Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Area of Focus

Life Sciences, Creative and Performance

Abstract

Science and the arts have long been understood as two opposing systems of thought involving logic and emotion. However, both disciplines rely on similar thought processes to create something new. Thus, thinking of science and the arts as counterparts is not only false but also eliminates the potential for interaction and generation of powerful outreach tools which use both logic and emotion.

Attempting Physical Contact with Geologic Time examines the cellular structure of plant stems as they transport water and how that structure is affected by drought stress, one of the main drivers of forest die-off worldwide. Under drought, plant stems experience high tension inside their vascular cells, also called tracheids, as a result of the polar bonding between water molecules and the demand of water by the dry atmosphere. This tension increases as water availability decreases. When this tension becomes too great, a plant cell can experience an embolism that disrupts water flow. After too many embolisms, the plant can no longer transport water. The art pieces in our project make these complex and microscopic processes visible and tangible in a new way. Viewers can literally walk around the work and examine it from multiple angles. The delicate physicality of this work evokes the strength and fragility of the natural systems upon which we depend.

In one piece, holes burned through layers of the fabric represent the hollow cavities through which water is transported in a two-year-old pine seedling. The fabric panels are suspended in groups from the ceiling and an image of a cross-section of the seedling is projected from both sides of the piece. Slivers of light from the projection snake through the holes in the layers of fabric, echoing the meandering path of water up a plant stem.

Another series stretches fabric taut over shaped panels that jut off the wall. By walking around the panels, viewers can see a vivid painting on the wall, almost hidden behind the surface of the white fabric. Embroidery on the taut silk evokes the structure of tracheid valves, but also is reminiscent of chromosomes and cellular reproduction. The measured, angular geometry of both the frames and the repeated embroidered valve motif is subverted by slight imperfections and irregularities in the stretched silk and the way it reflects color in unexpected ways. Two panels, human-height, are lifted at a precarious angle from the ground, suspended only by a weighted string. Walking behind those panels, which seem liable to fall at any moment, heightens the sense of tension, insecurity, and impermanence.

This intrusion of chaos within ordered patterns reflects our imperfect methods of collecting and interpreting data. While taking a cross-section of a stem may provide information on growth patterns, it also kills the plant. The functioning of plant cells and seeds are points of departure for these works, but the pieces are also meant to raise questions about how our current methods of discovering new information alter the natural state of organisms, obscuring as much as they reveal.

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Apr 27th, 9:00 AM Apr 27th, 9:15 AM

Attempting Physical Contact with Geologic Time

UC Ballroom, Pod #3

Science and the arts have long been understood as two opposing systems of thought involving logic and emotion. However, both disciplines rely on similar thought processes to create something new. Thus, thinking of science and the arts as counterparts is not only false but also eliminates the potential for interaction and generation of powerful outreach tools which use both logic and emotion.

Attempting Physical Contact with Geologic Time examines the cellular structure of plant stems as they transport water and how that structure is affected by drought stress, one of the main drivers of forest die-off worldwide. Under drought, plant stems experience high tension inside their vascular cells, also called tracheids, as a result of the polar bonding between water molecules and the demand of water by the dry atmosphere. This tension increases as water availability decreases. When this tension becomes too great, a plant cell can experience an embolism that disrupts water flow. After too many embolisms, the plant can no longer transport water. The art pieces in our project make these complex and microscopic processes visible and tangible in a new way. Viewers can literally walk around the work and examine it from multiple angles. The delicate physicality of this work evokes the strength and fragility of the natural systems upon which we depend.

In one piece, holes burned through layers of the fabric represent the hollow cavities through which water is transported in a two-year-old pine seedling. The fabric panels are suspended in groups from the ceiling and an image of a cross-section of the seedling is projected from both sides of the piece. Slivers of light from the projection snake through the holes in the layers of fabric, echoing the meandering path of water up a plant stem.

Another series stretches fabric taut over shaped panels that jut off the wall. By walking around the panels, viewers can see a vivid painting on the wall, almost hidden behind the surface of the white fabric. Embroidery on the taut silk evokes the structure of tracheid valves, but also is reminiscent of chromosomes and cellular reproduction. The measured, angular geometry of both the frames and the repeated embroidered valve motif is subverted by slight imperfections and irregularities in the stretched silk and the way it reflects color in unexpected ways. Two panels, human-height, are lifted at a precarious angle from the ground, suspended only by a weighted string. Walking behind those panels, which seem liable to fall at any moment, heightens the sense of tension, insecurity, and impermanence.

This intrusion of chaos within ordered patterns reflects our imperfect methods of collecting and interpreting data. While taking a cross-section of a stem may provide information on growth patterns, it also kills the plant. The functioning of plant cells and seeds are points of departure for these works, but the pieces are also meant to raise questions about how our current methods of discovering new information alter the natural state of organisms, obscuring as much as they reveal.