Simulating Nature















  Installation view of Simulating Nature Exhibition, 2018    




Exhibition Statement:

Simulating Nature is an exhibition where mechanical artworks explore relationships to the “natural” world through imitating organic systems.  These dynamic artworks explore the parallels and incongruities between the human experience and the natural world we inhabit.  Artworks in this exhibition use digital control to simulate various behaviors and generate feedback through interactions with gallery visitors. This use of robotics allows these artworks act as surrogate performers that create durational compositions.  As surrogate performers, these artworks are an extension of my body.  These mechanical artworks allow me to go beyond my own physical limits and investigate new processes.  This exhibition considers the similarities between intimate and internal systems of the body and the very large macro systems found in environmental processes.  These artworks seek to mimic various natural processes and act as a catalyst to a dialogue around our anthropomorphic foot print. Through mimicking natural systems these artworks embrace the unpredictable, evolutionary and emergent properties of nature. Here materials will flow and randomly generate new forms.

Underlying themes explored in this exhibition include: climate change, human impact, the body, industrial processes, animal communication and the relationship of technology to the natural world.  These artworks model natural processes through the use of robotics and activated electronic objects.  The natural environment has evolved into system in equilibrium. In ecosystems there is a threshold where the system can no longer function when pushed beyond this boundary.  In this exhibition, Gradual Slip and Malignancy willexplore these frozen environmental boundaries. Floodwaters, focuses on the rising waters that have become a way of life in many communities worldwide.  This work explores the failure of the engineered landscape.  The central feature of this project is a riverbed that is manipulated by various robotic processes to mimic different flooding scenarios.  

I am interested generating cyclical actions that reference the internal and external movements found in animals and the environment. Artworks in this exhibition activate and manipulate materials through heating, cooling and mechanical manipulation.  In Gradual Slip ice is formed through the accumulation of water droplets onto a thermal electric cold plate to form mini glaciers.  While in Contained, ultrasonic humidifiers create atmospheric conditions in a domed urban microcosm.  Alternately, Ouroboros acts as a physical manifestation of an ancient symbol, extruding a hot thermo-plastic tail only to be re-ingested in a continuous cycle. Works such as Ouroboros and Failure to Launch utilize repurposed plastic (HDPE) from milk jugs to make elements of robotic artworks.

Other works interact with visitors to create feedback systems allowing the artwork to evolve and change.  Works such as Bat-Bots interact with participants to give access to the hidden echolocations of Bats.  In Malignancy viewer’s presence affects the projected image of a melt water lake “Moulin” onto and frozen surface.  While in Failure to Launch visitors can control the motion of a large robotic wing made from recycled plastic and aluminum.

Over the millennia human civilization has evolved a diverse array of tools and technologies. These apparatuses have become a natural extension of the human body into our environment.  All of this mechanization and industry has created enormous pressures on the environment. What then can machines tell us about our tenuous relationship to the environment?  Throughout this exhibition I question the notion of natural vs artificial, because I believe this is a false notion, humans and all we create are part of the natural environment. We are not above or separate, but rather one with our natural world. 

Link to venue: Cohen Gallery, Granoff Center for the Creative Arts,2018, Brown University, RI.


The Floodwaters Project was funded by an Art and Humanities Initiative Grant from The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development at the University of Iowa.

The Ouroboros project was funded in part by an Old Gold Summer Fellowship from The University of Iowa.

A special thank you to the School of Art and Art History at the University of Iowa for making this research possible.