[ISEA2011] Panel: Suzette Wor­den – The Earth Sci­ences and cre­ative prac­tice: ex­plor­ing the bound­aries be­tween dig­i­tal and ma­te­r­ial cul­tures

Panel Statement

Panel: Variable Reality – Inter-formalities in Digital/Analogue Arts

Within cur­rent art prac­tice, artists en­gage with the earth sci­ences as a source of in­spi­ra­tion and as a provider of data about the phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment. This rich source of data in­cludes in­for­ma­tion on many el­e­ments: from the con­di­tions of the at­mos­phere, to phys­i­cal for­ma­tions; from small scale to gi­gan­tic for­ma­tions; ex­tremes of heat and cold; and the in­ter­ac­tion of all these in time and space. Ad­di­tion­ally, the mod­els, vi­su­al­i­sa­tions and ex­pla­na­tions of these phe­nom­ena by sci­en­tists can in­clude aes­thetic char­ac­ter­is­tics that are ap­pre­ci­ated by a wider au­di­ence than im­me­di­ate sci­en­tific peers. When we are con­cerned with dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ments, the dis­cus­sion is most often cen­tred on vi­su­al­i­sa­tion, which in­cludes ref­er­ence to both ob­jects with a ma­te­r­ial or phys­i­cal ex­is­tence and to men­tal con­structs. These can be di­rectly ob­serv­able or be­come vis­i­ble through an in­stru­ment or de­vice. Vi­sual char­ac­ter­is­tics can also be trans­lated from a non-vi­sual state into con­structed data, as a ‘con­cep­tual’ trans­la­tion. Using ex­am­ples re­lated to the earth sci­ences, this pre­sen­ta­tion will first dis­cuss the ways in which cre­ative works demon­strate the move­ment of ideas and con­cepts from the phys­i­cal to the dig­i­tal. Then, ex­am­ples of works that take us from the dig­i­tal to the phys­i­cal will be con­sid­ered that make spe­cific ref­er­ence to ge­ol­ogy, stud­ies of rock for­ma­tions and tech­nolo­gies sup­port­ing min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. This will in­clude works that are en­gaged with re­lated en­vi­ron­men­tal, so­cial and cul­tural is­sues. It is pro­posed that a study of these ‘trans­la­tions’ to and  from the dig­i­tal to the ma­te­r­ial can open up fur­ther pos­si­bil­i­ties for pro­vid­ing a cri­tique of new media works in the con­text of a broader his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, in­clud­ing land art, ecol­ogy and en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivism.

  • Suzette Wor­den is Pro­fes­sor of De­sign in the School of De­sign and Art, Curtin Uni­ver­sity, Perth, West­ern Aus­tralia. She com­pleted her PhD in 1980 and taught the his­tory of de­sign at the Uni­ver­sity of Brighton until 1998. She was Di­rec­tor of a dig­i­tal media re­search cen­tre at the Uni­ver­sity of West of Eng­land, Bris­tol (1998-2001). She has pub­lished on fur­ni­ture, prod­uct and ap­pli­ance de­sign, re­search meth­ods, dig­i­tal media and the uses of elec­tronic re­sources for teach­ing and re­search. She has also co-cu­rated ex­hi­bi­tions and been in­volved in the or­gan­i­sa­tion of con­fer­ences in­clud­ing CADE (Com­put­ers in Art and De­sign Ed­u­ca­tion) in 1995 and 2007. Her cur­rent re­search in­ter­ests re­late to West Aus­tralian re­sources, in­clud­ing min­ing, alu­minium and wool under the theme of ma­te­ri­al­ity and de­sign. This re­search links the on­go­ing po­ten­tial of dig­i­tal media with craft and de­sign cul­tural her­itage, ma­te­r­ial cul­ture and sci­ence tech­nol­ogy stud­ies.