Art and science may seem like strange bedfellows to some. For new media artist Dr Keith Armstrong, science is an integral part not only of the construction of his art, but also its inspiration and purpose.
As part of the Sydney Science Festival, Dr Armstrong will be exhibiting his first solo work, Over Many Horizons, a five piece, interactive, immersive installation that uses robotics, sound, light and movement to inform and enhance the viewer experience.
He is an advocate for sustainability and hopes to raise public awareness around environmental and ecological issues, however he prefers gentle activism and doesn’t want his art to be didactic.
As well as displaying art, Dr Armstrong will be appearing on a panel together with several scientists. He sees this as the preferred forum for explicitly delivering a message.
“If you can put something that still has the qualities of art and gives people a strong emotive kind of experience – if you can put that alongside discussion and debate I think thats a really good combination…”
In spite of the use of technology and physics and some classic scientific themes (like the periodic table), Dr Armstrong insists you don’t need a knowledge of science to appreciate the works. In fact, he sees his art as a way to make science appealing and accessible to the general public.
“People are attracted to screens and shiny objects.”
One thing he has been challenged on is the disconnect between the use of technological items in his practice, which have built-in obsolescence, and the message of sustainability. He answers this in part by using retro and recycled equipment.
Ultimately, as a new media artist, he needs to find a way to use available technologies to create art but at the same time stay true to his purpose.
“It’s definitely something I fight with everyday.” (RB)
Aug 2–Sep 23 (12-6pm, Mon-Fri). UTS Gallery, Level 4, 702 Harris St, Ultimo. FREE. Visit www.art.uts.edu.au for information about talks and discussion panels.
BY RITA BRATOVICH