I'm so glad I had the chance to interact with Lizzy over these 4 months; hard to believe the formal residency period is already over! But I fully expect that we'll continue working together. The weekly blog turned out to be a great way to brainstorm and test some things out, but I think actually moving into the next phase may end up being helpful as well, to bring our ideas to fruition and produce something very cool.
This art is likely to take the form of a 3D sculpture. One inspiration may be Transparent Void of a Tree by Sou Fujimoto, which I saw in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (see also the video in my blog from last week)
It would be really cool to build something similar to this (which, itself, is a model for something human-scale!): a 3D origami model of the local universe. I have some ideas for a method to make the closest-possible origami-tessellation approximation to an observed set of galaxies; it would be super-cool to make a human-scale model of the local universe that best-fits actual data. Lizzy suggested the possibility of using subtly colored panels. That could really help (over entirely transparent panels) to elucidate the structure by eye!
Another aspect that would be fantastic to incorporate would be filament and galaxy rotations; this would give one some sense of how things are likely to be moving in the cosmic web. A few of my blog entries were devoted to this idea, sparked by Lizzy's mention of Ron Resch and "jitterbugs". This work ended up clarifying the model conceptually for me, already, and I think I have a pretty good idea of how to construct such a rotational node with something like 3D-printed "gears", quite interesting stuff in its own right. Incidentally, I just saw a video about "reconfigurable materials", related to origami, jitterbugs, and engineering:
or a similar non-Facebook video:
These videos concern recent Nature paper by this group, "Rational design of reconfigurable prismatic architected materials" http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v541/n7637/full/nature20824.html
The article is hosted without a paywall on the authors' website, as well:
I also picked up a book recently, largely about related topics: polyhedra, math, art and science. It's Shaping Space: Exploring Polyhedra in Nature, Art, and the Geometrical Imagination, edited by Marjorie Senechal. I haven't had time to look at at much, but it looks very cool.
As this project started, I was mainly in the mode of "finding cool ways to explain cool science," rather than thinking deeply of a meaningful dialogue between artistic and scientific ways of seeing the world. (Although when I look back at "finding cool ways to explain cool science," the word "cool" could implicitly contain some thought along more meaningful lines -- to be "cool," it has to engage the viewer in some probably artistic way.) I think the biggest way in which the SciArt residency has helped me to broaden my point of view is in this way -- pondering how people might connect to scientific art, and how it can have profound meaning beyond simply illustrating a clinical scientific principle. The biggest insight I had during this period was (I think) along these lines, with both scientific and broader human meaning: when galaxies form in the cosmic web, much of their inner structure is a reflection of the structure around them. A "Tantra Art" group I'm getting involved with Prof. Chris Dorsett and others at Northumberland University further encourages this kind of thought. My way of thinking of science and art and how they can interact has already changed a bit, but I still have much to learn!
And to conclude a bit self-promotionally, a couple of events that are coming up soon for me; this will be more in the format of a weekly blog entry (I hope, anticipating further blog entries!)
- I will be featured (I was told! I haven't viewed it yet) in a NOVA program on PBS, scheduled for Feb 15, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/origami-revolution.html. Origami cosmology and I occupy several minutes near the end, out of the hour-long show. It's not just recommended for viewing me, but there are many other very cool topics included of SciArt relevance!
- I will be giving a seminar at Paper Studio Northumberland in Newcastle, England, tentatively on March 23 and with the title "Origami-Folding the Local Universe". This is a folded-up draft of the model.
It's a model of the set of galaxies in the "Council of Giants", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzL7xGzfNlU. Incidentally, the music there was a subject of an interesting conversation with Northumberland art professor Fiona Crisp. I realized that in a scientific talk, I would be a bit embarrassed to show it along with its music, probably making a small joke about the music. I think in science, we tend to be very wary of things that could be construed as obvious salesmanship, or things that attempt to influence us in ways that seem to be "cheating" in a way that seems capable of circumventing a scientist's idealized filter of cold logic and reason. But the galaxies in the Council of Giants truly are giants (technically, galaxies roughly the size of our own, as opposed to "dwarf galaxies", such as the large and small Magellanic clouds near our Milky Way). Upon further in(tro)spection, the music here is not inappropriate!
