Ku-ring-gai pH: Art + Science Project

By Katherine Roberts

Ku-ring-gai pH: Art + Science Project is an innovative cultural project that provides a unique framework for artists and scientists to collaborate creatively to develop new artworks responding to the natural environment, cultural heritage and scientific values of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. The installations by artists and scientists now on display at Manly Art Gallery and Museum result from twelve months of investigating, experimenting and interrogating ideas and science inspired by the local environment.

From The Lab camp at Currawong (February 2016) and the Site Findings public event at Eramboo Artist Environment in Terrey Hills (April 2016) to a series of meetings, talks, studio residencies and numerous site visits throughout the year, a year-long process of discovery between artist and scientist collaborative groups has created stunning works. Ku-ring-gai pH: Art + Science Project highlights the vital relationship between two fields of endeavour, science and art. It aims to transform the way that encounters between art and science are understood, and to promote new modes of dialogue and enquiry between the two.

Artists and scientists are similarly reliant on their powers of creative thinking in making artworks and through the discovery and understanding the laws of nature. Science has helped shape architecture in every culture and civilisation; mathematical principles have underpinned the decorative arts; the psychology of perception has led to the development of painting; breakthroughs in the physical sciences have transformed the performing arts; and the ongoing convergence of art and technology in the digital age has produced a new type of cultural provocateur who challenges the status quo, instigating and provoking new thoughts and actions.

In providing a platform for relationship-building through the fields of the arts and environment, it is hoped that insights from this collective experience can shift our own and public perceptions and behaviours to better conserve nature today and for the future.

How does the collaborative process between scientists and artists work? There are no prescriptive guidelines for the nature of this exchange but there is an understanding that the process of collaboration forms new outcomes. The creation of this new work emerges from both fields equally, not simply by the artist utilising the scientific research and knowledge as reference material, nor by the scientist imposing an aesthetic resolution for their data.

While the outcomes of these collaborations are revealed in the exhibition, it is the process of exploring and understanding nature through creative responses that animates Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park so powerfully.

The Ku-ring-gai pH project is presented by Eramboo Artist Environment, Manly Art Gallery & Museum and National Parks & Wildlife Service NSW and supported by the Aboriginal Heritage Office and Northern Beaches Council

The artist and scientist collaborative groups are: Dr Lisa Roberts & Prof Bill Gladstone; Shona Wilson & Si-Chong Chen; Joshua Yeldham & Mia Dalby-Ball; Dr Bonita Ely & Dr Karen Privat; Megan Cope & Roberta Johnson; Mika Utzon Popov & Suzanne Schibeci; Greg Stonehouse & Shane Fahey; Kassandra Bossell & Garry Daly and Julia Davis, Sarah Robson & Dr Asheeta Prasad.

Ku-ring-gai pH is curated by Curated by Susan Milne, Artistic Director, Eramboo Artist Environment, and Katherine Roberts, Senior Curator, Manly Art Gallery & Museum, and on display at the Manly Art Gallery & Museum until 14 February 2017.