Monday, June 29, 2009

CDC Art Show Exhibits 'Consequential Matters'

Too often, art and science are treated as opposing forces considering their subjects in contradictory fashion. An artistic look at something might focus on the warmth it exudes or the emotion it drives, while a scientific look can be a cold, hard assessment of the facts. But sometimes facts aren’t enough to convince and art isn’t sufficient to spur action. Treated together, though, art and science can both persuade us with passionate arguments and increase our understanding of our world.

The Global Health Odyssey Museum at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta is bringing together art and science for a look at our world in the exhibit, Consequential Matters, from June 15 - September 11, 2009. The show consists of the investigations of four Atlanta-based artists of the consequences of urbanization, technology consumption, indulgence and globalization.

"We want to address the audience on an emotional level, an instinctive level,” explained Carl DiSalvo, assistant professor of Digital Media at the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Tech. “We asked ourselves, how do we use the skills we have in taking the scientific data and making it more visceral and not hide the emotion and experience that lies behind the data.”

The title of DiSalvo’s and Ph.D. candidate Jonathan Lukens’ exhibit, “Smog is Democratic,” is taken from sociologist Ulrich Beck. The installation looks at particulate matter, the dust and debris that people produce as they wear away at the city, according to the artists. It’s comprised of five pieces in all.

"Particulate matter is not just man-made, it’s evidence of life. Life leaves a residue,” explained DiSalvo.

To illustrate this, their piece “Do you see what I see?” is comprised of 25 images of common sources of particulate matter. The images were all taken in the greater Atlanta area.

"We wanted to give people an idea of where this pollution comes from, so we made a list of sources and photographed what we could find,” said DiSalvo.

In another piece, “Smog Alert Days 2008,” they combined a four-minute video clip of a flyover of I-85 with daily particulate matter measurements of the city of Atlanta.

"We used the data to change the image, so that the image comes to represent the data. Part of the image shows the flyover without any effects. The other half shows an image that gets more distorted as the particulate matter measurement gets higher,” said DiSalvo.

Other pieces in “Smog is Democratic” juxtapose images of Atlanta with data from the smog alert days so that those alert days appear as holes, either in white or gray in the image. One piece compares that image with an image of a home air filter, giving the viewer an idea of the entire scale of the visible spectrum of pollution.

"We’re trying to bring together a scientific approach to the data with an artistic approach, so that we can creatively interpret this data and address the audience on an emotional level,” said DiSalvo.

Another exhibit in the show is “High Tech Trash,” a look at the trade in electronic waste, such as computers, cell phones and hard drives across Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States. The photo essay, by National Geographic photographer Peter Essick, chronicles the workers who mine these discarded products for reusable metals, while exposing themselves to health risks.

"XLounge x 3” by Atlanta sculptor Mark Wentzel has adapted three iconic Eames Lounge Chairs and Ottomans to make a comment on American consumption.

The show can be seen at the CDC’s Global Health Odyssey Museum through September 11 from 9AM to 5PM weekdays and 9AM to 7PM on Thursdays. Admission and parking are free.

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