Our main thought right now is to try to do some sort of prairie restoration that also has an artistic concept at its core. We are really excited about trying to do this project in a public space somehow. So either at parks, or in empty lots, etc. This is SUPER exciting to me because we could get all sorts of data from this kind of a project. I envision this project to have multiple levels of data collection. First, we could ask basic questions about how urban prairies are functioning. For example: are they supporting the same kind of plant diversity as non-urban prairies? Do they support diverse pollinator communities? How do soil microbes respond to prairie plantings? etc. Second, we could also ask specific questions that come from the design of the project. So, if we vary the order that plants flower or seed, we could ask questions about timing and its effects on the basic questions. Third, since we are doing a science/art prairie, we could ask questions about how the prairie influences people’s opinions about prairie conservation. I am really interested in learning if people prefer prairies with an artistic concept to a “regular” prairie where we seed randomly and homogeneously.
Despite the main idea that we really like, Ken and I are continuing to fight the urge to pick one idea and stick with it, and are continuing to brainstorm new ideas. This has been really beneficial because I think we keep coming up with new and potentially better ideas! I am thinking about it as new ways to come up with a cool concept for our prairie- but it may not end up being an artistic prairie ☺ Ken brought up a bunch of ideas he had been thinking about as we discussed them. He was impressed that I was able to come up with matched scientific questions that we could ask for all of his crazy artistic ideas. So I think we are a good team because we both have lots of ideas. I have to give some credit to my ideation from my PhD advisor Stan Harpole. He’s the master of ideation.
One idea that Ken brought up was thinking about wind patterns and trying to find a way to measure the wind and then display it continuously. He mentioned it could be very meditative. I am a big fan of this idea because I am very interested in mindfulness and meditation. I think it helps calm my anxious mind. As mental health issues are pretty strong in scientists of all ages, I like the idea of adding another layer on to our artistic design. One that helps people calm their minds.
Blogged while listening to Jolene
The conversations with Lauren have been super interesting and proving to be very educational for me. Beyond the topics we continue to come up with as potential subject matter for our collaboration, I find our ancillary conversations really interesting. One stemmed from a conversation I had with my wife Anette about the role art has played in the past often being paired with another field. In the West, this was often religion. The church leaders communed with the supernatural and brought this holy word to the common people. Artists were often hired to give people a sensory experience (paintings or sculptures in churches and later books) to help engage with this unknown, this mystery of the divine. Similarly, today, scientist pursue the unknown. It seems an opportune moment for artists to provide the public with a sensory experience for this information. Art offers a way to engage with information that is not solely logic based and intellectual. Considering some of the scale and nature of these scientific explorations, art could offer an access point for the public and make the information relatable and approachable. (This probably needs a lot more thought but interesting to see a parallel.)
Lauren and I also discussed a few more interesting ideas that could be explored though a research site. One that stuck with me was turbulence and topography. Lauren explained that as plants migrate, wind and land topography (even plant density) come into play. The idea of creating a site where land forms affect this process is intriguing. In my mind these include depressions, ground ripples, sloping elevations etc. This immediately calls to mind the work of numerous ancient cultures such as the Inca, Maya, Nazca, culture of Llanos de Mojos and earthworks artists like Michael Heizer and Maya Lin. Another idea was the concept of erosion or entropy. We would somehow create a situation and allow nature to reclaim it. Whether this is image based outdoors or simple organization system, inevitably the organization would decay. The time scale of this process could be dramatic or long duration. Capturing this process is interesting. A recent video experiment of mine about erosion through generation loss may illuminate this content of erasure. erosion study- Nova Scotia
One welcome conversation thread that continues for me is the opportunity to use weather or land as a material for art. All these interventions involve a beginning adjustment of the site and then a conscious release of control, allowing natural processes to take over. The artwork would be constantly evolving. The site/ experience would be like an observatory in that sense- an opportunity to contemplate a phenomena as it unfolds.