Monday, February 15, 2016

Art in science.. science in art

A voyage like this wouldn't be so special if it wasn't for the people aboard. Today, my words are for the 3 amazing artists that I had the privilege to get to know, and who are teaching me how to create new perspectives to look at the world..

Annalise Rees is an Australian visual artist currently undertaking a PhD at the Tasmanian College of the Arts, University of Tasmania. She has joined the Investigator as a voyage artist, opening up a dialogue between scientific and artistic research. Specifically, Annalise's research is exploring the use of drawing based methodologies used to describe and translate human interactions with and within unknown and unfamiliar maritime environments. She is also collaborating with fellow voyager, dancer/choreographer James Batchelor, working towards presenting a dance installation work in March 2017.

Annalise outside on the deck to capture the details of Mcdonald Island on paper

I find myself staring at her drawing.. she has this incredible skill in capturing THE moment, the bubbles streaming out from a wave, the bond between a glacier and a volcano, the motion of the crew working on the deck, the intense look of the first mate sitting on a chair.. If you wanna know Annalise's work, please visit her website and her blog

This is also the first experience at sea for James Batchelor. He is a choreographer, dancer and filmmaker based in Canberra and Melbourne. He makes installations and performances using contemporary dance and other visual mediums as primary tools. He thinks about contemporary dance as a vast realm of physical and emotional possibility, a dance of the now, an awareness of the present and moving body (beautiful!!). He says that working with the contemporary is inherently an ever changing and evolving practice, which demands both a remarkable level of skill and patience. Over time, he says that particular curiosities emerge, leading to questions ("What am I looking at? What is the physical process? How does it work?…"), which he responds to through a physical process, developing movement and image. Through his performance, he aims to drive the curiosity of the audience and inspire others to ask the same questions. On this voyage, he thinks that the role of art is crucial in helping to express, translate and visualize in a  way that can be understood the scientific readings that through technology we can achieve. 

He looks very inspired by the environment.. sometimes you can see him dancing under the sun, on the bow, despite the freezing wind.. or flying like an albatross on the second level deck.. He happily agreed to give us stretching lessons these days, as working on a boat has the amazing skill of killing your back and legs.. Thank you James!!! For more info on this young talented artist, have a look at his website:

James Batchelor dancing on the deck (photo credit: Pete Harmsen)

With his smile and an always happy and enthusiastic personality, Pete Harmsen has never missed to diligently and passionately record the life aboard the RV Investigator. 

Me: "how are u Pete?". 
Pete: "I'm like a box of fluffy ducks"

:-) With his contagious happy spirit, I let him talk about his goals on the RV Investigator:

"When the MNF asked me if I would like to go to Heard island it took me a microsecond to say YES!! The chance to see Australia's highest mountain, two active volcanoes and the most remote place on the planet, deep in the Southern Ocean all sounded like a once in a lifetime adventure. The fact that we wouldn't actually step onto any land only slightly dampened my enthusiasm. The good ship RV Investigator, and its excellent crew have made for a very comfortable and efficient home away from home for all 60 of us. It is actually a little village, without a park or a pub. My task has been to document the science and supply media with imagery, both video and stills. There have been many blogs published, several newspaper articles, television stories and even the first ever television live cross from RV Investigator to ABC News24, broadcast nationwide. Our story about the eruption of Big Ben on Heard island attracted worldwide coverage and over 150,000 youtube views. We are also providing Discovery Channel in the USA with material for a feature story on their Daily Planet science program. All scientists have been very accommodating about having cameras on board documenting what they see as their day to day lives, but which to most of us is fascinating climate research in an unique and spectacular environment. The work they are doing here is vital to understanding and mitigating climate change. We need them and we need this work to continue, so the awareness I am providing through my images is a very worthwhile and rewarding assignment for me."
Wow!! 150,000 youtube views!! GO SCIENCE and GO PETE!!!! :-D If you're interested in Pete's work and contact, check his website out:

 Chief Scientist Prof. Mike Coffin (left), IT support Hugh Barker (middle) and Pete Harmsen (right) during the "first ever television live cross from RV Investigator to ABC News24" (photo credit: Brett Muir)


The other day I had my second lesson of art, where I got to draw a portrait of Annalise. I'm pretty impressed of how it went.. and how fast I drew. I think that, with the right guidance (and a good dose of stubbornness) one can learn to do basically anything. Maybe, we won't all be Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo.. or Einstein. But surely we can learn how to express ourselves in many different forms, learn how to create something, interrogate nature and analyze its millions of different faces. Creativity apart, art is made of analytical observation and ability. And like anything else, it can be trained. Annalise and I had a very interesting conversation about how to represent something that we can observe, by first making it ours, inside us, and then convey it in a final product on a piece of paper or plaster or wood or whatever else. It was one of those conversations that can really open new doors of perception of the reality around us. I recognized that I often don't look carefully at the world around me. I mean, I'm deeply aware of whatever is around me and how it can affect me or the people sharing the same space (kind of training I got from living in a "troubled" suburb of Turin). But often I cannot describe an object or a person in details, once they are not in my visual. I just move on, to the next frame.

That made me think. 

I came up with the resolution that my work (and my personal life) would benefit if I could be more attent to the details of the space around me, at a more conscious level. For example, would I be able to describe the shape, the corners, the change of colors of the chair next to me? how shadow and light play a game to hide and reveal particulars? is the surface smooth? lucid? is there any particular smell I can smell? can I describe it? how does the object relate to the environment? to myself? ...These kind of thoughts. 

I guess that, as a scientist and an amateur photographer, the art of observing is already in me. But I think it resides at a deeper level, where the instinct reigns. Now I'd like to bring this on a more conscious level. I'm curious to see what will happen if I succeed on this exercise..

For the moment, I keep working, taking photos, drawing.. and exploring a new way to look at things:

Me, on my way to turn into a bat.

No comments:

Post a Comment