Nathalie Miebach: In her own words

Apr 14, 2011   //   by Boston Cyberarts   //   Blog  //  Comments Off on Nathalie Miebach: In her own words

Nathalie Miebach in her studio

Nathalie Miebach’s site-specific installation “Changing Waters” is on view at Fuller Craft Museum through September 25.

“Changing Waters” uses weather and marine data to drive the design of the work.  Can you explain a bit about how your process works?

“Changing Waters” looks at the ecological interactions between weather systems and marine environments. I collect atmospheric and marine data from buoys within the Gulf of Maine, as well as weather stations along the coast. The data are translated through two main elements: a large wall installation that plots information through the geographic anchors of a map of the Gulf of Maine, and a series of large hanging structures that look at more specific biological, chemical or geophysical relationships between marine ecosystems and weather patterns.

In working with the data, I become a sort of detective;  I look for patterns, inconsistencies, cause-and-effect behaviors that suggest linkages between variables.  I stare at these stacks of graphs, numbers and diagrams to find something worth investigating further.  Numbers function a bit like Lego pieces, in that I assign each value a physicality that gets integrated into the basket. I never change the value of the numbers to conform to some sort of aesthetic preference. This allows the sculptures to exist both as sculptures in space, but also as actual devices that could be used to read data from a specific environment.

Why did you decide to work with data on weather and climate?

It started somewhat serendipitously in 2000, when I happened to be taking a class in astronomy at the same time that I was taking a class in basket weaving. The frustrating part about astronomy to me was that I never seemed to be able to get a real sense of the time and space dimension we talked about in class, because everything we looked at was on the two-dimensional plane of the projector wall.  At some point a light bulb went off in my head:  basket weaving could provide a three-dimensional grid to translate astronomical data and get a better sense of what I was learning about in astronomy.

About two years ago, I began to focus on weather through a collaboration with the Wright Center for Science Education, which was piloting a project on climate data collecting.  I feel like I have found a tiny universe in the visual translation of meteorological data through weaving that I could dwell in for three lifetimes. Right now, I am happily playing in my little puddle, making sculptures and installations and trying to understand weather.

Why baskets as a medium?  Is there something special to you about baskets, or the process of making them?

I’m attracted to basket weaving for two reasons.  First, it is a simple, yet very efficient 3D grid through which to translate.  By using reed and other materials that have inherent tension within them, the numbers can help shape the form within the physical constraints of the basket grid.

Secondly, basket weaving in itself is a very slow process.  This slowness, I have come to realize, is essential in allowing me to spend time with the questions I am trying to answer through my work. It allows me to listen more deeply to some of the behavioral interactions and systems  I am translating, revealing nuances and contradictions I would never see if I was steamrolling through it at a faster pace.

What are the 2 or 3 things a Museum visitor should be looking for when they see your installation?

People interact with my work in many different ways. Some love knowing what all these numbers mean – and we’ll be incorporating a legend at the entrance to the gallery that viewers can use as a guide.  Others just want to enjoy the whimsical nature of the whole piece and will be quite content with that.

Tell us about the path you took to becoming an artist?  Your undergraduate degree is in Political Science.

I came to the arts later in life. My political science degree brought me to Indonesia for several years in the late 1990’s, where I ended up meeting a lot of artists. At the time, the political situation in Indonesia was very volatile.  I got a taste of the many unconventional ways artists were thinking and expressing their views on the political situation, and all the clever ways they found to circumvent the strict censorship that existed at the time.

When I came back to the United States for graduate school, I became fascinated by Leonardo Da Vinci’s experiments with time and how different disciplines look and understand time. This sparked an interest in wanting to delve deeper into science.  I think I needed to find a reason to do art before I could somehow convince myself I was actually making art. For me, art is a vehicle or language to think something through, not just making an object.

 

Fuller Craft Museum, New England’s home for contemporary craft, is located at 455 Oak Street in Brockton.  For more information visit www.fullercraft.org.  This interview first appeared in the Winter, 2011 issue of “Be In Touch,” Fuller Craft’s member magazine.

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