From across the pond, an interactive exhibition from Dublin's Science Gallery at Trinity College opens in New York this week at Eyebeam Art + Technology Center in Chelsea. Part of the World Science Festival, the installation, "Surface Tension: The Future of Water," explores the looming water crisis from the perspective of artists, scientists, researchers, designers, and engineers. Water is both muse for artists and a necessity for life; disposable and sacred to the show's curators and participants. "People have a remarkable tolerance for complex stuff if it's done in a playful way. Why not science?" asks Michael John Gorman, Founding Director of Science Gallery. The excellently curated show explores not only the physical properties of water, but also the social and political impact felt across the globe.
"Science gallery is all about bringing together art and science in creative collisions—a new approach to bridging the worlds of research and the arts," Founding Director Michael John Gorman explains. Founded in Dublin four years ago, Gorman anticipated 50,000 visitors a year, but has seen just over a million visitors in four years, shattering expectations. "The goal is to inspire people with the possibilities of science and technology and how design and art can influence them."
One of the most visually arresting installations is "BIT.FALL" by artist Julius Popp. For the truly ingenious and mesmerizing piece, a program filters relevant search terms in current stream of news on the internet and then, in a split second, BIT.FALL releases hundreds of droplets of water as "pixels" to create a waterfall of words.
Another installation that seamlessly fuses art and technology, "Tele-Present Water" by David Bowen, collects wave data from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buoy which is then scaled and transferred to a mechanical grid structure. The undulations of the ocean can be viewed in real time.
Taking inspiration from the John Cheever story (and subsequent film adaptation) of same name, Fergal McCarthy's The Swimmer follows the performance artist as he swims across Dublin through canals, private swimming pools, the River Liffey, and finally the Irish Sea. Captured by Nicky Gogan of Stillfilms, the film documents Dublin's aquatic environment in 2011, a landscape the artist expects will radically change in years to come.
Di Mainstone's "Hydrocordion" invites visitors to become squeezicians and compose soundscapes through the manipulation of air and water. The instrument operates much like a church organ, releasing sound through a series of air and water tubes pumped in succession.
Colin Hart's provocative piece "Drink Local Water... Whatever It Is" might stir up skepticism in some New Yorkers. Hart has taken water from the Hudson River and filtered it for visitors to drink. Try some (formerly brown) Hudson River Water if you dare! Maria Phelan, Chief Researcher for the Science Gallery, recommends drinking a bottle of Coca-Cola should you accidentally ingest something less Evian and more sewer water like the Hudson, "If you fall in and swallow some, just drink a coke! It's so acidic you won't get sick."
Science Gallery's goals are lofty, but not unattainable and Google.org agreed, donating $1.3 million toward the project in 2011. The team is currently looking to expand with permanent galleries in London, Singapore, New York, Bangalore, and Moscow expected in the next few years. "The goal is to work to leverage their local artistic and scientific communities so that we all generate interesting projects we can share," says Gorman. "My hope is that one day this will infect the mainstream education system—rather than becoming a mechanism for information transfer, it would be an environment to support creativity. It would be nice!"
"If you can't have people who able to collaborate and create, we've got a real problem," laments Gorman. "For too long we've been taught that, for science, the answer is in the back of the book." Yet his expectations for the project remain hopeful. "The beauty and the wonder of science when mixed with art is that is open. My goal is that everyone leaves here with his or her own though bubble."
"Surface Tension: The Future of Water" // Eyebeam Art + Technology Center // 540 West 21st Street // Opens Friday and runs through August 11th