I'm Meredith Root-Bernstein,
My science-art activities started out, as a child, as a unified and
wholistic approach to represent the culture and environment of an imaginary
hunting and farming people living on a large island. This was an artistic
activity (since the subject was imaginary) that both created and
commentated artifacts and data, resembling my childhood understanding of
ethnography and natural history. Since then my artistic activities largely
diverged from my scientific training in conservation, ecology and
anthropology. I have pursued at an amateur level creative writing, print
making and tango (and now the related kizomba). Many of my prints, but
almost none of my writing, represent animals and plants that I study, while
tango is not really "about" things exterior to itself. However, all three
have given me insights into the nature of pattern, narrative, repetition,
motor learning, body thinking, interaction, skill, variation and
aesthetics. I find that these reflections are relevant to my research on
environmental values, traditional practices and their relation to
environmental dynamics and conservation, as well as community ecology and
niche construction. Some insights are explicit, others are more a sense
that, given my own knowledge of the acquisition and hexis of practice,
things should work in one way and not another.
Recently I have had the opportunity to collaborate directly with an
established artist, Cecilia Vicuña. We were brought together by one of my
colleagues in my current interdisciplinary research group (Aarhus
University Research on the Anthropocene) and asked to 'possibly do
something' to go along with an art show that was being organized. After
some discussions and a field trip together, we eventually decided to create
a very abstract work of art which was a kind of game about non-human
interactions and evolving ecologies. This was lots of fun. We presented
it at the conference that went along with the art show. I am now trying to
work out what to do with this experience within an academic context.
Secondly, I am trying to convince my colleagues in AURA to create a
ritual/dance as a project output to represent our research interests.
Dance, due to its physicality and transformative power, seems like an
appropriate medium given our joint interests in wayfinding, place-making,
actor-network theory and "more-than-human" "becoming-together." I also
think it could be in a sense more analytically rich than a normal academic
paper rehashing the same theoretical ground. However, enthusiasm has been
muted. So I am thinking about achieving this goal through participative
means (from ethnography and conservation practice) to form an interface
(me) between my colleagues and a group of professional dancers. These
attempts to integrate art and science in a single "product" suggest to me
some problems I will have going forward: figuring out how to present in a
secondary format comprehensible to academics with no education in the arts
what I have learned from the art-science activity; and finding
collaborators who understand how to do the translations I want to do.
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