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Exhibition showcases art and science collaborations

22 May 2024
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An iteration of the interactive game CONTACT by Andrew Hieronymi,  associate professor of art and digital arts and media design, is being reimagined to explore ways in which the gaming world could demonstrate aspects of microbial behavior. Hieronymi is collaborating with Estelle Couradeau, assistant professor of soils and environmental microbiology, and postdoctoral student Chad Faut, who studies soil microbiology
An iteration of the interactive game CONTACT by Andrew Hieronymi, associate professor of art and digital arts and media design, is being reimagined to explore ways in which the gaming world could demonstrate aspects of microbial behavior. Hieronymi is collaborating with Estelle Couradeau, assistant professor of soils and environmental microbiology, and postdoctoral student Chad Faut, who studies soil microbiology. Credit: Andrew Hieronymi and Ryan Trexler

An art exhibition showcasing recent collaborations in art and science will be on display in the Huck Life Sciences Building on May 30 and May 31 in conjunction with the One Health Microbiome Center Biennial Symposium.

As part of a recent initiative between the Arts and Design Research Incubator in the College of Arts and Architecture and the One Health Microbiome Center, students and professors were invited to engage with each other in the lab and studio to explore possible cross-disciplinary collaborations. The outcome is a body of ongoing work among artists in new media, graphic design, sculpture and architecture and scientists in soil microbiology, ornithology, biomedical engineering and environmental microbiology.

Estelle Couradeau, assistant professor of soils and environmental microbiology, and postdoctoral student Chad Faut recently embarked on a project with Andrew Hieronymi, associate professor of art and digital arts and media design, to explore ways in which the gaming world could demonstrate aspects of microbial behavior. This work is based on a current iteration of a game platform called CONTACT, which Hieronymi is working on and can be viewed at the exhibition.

“We are very excited to collaborate with Andrew and explore how CONTACT can be used by players to uncover self-emergent properties of microbe-microbe interactions,” said Couradeau, adding that showing this work in the exhibition will allow for productive feedback from researchers in this area. “We are eager to gather insights and inspiration from microbiome scientists about how to evolve CONTACT to more accurately depict microbial communities and interactions within.”

Also on display is a sculptural artwork designed to bring awareness to the number of bird strikes on windows of built environments. Johanna Beam, a doctoral student who researches evolutionary traits in birds in the Toews Lab, partnered with bachelor of fine arts in sculpture student Marianna Renda to visually capture and articulate the problem of bird deaths due to collisions with windows. Their sculptural artwork will have its inaugural showing.

Cristin Millett, professor of art and recipient of the 2023 Joint Projects Grant in Life/Medical Sciences, Arts and Humanities, also will showcase recent outcomes from the project “Ex-Utero: A Sculptural Exploration of Ectogenesis.” The display will include both sculptural and print material from collaborations with Dan Hayes, professor of biomedical engineering, that explore speculative futures in human reproduction.

Ongoing research from Penn State architecture faculty members Benay Gursöy and Felecia Davis will showcase experiments and developments in novel, sustainable building materials using mycelium. In addition, renowned interdisciplinary artist and educator Kathy High will have work on view about the gut microbiome, highlighting the humorous side of fecal donations in both a video promo ad for a new dating app called “Okpoopid” and in speculations about how fecal transplants might change our physical identities.

“In curating this exhibition, we wanted to highlight successful collaborations across colleges,” said Cynthia White, curator. “The artworks in the exhibition show a wide range of collaborative possibility, which will excite and inspire viewers — scientists and artists alike. We hope this will ignite further interactions between disciplines.”

Click here for more information on the symposium.