It’s June 24th and as of now we have completed our final installation and are preparing for the official unveiling and public opening in the first and second weeks of July, which in other words nearly marks the end of my residency at BLOS. It has been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything because I have been entrenched in the production of all the parts that came together for our final installation that we completed last weekend. There’s a chaotic jumble of information floating around my head that I want to somehow organize and put into coherent writings, but considering the mess of things that’s still left to do before the end of all this and how little time I have to do those things, I will instead most likely be posting thoughts and images here and there as my brain needs, so as not to exhaust myself and to keep things as fresh and considerate as possible.
The installation went well. Of the few installations and bigger projects I have been apart of I have learned that typically regardless of how much preparing you do to make sure uncertainties are seemingly reduced to nothing, complications will arise. These complications, however, are the crux of our route, the stuff that shows us without the contrast of opposites no joy, no sense of ease or accomplishment, no relief or even happiness could exist. The struggles that are presented when uncertainties arise and are met with unpreparedness, are what eventually allow things to truly be called accomplishments. If they went as smoothly as we might try and prepare for them to be, we would be terribly bored. So there were complications that arose, of course, however Steve Archer and I (who began the installation with me) were able to divert tragedy and pull everything together surprisingly well.
How we got here…with science
It was obvious to me when I was first introduced to Steve’s research that the Mesocosm devices would play a large role in the form of the piece–which it did. Mesocosms are 20 meter long 3 meter wide cylindrical experimental water enclosures that, in the case of Steve’s research, have been used to manipulate ocean acidity in a natural, yet confined space. They combine the abilities of field research and lab experiments in one, and as I have been told can offer better insight into the infinite number of variables at play when such things are changed within an ecosystem. The focus of these experiments was to better understand the microbiological responses to projected ocean acidity levels, as well as the gas exchange from microbes to ocean to atmosphere. A gas in particular called DMS, or Dimethyl Sulfide, has been of particular interest to Steve and his team (and many others) because of its concentrated presence in the ocean and its diffusion into the atmosphere. When aerosolized, DMS particles become nuclei in the atmosphere that water molecules attach to causing cloud formation. Clouds, of course, help reflect heat energy from the sun back into space. Therefore, if I understand correctly, the production of DMS (a great deal of that production being from ocean microbes) and its exchange into the atmosphere has a net cooling effect on the planet. Increasing ocean acidification will limit the proliferation of microbial communities and weaken their populations, which will limit the production of DMS and therefore global warming mitigating cloud coverage. It appears to me issues with ocean acidification are of compounded detriment to our planet, and for me, illustrates the lack of simplicity for the implications of climate change. The effect is like throwing a hand full of stones into water, each stone create its own ripple and each ripple that collides creates another and another and so on.
The mesocosm experiments, Steve’s interests in oceanic and atmospheric gas exchange, and ocean acidification are the primary scientific influences on the final piece–I should add that I’m referring to it as “the piece” because I have yet to title it. We did discuss a lot more within the realm of science that had little to do with his research, most notably trying to better understand light, its role in the life of oceanic microbes and also in our perception of color. However, with exception to what’s been mentioned above I’m going to refrain from going much deeper into the explanation of scientific concepts. For the sake of our respective areas of discipline, I will allow those who know it best and work hardest to understand it to do the explaining. This is, however, not to say I have not learned a lot. The wealth of knowledge that is only a sliver of what some of these brilliant, hard working people have obtained that has been shared with me will undoubtedly continue to impact my life and art long beyond my time here at BLOS.
Besides Steve Archer playing a major role in my understanding of what he does and his research, Carlton Rauschenberg, a research associate and lab tech, was a big part of the collaborative process of the final piece. He was also there to assist and teach me the basics of operating the SEM, from which the images I captured became the basis of the final printing process. Carlton and I spent hours discussing the nature of what we both do and how those two creativities converge, and how to translate all of that into a sculptural/printmaking installation. These discussions and his input are reasons the piece is the way it is. I can’t emphasize the importance of his and everyone else involvement enough.
Okay…I’m going to take a break, eat a sandwich and then come back to writing. In my next post I will talk a lot more about the physicality/aesthetics of the piece and how I chose to relate parts of it to the science I earlier mentioned. I will also post the pictures I captured via my iPhone, pre-professional documentation.