This was my resident scholar project at the Centre for Art Tapes (CFAT), part of the New Media Art Scholarship Program (2013-14). A food web model was a major inspiration for my work (Lavigne, 1996; drawing by Dean Huyck).
Food web models represent the trophic (feeding) relationships between species. Another inspiration was Mark Cheetham's article, "The Crystal Interface in Contemporary Art: Metaphors of the Organic and Inorganic."
(Gerard Caris, Pentagrid, mixed media on photostatic paper, 42 × 25.9 cm, 1994. Artist’s (© Gerard Caris))
The quartz crystals I used represent a stepping stone between the organic and inorganic. They grow but they are not alive. They all have the same underlying structure but rarely are two crystals identical.
Crystals seemed to make sense to help bridge the artwork and the abstract representations of complex ecological relationships.
The result was a hanging sculpture (~4' x 4' x 8') with fibre optics connected to a hidden bank of lights on one end and quartz crystals on the other.
Lights were controlled to illuminate the crystals in a specific sequence determined by trophic relationships beginning from photosynthetic plankton up to top predators. Many thanks to Professor Heike Lotze and post-doctoral fellow Tyler Eddy for providing the food web matrix of the Scotian Shelf. Many thanks also to my family and friends for helping with the installation for Halifax's 'Nocturne' Art at Night Festival. Lessons Learned: I do not consider this a success! I made many rookie mistakes but mainly I failed to estimate time and experimentation required to get it right. I had to make compromises in design that in turn compromised the coherence of the artwork. I was also so flustered installing this piece by the deadline that I completely failed to capture video and images of the final piece! Lessons learned!
Lavigne, D. M. 1995. Interactions between marine mammals and their prey: Unravelling the tangled web. In Montevecchi, W. A., editor. Studies of High-Latitude homeotherms in cold ocean systems. Canadian Wildlife Service Occasional Paper in press. Also available as Technical Report 95-02, International Marine Mammal