Alexis Williams (A.K.A Ember Penumbra or Ember Erebus) is a Canadian research artist interested in non-human sensory experiences. She has a love for biology and natural philosophy. She is a mycologist who travels the world in search of wild mushrooms, witches’ markets, ghost towns and remarkable celestial phenomenon. Her work, which often highlights the kinship of Art, Science and Spirituality, indicates the importance of observation, contemplation and adventure. Alexis designs and leads research expeditions for international artists to study science and other non-normal points of view. -AlexisWilliams.net
Mia Cardenas: Can you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a Sci-Artist?
Alexis Williams: I was exposed to the glamorous world of bio art at university in the early 2000’s. A little later I found my Biophilia; the awe I feel when observing non-human organisms and in learning and teaching about them. It was only natural for me to build a mycology laboratory in my studio. It was thrilling to exist in both the art and science worlds because it allowed me to break all the rules and lead me to become aware of other people's biologic awareness. Their biases and superstitions and prejudices became as important to my work as the organisms I was looking after.
MC: Your art's purpose is to highlight the kinship of Art, Science and Spirituality, and indicate the importance of observation, contemplation, and adventure. How do you achieve this?
AW: One only needs to be invited to look in order to see the constant magic flowing through all living things. My job as an artist is to give people permission to indulge in their curiosity in the natural world. I achieve this simply through public, obsessive and joyful observation. My Job as the director of the Ayatana Artists’ Research Residency is to facilitate intimate experiences between artists and wildlife in order to elevate and validate their biophilia in hopes that they will direct the attention of their audiences to the natural world. I hope witnessing the magic of life is enough for people to find value in it rather than seeing wildlife as a resource to be exploited.
MC: Tell us about one of your favorite pieces of work/one of your research expeditions.
AW: My favorite is always what I’m working on. I’m building a mask made of snail shells and some cameras and 3d goggles. The mask covers the wearers head and arms and there is a camera on each hand that sends a live feed to each eye. The mask enables the human wearer to control what each eye sees by panning the cameras around an object and to experience the infinite depth of field of snail vision. It’s disorienting at first, but our brains are quite flexible when it comes to learning new ways of sensing the world. The best part is when you take it off and go back to human vision, which is weird and double and for a moment you see how ridiculously arbitrary and limited our point of view is.
To learn more about the Ayatana research programs, check out this website! artayatana.com