Running from October 4 to 27, this year’s Melbourne Festival will feature an array of artists and performers from around the world to create a truly diverse event.
Exhibiting at RMIT Gallery on Swanston Street as part of the festival, Experimenta Make Sense presents a program of over 20 leading international and Australian artists alone.
Designed to express all of the disconcerting delights that make up life in the digital age, the exhibition will show at RMIT from October 2 to November 11, before moving around to a series of regional galleries from Tasmania to Rockhampton as part of a three-year national tour.
Both playful and challenging, this exhibition encourages visitors to contemplate just what it is to be human in the technological acceleration of our information society and asks the following questions:
What does it mean to feel in an era of disembodied communication? To think in a world of algorithms and artificial minds? What does it mean to “do” today?
Biologist E. O. Wilson believes that, “the real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology”.
This multimedia exhibition aims to respond to this conundrum in an engaging and unique way.
Two of the myriad contributors to the project are co-founders of art-science collaborative Scale Free Network, conceptual artist Briony Barr and microbial ecologist Dr Gregory Crocetti.
The pair, who began setting up last week, will present A Hierarchy of Eddies, an art-science experiment aimed at staging the inexplicable phenomenon of turbulence.
“Our work is about visualising one of the most fundamental aspects of the universe and physics: turbulence,” Dr Crocetti explained.
“It’s one of the great unsolved mysteries of science.”
This statement is certainly not exaggerated: On his death bed, the famous German physicist Werner Heisenberg is reported to have said, “When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first”.
Both Dr Crocetti and Ms Barr hope that visitors to the exhibition take away a sense of mystery and curiosity about the world in which we live.
“We can try to adapt parts of the world around us and use them for our purposes, but there are some things that remain out of our reach and beyond our understanding,” Ms Barr said.
“Wondering about the world around us is part of being human.”
A Hierarchy of Eddies is one of the five commissioned works made specifically for Experimenta Make Sense, while the remaining are pre-existing works hand-picked by curator Jonathan Parsons.
When it comes to the overall conceptual theme of Experimenta Make Sense, Mr Crocetti explains that he welcomes digital technology with caution.
“My concern is that we allow the introduction of particular digital technologies very rapidly in today’s society where there’s this marketing drive for the latest newest gadget,” he added.
“Coming from a science background, I’m always more interested in the discovery that comes with science rather than the application that comes with the technology. I’m one of the last adopters of new technology.”
Dr Crocetti – a second-generation Italo-Australian with Roman roots – and Ms Barr co-founded Scale Free Network in 2007, combining their seemingly diverse interests to create an unprecedented collaboration.
“When Gregory and I first met around 10 years ago, we came from quite different backgrounds,” Ms Barr explained.
“My background was in the humanities and arts and his was in the sciences, specifically microbiology. We were really keen to bring those two things together and we saw a lot of commonality between them, especially regarding the processes of each.”
While the arts and the sciences are often considered completely foreign fields, Dr Crocetti points out that it hasn’t historically always been this way, particularly in the 15th and 16th centuries when science was called “natural philosophy”.
“In those times you were considered a philosopher who was an artist and a scientist as well. Leonardo da Vinci encapsulated that; he was the greatest artist and scientist of his era.”
“Nowadays, people tend to be segregated into their disciplines and we were really keen to challenge that,” Ms Barr added.
“We were specifically interested in using art and the process of drawing to visualise the invisible, particularly looking at the microscopic world.”
Though an unlikely combination, Dr Crocetti and Ms Barr have become a dynamo duo, and the latest fruit of their collaboration is not to be missed.
Catch Scale Free Network at RMIT on October 14, presenting a talk on their exhibition with physicist Andrew Melatos, who was involved in the process.