By Neel V. Patel
“Telescope,” a new exhibit currently running at Instinct Gallery in Minneapolis, Minnesota blends science and art together across a wide spectrum of ideas, but they are tied together as a bigger rumination on the natural world—and the ways in which the manufactured world built by humans creeps into view. When you have an exhibit sponsored in part by an organization called SAMEE (Sustainable Acts: Mother Earth’s Embrace), that’s not unexpected.
What is unexpected, however, is that the artists showing in “Telescope” do not necessarily think of this as a bad thing. Technology, it might be said, helps us to peer into nature more carefully. We have tools and equipment that allow us to perceive the natural world with a greater focus—which results in the realization that there is much more than meets the naked eye.
Take, for instance, Kevin Lair’s photographs of tree stumps from burr oaks, complemented by 3D modeling images that better illustrate the formations within the trees. One might say the work depicts the silent overlay of technology that has been draped around all of us over the last several decades, encroaching into the plant kingdom at last. But here it looks so natural, so much a part of the original plant world. Technology, in this instance, adds another dimension that seems oddly natural.
Brad Kaspari and Michael Bazzett’s Clepsydra (Greek for 'water clock') is an example for how natural elements like water and wood come together to fulfill a simple purpose that is entirely human: the keeping of time. As time passes, water drips out of the clock, turning the wheel and lifting up a poem that is revealed ever so slowly. Natural materials here do something they’re not really meant to do, but most people would probably not feel like this was out of the ordinary.
Jane Visscher’s Kuiper Belt tackles the natural world far outside of green life and peaceful air. Taking it’s name from the region that exists at the edges of the solar system, the artwork’s material reflects light above it and creates an amazing spectacle of shadows that dance as the material moves around. Visscher thinks of it as a illustration of the microwaves that dance around in outer space, created when the Big Bang occurred. These microwaves are simply another part of the natural world, were before humans appeared, and will continue to be here long after humans are gone.
In all, “Telescope” features the work of nine different artists who each approach the intersection of science and technology with nature very differently, but are able to show the former as coexisting very normally with the latter.