Scientists Kirrallee Baker and Arjun Verma talk with artists Leanne Thompson, Catherine Nolan, Caterina Mocciola, me, and designer and curator Anita Marosszeky. On the table is a model I made with Kirralee, of the phytoplankton Ditylum brighwellii. We made it with discarded culture flasks she used to cultivate these organisms. Ditylum brighwellii is a eukaryotic cell.
Kirralee and Arjun explain how pigments are expensive for phtyoplankton to produce and how the colours of their parts reflect their different functions. See excerpt of video record.
Arjun describes an exhibit he is planning to make with cultures, of a series of filter papers to visualise an algal bloom. The group suggests ways to give context to the series such as through graphs, and photos of satellite, microscopic and human views.
Leanne explains her concept for an evolving installation that invites and displays responses to the exhibition. Her aim is to show how the exhibition impacts on people, and over time expresses a groundswell of engagement. Kirralee suggests tracing paper be used to signify transparency of our research process. Through discussion with the group a design is sketched that serves both as art work and data visualisation.
Anita leads discussion about mapping the Tower building exhibition space with Living Data exhibits and announces our agreement to produce a publication to document the Living Data research journey.
Anita proposes clear acrylic boxes to contain models of phytoplankton forms for the Understand-a-scope installation proposed for the UTS Library lightwell. Her idea first arose from the need to easily clean and change the models we propose to suspend in the space. Kirralee and I recognise the connection to Justin Seymour’s scientific model used to compare oceanic communities at vast and minute scales:
Read more at UTS Newsroom. Kiralee then suggests that numbers and abundances of species may be represented in each box and that further information about variations in these factors could be attached to box surfaces. Suddenly in our minds a protective box becomes an integral component of a model of a scientific model!
When I say that Living Data exhibitions aim to offer a sense of connectivity to a greater whole, Kirralee notes that temperature is a dominant theme in all our work. She suggests we look at visualising land as well as oceanic responses to global warming and temperature variability. We identify UTS scientists who may who have data we can combine to reveal patterns hitherto unseen. Will their combined data sets reveal similarities in how marine and terrestrial systems respond to global warming?
Caterina explains how her dance practice of contact improvisation embodies connectivity between people as well as environments they move through and the challenges of working in isolation. I agree and share my feelings of isolation and despair which I attributed to thinking so much about climate change. Kirralee acknowledges those feelings but says she feels uplifted by her knowledge of how the phytoplankton she is studying adapts to rising temperatures. As she explains in her 2013 conversation with Simon Pockley, some phytoplankton will survive despite what humans do. This opens up discussion about the vanity of humans in privileging our selves above all other life forms. I wonder if my feelings of despair come when personal vanity intrudes into a deeper (uplifting) knowledge of my self as part of a greater whole. I find Kirralee’s expression of understanding of connection through science uplifting. It is also uplifting to openly share feelings as well as logical explanations.
Kirralee and Arjun explain how as scientists they do not work in isolation, but as parts of a global push to understand how the world works and is changing.