By staying true to the numbers, the forms I create are not only tactile data visualizations; they are also sculptures and installations through which viewers can approach the information from all sides. The premise is simple: if I can touch the information, perhaps then the complexity of climate change or weather can become more real and understandable. SAiA: In articulating scientific observations, what does your artistic process consist of, going from data to woven sculpture? SciArt in America December 2013 NM: Data is my primary medium and forms the DNA of my work. In this age of information-overload, the methods of data translation for sake of clarity become poignant. While visualization of data is nothing new, the use of sculpture and musical performance as translation mediums is still somewhat unorthodox. The work explores possibilities and provokes expectations in both science and art—how artistic processes can further our understanding of scientific phenomenon, and how the integration of science can provide new trajectories into artistic practices. By utilizing artistic and musical processes in combination with science data, I am questioning and expanding the traditional boundaries through which science data has O Fortuna, Sandy Spins (2013). 18