Date: February – June 2019
Partners: Ontario Science Centre and Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto
Location: Ontario Science Centre, The Great Hall
Project Members: Julie Daechsel, Melissa Rollit, Reed Scarfone, and Lana Tran
Art and science intertwine in Idea Projects, a pioneering collaboration between a contemporary art museum and a science centre. In parallel with the Akin Studio Program at the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto (MOCA), the year-long Ontario Science Centre (OSC) program offers three-month studio residencies for artists who explore science and technology through the lens of art. Culturing a Third Space advocates for a third space beyond the traditionally siloed fields of art and science in which innovative forms of artistic expression and museum practice may flourish–just as a sample of microbes may grow into a complex culture, provided a medium.
In its first installment, the program invited artists Jude Abu Zaineh and Elaine Whittaker to produce and exhibit artwork for Inventorium 2.0– this was a collaborative exhibition of high-touch activities designed to connect creators and visiting families through science, art and design. In support of these art installations, students from the Master of Museum Studies program at the University of Toronto produced interpretive text and interactive activities under the theme of “culturing a third space”.
Planning for this exhibition was fast-paced, occurring over approximately 4 months beginning in October 2018. After initial studio meetings with participant artists, development for interpretive text and interactives was in progress by December. Initial installation occurred during the week of January 14th towards a opening on January 24th, well-attended by government representatives, media outlets and youth members. An additional soft opening for OSC members occurred from January 26-27th, from which students gathered feedback to further improve the didactics and interactive elements. In culmination, the exhibition was fully prepared for March Break–the busiest time of year for the OSC.
THE ART INSTALLATIONS
Jude Abu Zaineh – Home Away From Home , 2019
This installation, titled Home Away From Home, finds its origins in a comfort food staple: the traditional Palestinian dish of Maqlouba, which Jude Abu Zaineh served over an open-participation brunch. Extrapolating from this hospitality in a hands-on workshop, she began the macabre process of growing and decaying leftover food. The results, which she microscopically examines and yet again extrapolates, compose a subtle geometry—a nod to Islamic art.
Drawing from her own migratory experience from Palestine to Canada, Abu Zaineh validates a sense of “in-betweenness” while simultaneously expressing its anxiety. Conceived between the domesticity of textile and the sterility of the laboratory, her installation negotiates a space of momentary respite from the commotion of the surrounding exhibition–but this is not a space of definition or permanence. Her work teaches us that a delicate opportunity for interaction exists in between the cognitively disparate. In this way, Abu Zaineh adds valuable nuance to the lofty concept of interaction between art and science that the Idea Projects residency hopes to elicit.
Elaine Whittaker – Skinscape , 2019-
Taken with us wherever we go, the skin becomes an underappreciated constant, only to be explored as a living, sensory organ within the empirical realm of biology. Skinscape stretches our understanding of skin, which according to artist
Elaine Whittaker, “needed to have a human touch.”
As it turns out, such an abstract and introspective way of thinking of skin as memory was not beyond the imaginings of the children who interacted with the installation. These children would perform an instinctual self-examination, flipping their hands back and forth to discover their own cuts, hairs, and evidence of breakfast—demonstrating that skin is indeed a record of personal history, be it in hours, years or decades. Invited to draw what they saw on circular sheets of paper, these children contributed to the installation, promoting its dynamic growth.
We wish to extend our gratitude to Jude Abu Zaineh and Elaine Whittaker, as well as the team at the Ontario Science Centre, led by Kevin von Appen, Sabrina Greupner, and Ana Klasnja. Thank you to the University of Toronto Faculty of Information for its support.