Speculative Geology
01.06.2010, 12:03 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The history of collaboration between scientists and artists is long and deep. This public domain image of a Pleistocene landscape (from the USGS Annual Report of 1885) is the result of a collaboration between artist H. H. Nichols and geologist G. K. Gilbert.

Another example of an artist/geologist collaboration is the seminal Geological history of Lake Lahontan by Israel Cook Russell, 1885 (available for download on Google Books). Artist W J McGee accompanied Russell on his USGS supported field trip to study Lake Lahontan in the late 1800’s.

On page 126, Israel Cook Russell writes,

One contemporary example of scientist/artist collaboration that also responds to a Pleistocene landscape is Chris Drury’s Life in the Field of Death I. This work offers the public a new way of experiencing the complex and varied Pleistocene landscape of the Nevada Test Site (NTS). It breaks from the long and significant practice of scientific illustration.  Yet, the resulting image-sensation only could have been generated through a collaboration between an artist and a scientist.

Life in the Field of Death I, Chris Drury 2008 (aerial view Frenchman Flat playa and microscopic bacterium in the soil of the NTS)

Lynn F. Fenstermaker, a scientist with the Desert Research Intitute (DRI) who recently collaborated with artist Chris Drury, writes in “From Finger Paint to Frenchman Flat: A Scientist Reflects” in Chris Drury:  Mushroom | Clouds, Chicago: Center for American Places, U. of Chicago Press, 2009 (available for pre-order through the Nevada Museum of Art’s Store by emailing

“His art provides an alternate way of thinking about the environment and viewing the patterns in nature as well as the impacts of human interaction with the environment on all spatial scales.  While I examine spatial, temporal and spectral patterns in nature as part of my research, I have done so purely as a scientist and have not previously thought about how these patterns might be interpreted as art.  I was also told that Drury was interested in soil microorganisms on the Nevada Test Site (NTS) and wanted to link the micro scale with the macro scale.  Although I have not specifically studied soil microorganisms, they are a component of the bigger picture I have been studying at our climate change facilities located on the NTS.  While the NTS was used extensively for nuclear testing, it still contains large tracts of pristine habitats and various research programs, such as our climate change study.

See Nevada Museum of Art’s Center for Art + Environment for more information on artist/scientist collaborations.

FOP also has an interest in collaborating with scientists. But rather than illustrating scientific concepts, FOP activates aesthetic experience to open new ways of living in geologic time. We do this by inventing speculative tools for exploring the Pleistocene.

Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.