April 30, 2014

The Spark Project

Frank Kuzler is the Executive Director and a Producer at DecadesOut, an organization dedicated to producing and supporting art that is inspired by science and sharing in the growing dialogue between the arts and sciences.

Our mission at DecadesOut is to foster the communication between the arts and science. We started programming a variety of things in 2009 including documentary work, a theatre development series, and a film festival, but found that although it’s great to have a variety of programs, it would go a long way toward achieving our mission if we focus our programs on one particular issue confronting society today.

So in 2013, we decided to create a festival of events spanning two years that would allow us to bring together a group of artists and scientists who wanted to collaborate and explore different perspectives on an issue.  Of course, we are all in tune and have a healthy concern about climate change and the future, so we decided that that was the most important issue to focus on. It didn’t take long for people to start coming forward when we announced that the theme for our 2014/2015 Systems Festival would be climate change, and the way it related to the systems of humanity.

It’s been an extremely busy year already, but in reality we’ve just started the programming. We’re excited to continue the momentum in order to bring some of the core programs to life including one of the things I’m most excited about: the SPARK Project.

This idea is simple, but it’s also one of the most fundamental for our mission. Basically, what we’re doing is building a multi-phased communication platform between artists and scientists working in the same discipline. The project is going to move in several steps from an online initiative to a live performance or exhibition.

The project will start simply with an introduction of the artist and scientist through a profile of their work and inspirations. The profile will have not only background information but also links to research, artwork, as well as any media provided by the participants. The second phase will be a direct dialogue curated by DecadesOut, including questions for each of the participants formed by us as well as each other. The third phase will be the collaborative inspirations phase, which will hopefully result in the creation of new work for public exhibition. In our ideal vision, this would be a performance piece surrounded by visual art along with a digital presence – a full contemporary media exhibition.

What makes this amazing for us working at DecadesOut is that we get to support artists and scientists that are exploring this topic in some very interesting ways. We really get to see the levels of expression coming forward from both sides and we get to share the results. It’s this idea that goes to the core of our mission. What is also important is that we get to meet people who are similarly dedicated to their own missions of knowledge seeking, creation and social activism. We’ve already had the good fortune of meeting so many fantastic organizations on the science side such as the NY Hall of Science/Climate and Urban Systems Project (CUSP), Columbia’s Earth Institute and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and on the arts side, there’s of course The Civilians, NACL Theatre, and many visual artists.

I think one important aspect of what we’re doing, particularly when it comes to issues like climate change, is adding to the volume of expression in a substantive way. The communication and the dialogue that is being opened – whether collaborative or confrontational – adds value to an intelligent discourse, and this inevitably leads to solutions. There’s so much out there, but I think/hope what makes us unique is that this is our focus. This is this is all we do — Art & Science & Art. We are dedicated to seeing collaborations through and exploring the ideas they generate in the most in-depth way we can.

If you want to know more about DecadesOut and the SPARK Project, please visit our website.

–contributed by Frank Kuzler, DecadesOut

March 18, 2014

Visualizing Climate Change: The HighWaterLine

Climate change is a downright abstract concept to get your head around. The science is complicated, the effects are broad yet nuanced, and not everyone will be impacted in the same way. So, what is an impactful way to represent the dangers posed by climate change that everyone can understand?

One project is raising eyebrows by literally drawing a line through the community. The HighWaterLine is a visual representation of projected, future sea-level rise as a result of global warming and more frequent and stronger storms and storm surges. Using various media, such as a blue chalk outline, or even a human chain, a revised flood zone based on current climate data is delineated within an urban/suburban area, bringing the reality of a warming planet home to local residents.

HighWaterLine | NYC, Brooklyn, 2007 Attribute: Hose Cedeno

The HighWaterLine is the brainchild of NYC-based artist, Eve Mosher, who initially based the project on climate change data contained within a NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies report issued in 2001. Having read the report and witnessing a watered-down response from public officials, Ms. Mosher was determined to take matters into her own hands.

After nearly eight months of research and planning, Ms. Mosher installed the first iteration of The HighWaterLine in August 2007 along 70 miles of coastline in Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, demarcating the 10 foot about sea level rise with a 4-inch wide blue chalk line.

To encourage others to replicate the project in their own communities, Ms. Mosher devised a HighWaterLine “Action Guide,” in essence a simplified toolkit of knowledge bites and best practices, to ensure easy replication of the project elsewhere. 

February 16, 2012

The beauty and fragility of reefs

There’s a wonderful blog post right now on NPR by Robert Krulwich, one-half of the amazing team that produces Radiolab (a show that makes science not just accessible but downright captivating).  It talks about sculptors and weavers who’re drawing attention to the beauty and fragility of coral reefs.

This is one of many sculptures by Jason de Caires Taylor, who designs underwater “parks” to relieve tourism from the world’s endangered coral reefs.  His sculptures are made out of pH-neutral cement that’s designed to host undersea life.

A new "White Reef" coral reef crochet by Dr. Axt.

Here’s a crocheted coral reef by an artist pseudonymed “Dr. Axt,” a member of The Institute for Figuring, which strives to create and appreciate the beauty in and of natural and mathematical forms.

Lots more photos and intriguing descriptions on the original blog post over at NPR.



February 8, 2012

Team Earth

Conservation International’s stunningly beautiful online magazine Team Earth has launched a new issue (#4 of a series), and it’s full of both amazing photos and stories of good news for the planet.

A family from a floating village, Prek Toal, on Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia.

You can read about the projects they help fund and focus on:  slowing deforestation, preserving healthy, adaptive ecosystems, and bringing oft-ignored indigenous groups to the forefront of political and economic decisions that affect them and their traditional lands.  This issue focuses on a life-giving lake in Cambodia (replete with floating houses!) and how CI is helping the people of Papua New Guinea  preserve their forests, as well as a look forward to the next Copenhagen climate summit.

It always warms our heart to see the good work that so many conservation-oriented organizations are doing in partnership with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government ministries all over the world.  CI is a terrific advocate for all of us who want to respect the Earth’s breathtaking diversity and the sustainability of its resources.

We laugh that these kinds of online treats are what naughty sites are for others.  If it’s wrong, we don’t want to be right. ; )


February 8, 2012

Sticking up for natural history

The Natural History Network is “a group of educators, researchers, and writers who are passionate about the importance of natural history and natural history education in the development of healthy people, vibrant human communities, and integrated learning institutions.”  Its mission:  “to promote the value of natural history by discussing and disseminating ideas and techniques on its successful practice to educators, scientists, artists, writers, the media, and the public at large.”

They recorded a bunch of members speaking to why studying natural history is so important.  University of Washington professor Julia Parrish talks about how environmental science is considered a “soft science”, for example, but how she believes natural history is just as if not more important than calculus, and why.  And Government advisor Gary Machlis talking about  how science is civics. And Gary Paul Nabhan (pictured above) talks about how understanding and engaging with natural history is an act of creativity.

And there are lots more.  It’s called “Conversations” and it’s a great listen.  Especially invigorating for teachers and artists who want to engage with science. Like me.

Fascinating, passionate, and a real shot in the arm.




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