Data and Aesthetics: Sensing Change

Art — Produced by Michael O’Reilly

The Chemical Heritage Foundation is a curiously-named place that highlights not only the history of chemistry but also the intersection of art and science. It has a permanent gallery on Chestnut Street in Old City Philadelphia that exhibits a rotating collection of some of the world’s greatest scientific ephemera. And in a smaller gallery meant to house temporary exhibitions, the exhibits span a vast subject range, as represented by the current SENSING CHANGE exhibit.

Within this exhibit, many of the artists wrestle with how to represent the information of climate change, or what is more colloquially referred to as “global warming”. One of the artists, Diane Burko, pithily sums up the majority attitude of the artists by declaring that she is trying to “straddle issues of data with issues of aesthetics”. There is so much data out there about the “chemical signature of a region”, collected by increasing and increasingly accurate monitoring stations, that to try to represent it with anything other than the eye of the artist seems to destin it to the mis-understood pile of information about climate change. In this ART segment, we talk to a number of artists (Roderick Coover and Andrea Polli to name two) featured in the SENSING CHANGE exhibit, and each of them tells us about the importance of exciting the viewer, through their art, to deeply consider the world around us and how it is changing.

Web Extra: Diane Burko and James Turrell

In this web extra, artist Diane Burko shares her adventures flying through the Grand Canyon with the legendary Skyspace creator James Turrell. Diane explains to Friday Arts how she met James Turrell at a cocktail party and was invited to take a ride with him in a refurbished Helio Courier airplane. Prior to her meeting, Diane was using other people’s photographs of landscapes for her art. But from that day on, she began taking her own photographs for her paintings. Since her experience with Turrell, Diane has continued adventuring for her art, most recently journeying to the North Pole. — Edited by Kate Llona

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