Sex in the Sea

How is climate change affecting sexual behaviours of plants and animals?

I meet with Jason Benedek, Paula Havey and Caterina Mocciola in the UTS Motion Capture studio. We discuss Living Data principles and brainstorm ideas for an installation inspired by Bill Gladstone’s science interests. We play with a dance inspired by birds.

We agree that

Truth to feeling is as vital as Truth to science
Feelings are subjective
The scientific method is our best attempt yet to be objective
We combine scientific data and stories with subjective responses without compromise to art or science

Jason and I plan a looping animation for projection through mesh screens, to combine scientific data with artistic expressions of connection. We anticipate a dance performance within the installation as part of the opening event for the exhibition.

When I describe Bill’s interest in the puffer fish and its elaborate circular pattern sculpted in sand on the sea floor, we imagine sand on the gallery floor, with Cat creating patterns in it as she moves, and a projector casting art and data from the ceiling.

Caterina asks if we are open to performing with her and suggests the iconic ‘Flock of birds’ move. The move suggests a looping pattern of birds and I wonder if any marine creatures move this way.

As I dance the pattern with Paula and Jason I feel like I’m drawing the infinity sign, as well as the ‘X marks the spot’ that we share for a moment in the space. I later try again on my own and imagine the looping pattern turned sideways and that I am tracing cold bottom water circulation from Antarctica, a key driver of the ocean system and vital for understanding climate change. This is body knowledge becoming conscious understanding, from moving in a pattern I know simultaneously as primal and reflecting scientific understanding.

Caterina comments that because humans are pattern seeking creatures we can’t help but find patterns, and are prone to imagining them, for example when watching an improvised dance.

Could we test patterns we imagine, through data collection and analysis, to see how they relate to similar patterns unearthed in the natural world through the scientific method?

For our Sex in the Sea visualisation to be true to science, as well as true to feelings, we will need to know something about marine mating dances and how environmental changes impact on those patterns.

Jason recalls a movie (???) in which a pattern is repeated and then is gradually interrupted by flashes to black (or white?), and interprets the effect as a kind of eating away at a seemingly natural pattern.

And so we brainstorm through our various experiences of visual in the visual and performing arts, and in science.

Where to from here?

What is understood scientifically?
How do we relate that to experience?

Collect and generate data, words, images, gestures and sounds to tell a story
Design and fabricate screens for projection
Choreograph dance

About Lisa Roberts

Project leader
This entry was posted in collaborations, dance, workshops. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sex in the Sea

  1. Lisa Roberts says:

    You inspire me.

    Since going on the Sea to Summit field trip last year it’s concerned me that the focus of Living Data has been the Ocean when most people mainly experience the land.

    There’s great symbolic power in the sphere. It resonates with the underlying purpose of Living Data to bring together people with different fields of interest to share knowledge of global climate change.

  2. Lisa Roberts says:

    From: William Gladstone
    To: Lisa Roberts Subject: RE: Living Data brainstorming
    Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2014 21:14:34 +1000

    Hi Lisa

    I like the idea of seeing patterns in fish movements, although I don’t know the “Flock of Birds” movement that you mention in the commentary below the video.

    I liked your infinity symbol metaphor.

    There are lots of examples of complicated dances done by fishes as part of courtship leading to mating, and also other sorts of dances done by, for example, cleaner fish that are meant to advertise themselves as cleaners.

    I can show you some of my video of the spawning of the one spot puller, the species whose mating patterns I have monitored.

    Thanks for giving your creative attention and talents to this.

    I’m giving an expanded version of my Sex in the Sea talk as a lecture to first year students in the subject The Biosphere, and am calling it Sex in the Biosphere, and it will focus on the linkages between the natural environment and animal sex, the effects of human changes to the environment on animal sex, and the effect of climate change on animal sex. I’m giving it at 9 am, Monday 5 May and then repeating it at 2 pm Tuesday 6 May, and you are welcome to come along.