Artists: Jackson 2Bears, Tori Foster, Mary-Anne McTrowe, Robyn Moody, Adrien Segal, Michelle Sylvestre
Scientists: Dr. André Laroche, Dr. Jamie Larsen
Exhibition Design and Data Analysis: Christine Clark
The growing field of Data Visualization is situated at the fertile intersection of art and science. It explores the symbiotic coupling of these seemingly disparate disciplines, by finding connection among the distinct goals, methodologies, and contexts of artistic and scientific pursuit. Data, in its simplest sense, can be described as facts or statistics collected together for analysis. However, things are rarely so simple, and in a moment of human development when data continues to escalate in quantity, complexity, and value, it may be timely to ask: What are the cultural, environmental, and political implications of data? How is data collected and used in contemporary society? Can art make sense of data? And how will data fundamentally change the character of art?
In September 2016, the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and the Data Physicalization Lab at the University of Lethbridge invited six artists to participate in a residency, documentary film, and exhibition that asked them to respond to agricultural data developed by Dr. Jamie Larsen and Dr. André Laroche from the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre: Agriculture and Agri-food Canada. Two datasets were provided: The first is the result of an experiment on breeding cereal wheats and wheat grasses with the intention of developing a perennial wheat cultivar; the second relates to experimentation in genetic modification aimed at reducing wheat’s susceptibility to the devastating pathogen known as stripe rust. The artists were invited to engage with the instruments, test subjects, contexts, methods, and people associated with the development of this data, which they would later consider while creating new work for this exhibition. The aim of this endeavour is to investigate the effect of intensive collaboration – how artists can use scientific process to guide their art, and how scientists can use artistic ways of knowing to approach their data in new ways.
The artwork that emerges from this investigation explores the potential that lies within scientific inquiry when strict standards for fact and method are considered and probed through an expanded perspective. Through this inquiry, the work is allowed to affectively engage viewers by evoking feelings of wonder, curiosity, and consciousness about data and agricultural research, while creating a place for contemplation about the land and our inherent connection to it.
This exhibition is organized by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and the Data Physicalization Lab at the University of Lethbridge, and curated by Christina Cuthbertson, Leanne Elias, and Denton Fredrickson. The documentary film, Visualizing Agriculture, is directed by Bryn Hewko of Output Media and scheduled for release in 2018.
These projects are made possible with funding assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, The Community of Research Excellence Development Opportunities (CREDO) program of the University of Lethbridge, and the City of Lethbridge.
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