This thought about the music is yet another piece of SciArt thinking that the residency has enabled for me. Of course I thank Julia Buntaine, Marnie Benney, SciArt Center, everyone involved with The Bridge program, and of course my partner, Lizzy. I look forward to a lot more thought, work, discussion, and actualization along these lines!
In our 4 month collaboration, Mark and I explored the art and science connection from a few different angles. At first, it was up to me to come up to speed on his research interests and projects. I enjoyed reading and discussing some publications he created and contributed to, as well as getting periodical updates on publicity for his origami, dark matter sheet connection. Then came time for Mark to understand how I work as a studio artist. Together, we talked about ways to communicate the imagery from his research, such as plots and animated simulations, in a context that honors the hard work behind it in addition to inviting laymen to observe and enjoy that work.
We’re still thinking about three-dimensional origami folding possibilities! Mark did a lot of work on figuring out how to manifest a physical 3-D working model of his concept of tetrahedral collapse used to describe the strange 6-dimensional folding nature of the dark matter sheet.
It took many weeks for me to get my hands into some materials and prepare for making artwork. A lot of planning goes into my projects to make them financially and temporally feasible. I was prepared from the beginning of our collaboration to use our formal time together to gather raw materials to draw from, while encouraging Mark to see the many facets of art, design, and craft. In keeping with the conceptual nature of my work, Mark continually encouraged me to fully understand the concepts at hand before claiming to make a statement about them from which to gain inspiration. Our collaboration progressed very organically. We each maintained our other obligations while making time every week to answer each others questions and read each others musings and thoughts. It was harder to get into regular video chats considering our time difference.
I did have a very hard time wrapping my head around the origami folding of the dark matter sheet! It took me some weeks to come around, sometimes aided by visualizations, sometimes made more confused! Now I feel like I can visualize the way Mark models the origami folding in my mind’s eye, going so far as to replace an outdated notion of mine that galaxies and galaxy clusters were formed based on the gravity of massive bodies alone. In fact, this very shift in thought was what turned scientists on to dark matter in the first place. Based on observations and calculations from nearby galaxies, far less visible matter was apparent than there would be if galaxies were formed due to gravity alone. Something else had to be drawing matter together. Dark matter could be it! Mark has aided this research by developing simulation techniques that take less time and computational power.
Without a doubt, the best part of this collaboration was hearing Mark say that his visualizations surprised him and his colleagues. There was far more detail in the nodes than was postulated. Not only detail, but almost a fractal nature as one zooms in to the smaller and smaller folds, finding the same patterns repeated at different scales. Where would they be without visualization?
Our running projects include: 3D Tetrahedral Collapse physical model, origami twist fold models from the observed universe and our own Milky Way and neighboring galaxies, and a few series of drawings, paintings, prints, (and maybe sculpture!), using data visualization from Mark’s research. I see us each moving forward on our projects while we remain distanced by the Atlantic. We have talked about getting together in New York for an event or exhibition showcasing our work! I would even be interested in a publication to go along with the exhibition, a poetic takeaway containing images of work and writing from each of us, that would serve to contextualize the fruits of this endeavor.
I would like to finish by introducing you to a casual blog I’ve created to document the inspiration and references for our collaboration. You can find it athttps://sciartcollaboration.tumblr.com/ While you can find a much more detailed account on our official blog right here at the SciArt Center website, which we will continue to update as we have progress and announcements to share, the blog linked above will be filled with more visuals, links, and thoughts relating to our collaboration in a much broader sense. I hope it inspires you to connect to more sciart in your life!
Thank you all who have kept up with our projects by reading our weekly blog posts facilitated by the SciArt Center, and thank you to SciArt Center director Julia Buntaine for bringing us all together to bridge the perceived gap between science and art!
Visit our other residency group's blogs HERE
Lizzy Storm is an artist and owner of Lizzy Storm Designs based in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mark Neyrinck is an award-winning astrophysicist and cosmologist, and a postdoctoral researcher at Durham University, United Kingdom.