shoreline should be zoned. Instead, we ignore
what happened and rebuild as if Sandy were just
an annoying exception.
SAiA: How much of the science behind your
work do you want your viewers to walk away
NM: Most of the work is about the complexity
of interwoven systems that make up weather.
I’m not interested in creating didactic, threedimensional versions of weather maps. Instead,
I want to engulf the viewer in the complexity of
biological, chemical, and physical interactions
that make up weather. I want them to discover
that complexity without immediately having
it framed as being made up of science data.
A simple legend nearby tells viewers what all
these different colored beads mean: red beads
stand for temperature, green dowels stand for
barometric pressure, etc. Armed with these
additional clues, the viewer becomes a kind of
detective, trying to piece together the meteorological event the piece is about. However,
the pieces rarely read as didactic as the legends
seem to imply, but are closer to a visualization
of the larger complex structure that holds all
these variables together.
SAiA: In addition to translating data into
sculptural forms, you are currently collaborating
with composers to translate scientific data into
music. Can you talk about the process of this
project, and how you think music can function
as a communicator of science?
NM: The latest development of my work includes the translation of meteorological data
into musical scores that also function as weather almanacs and blueprints for sculptures. The
data I use is a combination of my own collected
observations and data available from local
weather stations, offshore buoys, and satellites
that is available from the Internet. These objective weather readings such as barometric pressure, temperature, and wind are combined with
notations of specific human experiences—both
my own and those of others. The integration of
both leads to a musical/sculptural translation
that explores how human emotions and experiences influence the perception of weather.
I never know nor care what the musical score
sounds like when I build it. I’m not interested
SciArt in America December 2013
in building the score to produce a specific
sound, because I don’t want to impose any kind
of preconceived notion of what it should sound
like on the visual creation of the score. I want
the data to reveal itself sonically through the
behaviors it creates with other data nearby. To
me as a sculptor, the scores don’t function sonically at all. Rather, a score represents a kind of
sculptural shorthand that I can use to begin the
three-dimensional translation process with.
These musical scores are translated into
sculptures and are used in collaborative performances with musicians. These sculptures
not only map meteorological conditions of a
specific time and place, but also function as
three-dimensional musical scores to be played
by musicians. While musicians have freedom
to interpret some parts of the score, they are
asked not to change the essential relationship of
the notes to ensure that what is heard is indeed
the meteorological relationship of weather data.
My aim is twofold: to convey a nuance or level
of emotionality surrounding my research that
thus far has been absent from my visual work,
and to reveal patterns in the data musicians
might identify which I have failed to see.
Musical notation started to enter my translation of weather data into sculpture, in part,
when I became aware of nuances that are
embedded in numerical behaviors that meteorological instruments don’t pick up, but
the human mind does. In that lies an imperfection/perfection of the human mind that I
find incredibly fascinating and beautiful. After
working with meteorological data for several
years now, I