Art, Science, and Imagination

By Little, Adriane | Afterimage, March-April 2006 | Go to article overview

Art, Science, and Imagination


Little, Adriane, Afterimage


PLUTO'S CAVE: MAKING VISIBLE THE INVISIBLE

BY ACME PHYSICS

BIG ORBIT GALLERY

BUFFALO, NEW YORK

OCTOBER 15-DECEMBER 18, 2005

NEW JERSEY CITY UNIVERSITY VISUAL ARTS GALLERY

JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY

JANUARY 19-FEBRUARY 16, 2006

Continuing Big Orbit Gallery's tradition of testing both the limits of art and the structural integrity of its floor, another experiment in gravity versus art was presented by "ACME Physics." The artists comprising ACME, Robert Hirsch, Gary Nickard, and Reinhard Reitzenstein transformed the gallery into "Pluto's Cave: Making Visible the Invisible."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Entering the cave felt like stepping into a rerun of Science Fiction Theatre, being watched by an invisible audience on a 1950's television and expecting to find Vincent Price lurking in a corner. There was a miniature atom smasher, a cosmic ray spark chamber, glassware circulating strange-looking fluids, audio from Jupiter, nostalgia, microscopes, and acorns and other natural debris balanced on a scale--all nested within a scientific graveyard with a dying tree as the centerpiece. The graveyard consisted of antiquated scientific equipment hooked up to the dying tree like a cardiac patient with all the straps, cords, and sounds included. In the midst of this was a small, gray box, connected to an antenna array mounted on the roof of the gallery to receive the sounds of storms in Jupiter's atmosphere. Despite trying to comprehend the difficulty involved in constructing and operating a radio telescope, I am given to wonder, Why not try to receive signals from Pluto instead? This element of the exhibition was the least visually conspicuous, and its pervasive sound could have come from any of the machinery in the cave. Ultimately it does seem apt, since Pluto is the abject ex-planet that science found, named, and then dethroned as a planet--art and science both seem to have their moments of brilliance and absurdity--but why not continue here to challenge the notion of proof?

There appeared to be two parallel tracks running through this exhibition, yet there is no simple duality in any one experiment. Many components of this project juxtaposed life and death, which became most visible as the tree ever so slowly decomposed in the middle of the gallery.

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