The Synapse Art and Science Residency program is an initiative aiming to support creative partnerships between scientists and artists, science institutions and art organisations. It is a significant national and international program managed by ANAT, and is part of the Australia Council Synapse initiative. The residencies provide opportunities for artists to work with key areas of ongoing research and science expertise, whilst contributing to the creative needs of the science organisation.

The Contextual Villains @ ANU
Paul Mosig and Rachel Peachey (AKA The Contextual Villains) spent 3 months working with the Department of Archaeology & Natural History at the Australian National University (ANU). Paul & Racheal proposed to use create methods to mimic the scientific process used by Palaeoecologists. They worked in the field to collect samples, worked with microscopes to invesitage the samples and background research.

Simon Haberle, Director of the Centre for Archaeological Research, ANU, provides insight into the residency from a host institution point of view: “We placed Paul and Rachel in our Visiting Fellow program, which provided them with full access to all our laboratory facilities, desk space, access to library facilities, and on-site liability insurance cover. During their time at the department we strove to enable them to engage with all aspects of our research including fieldwork (2 days sediment coring expedition to Blue Lake, Mt Kosiuscko), laboratory procedures including the use of our microscopes, and our seminar program. From the outset it was considered by Paul and Rachel and myself that 3 months residency time was inadequate to become fully engaged with the research we are doing. Therefore the Visiting Fellowships were given to them for a period of 12 months, which allows for continued access to our facilities and provides a mechanism for ongoing collaboration between the host and the artists.

In my original application I outlines 3 potential outcomes that the host institute would like to achieve: (1) develop new forms of communication of our research to the science community as well as to the wider public, (2) provide exciting opportunities for developing new collaborations across the range of art and science disciplines by learning from the artist as much as the artist may learn from us, and (3) explore new approaches to digital image manipulation that may have important implications for the way we analyse our data and have real and on-going research application after the residency is finished. We found that outcomes (1) and (2) were readily achieved through the awareness created of new media representations of our work at seminars given by Paul and Rachel in November. The seminar given at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies provided a great opportunity for direct presentation of the work to those who had been only peripherally involved in the collaboration. Outcome 3 was considered more problematic in the short term and would more likely to be achievable over years rather than months.

Overall the residency has been a very rewarding experience and has provided a valuable insight into the way the creative process works and how the end product is presented to the public. I think it would be a unanimous decision within our department that further residencies would be supported and be of great value to all involved.”

GRAIN OF NIGHT – Gregory Pryor @ CSIRO
Grain of Night is a collaboration between artist Gregory Pryor and CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems in Western Australia, generously supported by International Art Space Kellerberrin Australia (IASKA). The residency focused on work done in the Wallatin Catchment area around Kellerberrin in Western Australia’s wheatbelt. Kellerberrin is just over 200 kilometres east of Perth.

For much of the time, I was out of my comfort zone and this can be a good test for any ideas and how well they can be translated/transformed into successful work. The interaction with other people and their lives was a comparatively new area for me to work in. Despite having made a number of short video and audio works, technically, this project was much more ambitious and complex. As a very ‘hands on’ type of artist, I set myself a huge editing job and decided to incorporate learning how to use up to date editing software in the project. I also learnt much about using digital media at night and there is no doubt this will be very useful for future works.

For the last (actually extra) month of the residency, I took my equipment into the CSIRO offices in Perth and basically did my video editing there. Again, the day-to-day contact with a number of scientists in the Sustainable Ecosystems team was extremely beneficial. Key elements of data surfaced from this contact and contributed in a substantial manner to some of the works done for the exhibition.

The main outcomes have been an exhibition, called Grain of Night at the IASKA gallery in Kellerberrin between December 4 and 26, which will then tour as part of a national exhibition, called Habitat in 2008. A version of the exhibition will also be shown at CSIRO in February 2007 to particularly target the scientific community. I have produced a DVD under the same name, which will have an ongoing life in various places and be distributed to select people. Most pertinently, it will become part of the archive of the Kellerberrin shire and be available for loan in their library.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

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