LEFT:D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson's Generative Influences in Art, Design, and Architecture: From Forces to Forms, Ellen K. Levy and Charissa N. Terranova, Anthology Co-editors, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021. RIGHT: D’Arcy Thompson and images from his Transformations from On Growth and Form (1917).
From Forces to Forms is curated by Ellen K. Levy and marks the inaugural exhibition of Pratt Institute’s Manhattan Gallery, which is directed by Nick Battis. Levy, a multimedia artist, scholar, and past president of the College Art Association, gives center stage to little-explored dimensions of form generation, including the roles of agency, contingency, and physico-chemical forces. The artists collaborate with matter, creating art that intimates the interconnectedness of the world and its dependencies. From Forces to Forms explores the nature of form by engaging with the potent forces and processes of nature. By investigating how physical laws shape living and nonliving forms alike — ideas first proposed by D’Arcy Thompson in his classic tome On Growth and Form (1917) — the exhibition explores universal principles of organismic development while delving into the flux and perturbations that characterize life today.
Reflecting Pratt Institute’s commitment to interdisciplinarity, From Forces to Forms features works by 19 artists and designers whose practices draw from both art and science and articulate a shared commitment to creating a more sustainable world. These works consider the implications of form generation through a variety of media (from analog to digital), at different scales (from subatomic to macroscopic), and in varied contexts (from prebiotic to ecosystems).
Questions raised by the curator Ellen Levy — “How do artists tap powerful yet unseen forces through emergence? What patterns of nature might new technologies help us to visualize? How might artists intersect the virtual and real worlds in ways that illuminate both? Can art help us affect needed environmental change through identifying patterns of behavior? How can art address the quantum world?”
EPISODE 3 SATURDAY, 4/16/2022
far left; Ursula Endlicher Input Field reversal (2021); center rear wall, Victoria Vesna, Noise Aquarium (2017-2021); right wall; María Elena González, Bark Framed #1, #2 (2015); near right; Oliver Laric Hundemensch (2018). Photo by Jason Mandella Photography
4/16: Repairing Nature
In this third section, several artists lay bare the dysfunction of our relationship with nature on a system-level scale. Several of the artists devise interactive projects that might reshape human behavior regarding the ecosystem. Many of the artists address borders – between the natural and unnatural, the analog and digital, and between the living and non-living. Thompson, an avid environmentalist, often emphasized the shared atomic, cellular, and molecular structures between entities, including the animate and inanimate. The artists in From Forces to Forms emphasize the commonalities, empathy, and sentience felt among a variety of species. In this way, they promote our awareness of environmental policies on communities of organisms.
Marta de Menezes and María Antonia González Valerio ask what is natural. They create taxonomic charts involved identifying corn mutations with bioinformatic tools that compared the genome of corn and the wild counterpart from which it was developed.
Ursula Endlicher unexpectedly rethinks reciprocity between the real and virtual, creating “hybrid creatures between code, data, and plant characteristics.” She explores borders between analog and digital realms.
Christy Rupp analyzes intertwined systems of food, politics, and ecology. She draws a critical link between late capitalism and the food web.
Maria Elena González documents the characteristic markings on birch bark and points to the putative communicative agency of trees.
Lillian Ball creates a model of cooperative interaction based on the ancient game of Zen Go, where participants act out the conflict between social incentives to cooperate and private incentives to defect.
Victoria Vesna aims to heighten our awareness of human-caused environmental dysfunction and motivate us to eliminate the disruption of our ecosystem in her interactive project, Noise Aquarium(2016).
Marta de Menezes and María Antonia González Valerio; Origin of Species-Post Evolution-Maiz(2018).