I recently went to a science/art symposium in St Paul, Minnesota to see what folks in my city are up to related to science/art collaborations. It was really informative to listen to a group of science art teams talk about their project, what was successful, and what were places to look out for in the collaboration. What I really liked about these talks was that every group stressed the importance of getting to know each other. That getting to know people from different fields was massively important to broadening our view of the world – but that it all started with having a good relationship with your collaborator. I thought this was pretty neat since both Ken and I agreed that this was the way to go in the beginning as well.
There was one science/art collaboration that really hit close to home, the Urban Flower Field. This collaboration was built in an empty lot in St Paul, Minnesota, so it has some of the foundation we are interested in. Here, a local artist teamed up with a local scientist, and built a park, where research plots made up a fractal shape, which is repeated on one of the walls of the park. Some of the interesting scientific advice I got from this talk, was the importance of having high replication because you could have unexpected increases in populations of herbivores (e.g. rabbits). This was super useful advice if you are working on a population-level experiment. At the Urban Flower Field, the scientific side of the park explores how different plants can be used for bioremediation.
Ken and I discussed this project at length. We both really liked the approach they took to create a really neat urban park that brought together both art and science and created a space for local people to go. One thing we decided we wanted to try to do differently was to create science that at the same time was also art. So instead of artfully arranging scientific plots, we want our plots to also be art. The distinction is very minor, I realize. But I was really excited about Ken’s interest in trying to push the collaborative nature further. The point of making sure to have high enough replicates can be mediated if you look at a community-level project. So I think I am going to push for this! (By community-level project, I mean that we won’t focus specifically on one species, but we will instead look at how all species that co-inhabit the same plot interact).
We agree that at this point we are likely going to stick with our urban, artistic prairie restoration idea. So now we are trying to decide where we go specifically. We have two main focuses, 1) the image erosion idea – where we examine how the specific prairie restoration design does or does not erode over time through natural dispersal and colonization, or 2) the earthworks idea where we manipulate the topography of the land to see how this alters turbulence, which could in turn alter the dispersal and colonization of species within the plots. One cool difference I see between these two ideas is that in 1) we do not manipulate the wind, we just measure it. Whereas in 2) we actually manipulate the wind environment which has the potential to affect wind turbulence which can impact the distance dispersed by seeds. We will see in future weeks where we go with these ideas!
Blogged while listening to Tron music.
This past week I have been thinking more about the specifics that Lauren would need to complete an experiment. After reading last week about all that is accounted for in an experiment, there needs to be clear outlines and plots for Lauren to conduct research. Lauren drew me several examples of how she would look for dispersal while using various plot arrangements with border space in between, etc. The point being, the experiment/ research needs certain physical parameters to be controlled and allowed to play out. This brought me a bit away from the concept of multiple city lots connected by an over arcing design and pushed me to consider this framework. That concept of a plot and a logistics of space has me thinking about grids. A grid provides a measure for space and the ability to place coordinates, have clear neutral areas, clear target areas, etc. Maybe a brightly colored large grid design (5 foot squares?) laid over the landscape would afford Lauren the possibility of the required plots, controls, comparatives, and neutral space to undertake the experiment while also being art. This is important, art and science are equally embedded in each other rather than decoration by proximity.
At the same time, it does touch on an interest of mine- wireframe landscapes. Likely inspired by watching the movie Tron as a child- particularly taken with the digital environment that was constructed (especially the light cycle race!). In addition to being used in the design of virtual worlds wireframe landscapes are used to better understand data about topography and its variations of altitude. I am intrigued by this concept of taking a 2-dimensional arrangement, such as a grid, and laying it across a 3-dimensional element. The distortion of this pattern of squares and parallel lines is what describes form, gives it contour. This is a basic tenet of drawing and depicting form. Possibly in this case, the grid on the landscape could blur the virtual world and the real world while reinforcing a methodology for the experiment and providing a sense of tactility for the investigation into turbulence topography. I think it is interesting taking something that is familiar as computer screen size and scaling it up to larger than life size. The grid re-emphasizes study on one hand yet is also a place holder between that which is being built up in creation or broken down to be understood. Visually and experientially, it would be graphic and impactful yet functional.