Week 1: Lauren & Ken
My name is Lauren, and I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Ecology, Evolution and Behavior department at the University of Minnesota. I am really interested in understanding how plants move (this is called dispersal), and how plant movement can naturally aid in restoring native grassland ecosystems. I love analyzing data, and thus I am constantly using statistical (think programming) and mathematical (think equations) tools to understand plant dispersal. I am currently doing field work in NW Minnesota, but will be moving to St. Louis, Missouri in October and working remotely. I am currently trying to understand how far pollinators are able to carry the pollen of native grassland plants. If you want to learn more about my research, you can go to my website here. While I have always loved science because it involves constant learning and problem solving, I also enjoy expressing science through art. In college, as part of an arts-in-public-spaces class, I painted part of a mural on evolution for the new science building at the University of Michigan. You can see me working on my piece here! After that experience I become really interested in using art to help people understand science in new and exciting ways. As part of my PhD dissertation, I helped create a prairie restoration experiment in the middle of town in Ames, Iowa with the help of undergraduate English 101 students. We restored a 4-acre prairie in a design that allowed us to understand how animals on the prairie were influencing the movement of seeds that could help increase the diversity (or number of native species) in restored prairies, which you can read about here. You can read the paper I wrote about our experiment here. What was fun about this project was that we set it up using the help of so many non-biology students. Working with students who had a humanities background was exciting because not only did they learn a lot about native lands restoration, but they also brought a creative perspective to the project. They wrote their final English essays on how the restored prairie could be used from many different perspectives (e.g. agriculturalist, conservationist, recreationist, etc). After this experiment was set up, we continued to involve other arts and humanities students by working with a graduate student in the painting program, and with a landscape design class. These students help us take our experiment and come up with artistic ways to represent the importance of native grassland habitat beyond scientific writing and graphs.
I am really looking forward to working with Ken on this SciArt residency because it will be an opportunity for me to engage with artists again. And this time I am hoping to do some art of my own. Not only do I want to figure out how to express science with art, but I am also hoping that some of Ken’s art can inspire me to think of ways my science can connect with his work, creating a truly unique feedback.
Beginning this collaboration, it is good to share a little about myself, my artwork, and how I came to be interested in this opportunity of working with a scientist. My name is Kenneth Millington and am originally from Geneva NY, located on the north end of Seneca Lake. I attended the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence RI (Bachelor of Fine Arts) and the School of Visual Arts, New York, NY (Master of Fine Arts). In between, I received several grants to travel and live abroad- La Paz Bolivia and London UK. After several years painting large scale murals in Philadelphia and around the Northeast, I settled into Brooklyn NY and began teaching at Parsons, School of Design. I currently teach in the First Year Program- Drawing & Imaging, Time, and various painting, digital and 3-D design courses. Teaching has emerged as a strong pursuit that runs parallel to my artwork.
While my artwork may be categorized as multi-media at this point, it has always explored concepts of place. As society advances, the concept of place evolves. Technology opens new corridors both spatially and temporally. The intersection of physical space and digital space are known as informational territories (a term coined by André Lemos.) With new places being ‘made’ some of these older territories fall into abandon as technology moves beyond them. One such space is the vacant signal frequencies accessed by the antenna of CRT TVs. My work explores this portion of the Electromagnetic Spectrum particularly the radio and microwave frequencies and the subsequent ambient information found there.
My practice involves media archeology-using dated technology, or an object in obsolescence, refashioned to create art. For me, a television set and its antenna can be used as a medium, not to watch narrative episodes, but rather as an amplifier of the electromagnetic environment. Much like a landscape being defined by its geology, flora, and climate, its electromagnetic signature is equally distinct. The visual data collected through the television is edited into video or reproduced as large scale painting. The videos and paintings I produce reconsider our views on interference/ disruption and our perceptions of place. Documenting television static and amplifying features allows this long consider interference to be re contextualized from a disruption to a moment of contemplation. Through this convergence of science, technology and art a modern landscape can be presented and a new index for place can be achieved.
This current work, with its blurring of science and art, led me to confront scientific themes, explore nontraditional art mediums and opened new ways of thinking about artmaking. I realize there is great potential in going beyond what is familiar to an artist (traditional mediums, art history, etc.) and engaging with different kinds of information and other methods of investigation. Collaborating across disciplines allows this to happen. It offers another avenue to interact with and understand the world around us. Equally important this collaboration offers two people from different fields the chance to get to know each other, learn from each other and explore a way to work together.
My website: https://www.kenmillington.com/
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