The trajectory of the interplay between the fields of fine arts and science has not been consistently parallel. Thinkers may have at one time considered the two disciplines as sustaining one another, as connected milieus whose commonalities surpassed their differences. Be it a product of the zeitgeist of the Enlightenment and thereafter, somewhere along the lines arts and science developed as independent, decoupled areas of study.
A new installation by the VILD Arts Collaborative that debuts at Fresh Arts on Friday aligns itself with a contrasting trend, one that has rediscovered the value of dialogue between aesthetics and scientific knowledge, a movement in which their respective definitions aren't so clearly confined.
Submerged: Origin of Species is imagined by Rice University colleagues Vinita Israni, 22, and Linh Tran Do, 21, whose own scholastic path shifted from science to art. Israni began her undergraduate degree at Rice University as a biology major, then switched to visual arts with a concentration on studio art. Do was admitted to Rice as an architecture student, but subsequently changed her focus also to studio art after considering chemistry as a possibility.
"When someone looks into something, they also look into themselves."
"Life has so many interconnections that I feel like we can't help but draw upon other disciplines for our work," Do tells CultureMap in a video interview.
Indeed, one look at Submerged conveys their backgrounds as comprehensibly embossed in both the process and the final product, a collection of illuminated sculptures atop white pedestals that comprise an immersive, meditative, dimly-lit environment whose dual objective is to incite introspective contemplation while sketching an interpretation of the building blocks that decode and preserve life forms.
Using plastic test tubes, Plexiglass cut in square shapes, thread and string lights, each vertical structure whirls to the ceiling to infer a reconstruction of DNA of sorts. Synergies emerge from the layering of the unpredictable luminescence, transparency and shadows.
"We are made of tiny molecules that come together to create something really wonderful: Life," Do adds. "We wanted people to see these pedestals as made from individual test tubes.
"Maybe one test tube by itself isn't significant, but when you put them all together, they make a greater whole."
For Israni, the geometric shapes forged by the thread, both in their positive and negative space variations, rouses viewers to look inside and examine the source of light, which in its obscured, somewhat nebulous setting appears as a striking prism that undulates in intensity. But when the house lights are on, Submerged morphs into a sterile, inert mise en scene that's aseptically barren, bleak and desolate.
"When someone looks into something, they also look into themselves," Israni explains. "People reflect on where does the light come from in their own lives — and what it could all possibly mean in the larger question."
Submerged: Origin of Species opens at Fresh Arts (2101 Winter Street, Studio B11) with a reception on Friday, 6-8 p.m., and is on view through Aug. 23. Admission is free. The artists will sell a three-layer version of the sculptures redesigned into lamps ($100).