Intimate Science


At first glance, many objects on display at the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center resemble miniature ancient Roman ruins built from artificial materials. But closer inspection reveals that the mud-colored bricks have been grown, not manufactured. By cultivating reishi mushrooms, artist Philip Ross grew a brick wall, table and chairs, and other sculptures. He is one of six artists and artist collectives whose work is on display in Intimate Science, an exhibition organized by the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University that explores the intersection of art, science and technology, and social change.

View the slideshow below to see images from Intimate Science, with comments from curator Andrea Grover and SJDC director and chief curator Radhika Subramaniam.

Intimate Science highlights the recent ability of artists to find a place within the fields of science and technology,” says curator Andrea Grover. “Thirty years ago, artists hoping to influence science lacked access to technology and data, resulting in fairly speculative projects. Now greater access to information enables artists to ask questions and provide answers in new fields.” In his collection Pure Culture, Philip Ross creates structures out of reishi mushrooms, which he believes will become a widespread renewable material. (Photo by Kasia Broussalian)

“Artists are redirecting the way science and technology is applied,” says Grover.Pure Culture, Philip Ross. (Photo by Kasia Broussalian)

Reishi mushrooms are malleable and durable when grown in confined spaces. Stronger than concrete, flame retardant, and edible, the fungus is a potential replacement for plastic, according to Ross. Pure Culture, Philip Ross. (Photo by Kasia Broussalian)

A piece from the Pure Culture collection by Philip Ross. (Photo by Kasia Broussalian)

These plywood sunglasses were made with a low-tech device that focuses sunlight through a glass lens to cut through materials. The glasses are a part of Markus Kayser’s Sun Cutter Project, which explores the possibility of manufacturing in the desert using sand and renewable energy from the sun. Sun Cutter Project, Markus Kayser. (Photo by Kasia Broussalian)

“Allison Kudla’s work depicts the beginning and end of growth,” explains Grover. “It’s a representation of a living natural system.” Using organic tissues in her pieces, Kudla explores how biology and design can come together to serve human needs. Here, Kudla presents die-cut tobacco leaves in petri dishes. (Photo by Kasia Broussalian)

“The plant tissue cultures in BCL’s installation were prepared by students in a BioArt course taught in the MFA Design and Technology program by Nurit Bar-Shai of Genspace,” says Radhika Subramaniam, director of the SJDC. “We were delighted to demonstrate this direct connection to our curriculum and underscore the relevance of these artistic interventions for the university.” Shown here is, Common Flowers/Flower Commons by BCL (Georg Tremmel and Shiho Fukuhara) based on the first commercially available genetically modified flower, the blur Moondust™ carnation developed and marketed by the Japanese company Suntory. (Photo by Marc Tatti)

“Artists are the first product testers,” says Grover. “They look at a design and see what it can be.” Pure Culture, Philip Ross. (Photo by Kasia Broussalian)

“Intimate Science addresses science in a way that is slant —playful, inquisitive, and unfettered by the disciplinary pressures of scientific protocols.” says Subramaniam. “The artists push conversations on issues of everyday urgency because they are asking questions from unexpected points of view.” Here, chairs and a table made from reishi mushrooms. Pure Culture, Philip Ross. (Photo by Kasia Broussalian)

“At The New School, I hope this exhibition is an imaginative encounter—an invitation to dare. To dare to step forward uninvited, to take a risk,” says Subramaniam. Here, students explore the technology and thought behind Allison Kudla’s Growth Patterns. (Photo by Marc Tatti) Intimate Science is on display at the SJDC until April 15. Learn more on the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center website.