Art has the power to inspire both creativity and intellectual debate. It can help us to question or make sense of the world around us through its motives and messages, or generate a feeling of awe and intrigue simply through the ascetics of a piece.
On a recent trip to the quirky and somewhat morbid art gallery of MONA, in Hobart, I was lucky enough to encounter an exhibition which engaged all of my senses; whilst carrying a fascinating narrative of science, nature and sustainability.
Field Lines, By Australian artist Cameron Robbins, harnesses the randomness of natural forces and awakens your curiosity for Earths complex creativity; inspired by his many years of making drawings using machines (he calls them ‘instruments’) that transcribe the patterns of the wind.
Field Lines samples this drawing practice, alongside sound and video work, photography, installation and sculpture that interpret other natural phenomena. The most fascinating part of the exhibition, is how it draws in the natural surroundings of the museum itself.
As MONA explains: “Gathering half a ton of water from the River Derwent beneath the gallery floor, powerful hydraulics drive a pen to trace the tidal rise and fall. Inside, a wind funnel animates the ‘instruments’ on display, while a device that harnesses solar and mains power will depict the twin forces of creation and destruction, using the simple opposition of an eraser against a pencil’s mark. Robbins’ responses to a site of geophysical anomaly in country Victoria are included, in one case using neon light to map its geomagnetic dynamics.”
Each piece in the exhibition is strikingly beautiful in form, yet full of scientific fascination which encourages your brain and heart to engage with what you are viewing. Having been a terrible science student at school, and still to this day skimming over any technical descriptions (preferring to be more a pictures kinda gal), I loved how Robbins clearly was portraying a natural connection with the Earth and how it works as a complex and beautiful system.
As Robbins describes “…I guess nowadays I’m trying to connect to landscape, and to the greater dynamic of the whole climate system; how patterns move through a particular location. For me, that’s the most direct way to access the greater energies and forces around us.”
My absolute favourite piece, Solar Loggerheads, displayed two different power sources: solar and mains power (mixture of hydro and coal energy). Here, a pen – powered by the solar panels on the roof of MONA – draws intricate patterns on a whiteboard, whilst an eraser, powered by the mains electricity, wipes away the drawings being created. Robins intention here is to highlight the natural creative energy of solar versus the mains power as a force of disruption eradication of the Earths resources.
But Field Lines was not the only exhibition at MONA which encourages visitors to think about nature, ethics and sustainability. Throughout the gallery a number of thought provoking pieces catch your eye; many of which are bordering on vulgar, morbid and shocking. From the naked, twisted corpse tackling isolation and loneliness in the modern world, to the butchered horse which hangs limply nearby a cold and clinical description of junk food and the many animal products produced for human consumption.
Though nothing was explicitly in its message, each piece viewed on my visit was subtly controversial and left a sour taste and speechless mouth as I stepped back out into the Tasmanian sun that day.