UCLA Art|Sci Center’s interactive event aims to bridge the gap between art and science

As artistic and scientific practices merge, so can human explorations of the external space and the deep sea.

Dedicated to the synthesis of art and science, the UCLA Art|Sci Center will host “[Alien] Star Dust meets Plankton,” interactive event at UCLA on September 23. Attendees can expect to visit two separate exhibits on opposite ends of campus, the “Aquarium for Noise” and the “[Alien] Stardust: signal to noise. The exhibits demonstrate how the intersection of art and science strengthens both disciplines, said Santiago Torres, a postdoctoral fellow in UCLA’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Art|Sci Center.

“Nowadays, people might think that art and science are really separate,” Torres said. “For me, art and science are naturally connected because both artists and scientists seek to understand the universe through their own eyes and through their own work.”

Anuradha Vikram, a writer and curator at the Art|Sci Center, said in a written statement that artists and scientists are often interdisciplinary thinkers and have similar practices, such as iteration and experimentation. in “[Alien] Star Dust’ and ‘Noise Aquarium,’ science and art merge to spread knowledge in an engaging way, Torres said.

[Related: Graduate student aims to inspire activism by uniting art, science in exhibit]

“[Alien] Star Dust: Signal to Noise” – a project that initially premiered at the Natural History Museum in Vienna on March 10, 2020 – allows participants to view physical and digital displays of meteorites and dust in an immersive audiovisual environment. Using a wealth of 3D and augmented reality animation, microscopic imaging and sound design techniques, the exhibition presents knowledge through the experience of cosmic phenomena. In particular, the exhibit seeks not only to delve into the dust of space, but also the idea that the elements of life came from such dust and are thus connected, Torres said.

“We are like stardust in a sense because our whole body, … all the materials are recycled, recycled from the evolution of the star,” Torres said. “When you dig more philosophically and give meaning to things, you realize that the main thing is to understand our place on Earth and in the universe, but then to express it in different ways.”

Unlike the macroscopic galactic survey of the universe in “[Alien] Star Dust: Signal to Noise’, ‘Noise Aquarium’ explores the microscopic world of the ocean by reviving plankton patterns, Torres said. The show presents an aquarium-like environment with which participants interact through the disruptive disturbances they generate from their movements and noise.

The Noise Aquarium creates a simulated environment in which participants influence the sounds in the room and the kinetic behavior of digital plankton projections, said UCLA Art|Sci Center Assistant Director and sound artist Ivana Dama. The exhibit seeks to convey to audiences how damaging noise pollution can be to the invisible but fundamental organisms in the Earth’s ecosystem that produce most of the world’s oxygen, Dama said.

“For this project, captivating soundscapes were composed using underwater noise frequencies,” Dama said. “By using these sounds (from oil drilling and sonar), … we wanted to highlight an uncomfortable moment for the audience … and make people feel uncomfortable that these sounds happen in the ocean all the time.”

[Related: New ways of seeing the sea: Installations invoke emotions of environmental change]

While space and the ocean may seem like opposite places, Dama said both [Alien] Star Dust and Noise Aquarium emphasize the concept of connection. On a normal day, it might be hard to think about how a speck of dust in a distant comet is fundamentally connected to Earth, similar to how microscopic plankton are fundamental to Earth’s climate and life, Torres said.

Moreover, the event, despite presenting two performances from different sides of the campus, is a unique experience. The guided walk and soundscape serve as a connection between the space and the ocean and the north and south campuses, Dama said. One key impact of art and science communities collaborating and interacting with each other is that the general public will be more exposed to the knowledge present in both fields, Torres said.

“It’s really going to help get out of the box,” Torres said. “Knowledge will develop and grow faster when we bring these communities together.”

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