by Agnieszka Golda and Jo Law with science collaborators Helen McGregor and Sepidar Sayyar
Spinning World (世界を紡ぐ) is a multi-sensory project incorporating textiles, electronics and graphene. MAAS Research Fellows Agnieszka Golda and Jo Law investigated historical Japanese textiles from the Museum’s collection and have created a new artwork that explores the relationship between art, emerging technologies and ecology.
The installation makes use of traditional Japanese metallic-thread embroidery techniques to incorporate new materials developed at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science, such as graphene and intelligent polymer, to embed micro-electronic circuitry into the fabric. These elements will enable programmable sound, lights and movement that respond to visitors’ presence via sensors in the space.
Interdisciplinary approaches are crucial to tackling urgent global problems today. New modes of practice that draw from both the arts and sciences are needed in reframing complex problems and formulating solutions. However, genuine interdisciplinary collaboration between the arts and sciences can be complex.
Spinning World was a major research output of a UOW-funded project stemmed from Agnieszka Golda and Jo Law’s Visiting Research Fellowship at the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS), a cultural institution recognised for its excellence in engaging with research innovation. Collaborating with Sepidar Sayyar (Materials Science), and Helen McGregor (Climate Science), the artists worked to incorporate novel materials and climate research into interactive e-textile artworks. The team successfully delivered a new eco-graphene formulation, e-textiles production methods, and expanded climate science communication strategies in the exhibition Spinning World. Both the exhibition and research project have proven to provide a basis for significant improvements in environmentally sustainable practices in graphene and e-textiles production.
The exhibition attracted 26,992 visitors from diverse communities and age groups, greatly increasing levels of public engagement with art, materials science and climate research. The success of Spinning World led to an invitation to speak at the 2018 Australian Science Communicators Conference, further illustrating the impact of cultural enrichment. This collaborative research led to scholarly outcomes and wider impacts including a fully-refereed paper at the Australian Network of Art & Technology’s Spectra 2018: Art Science symposium, a published paper in the preeminent art-science journal Leonardo, and an invitation to speak at the ‘Creative Dialogue Episode 1 in New Media and Creative Technologies’ podcast published by the Wollongong City Council.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FROM THE AUTHORS
The creation of original artworks and their public exhibition resulted in novel conceptual and investigative approaches for Golda and Law in the use of unfamiliar materials (graphene screen prints, handmade electronic components), development of new techniques (hand-stencil ink spray paint), and testing new formats (the combined use of sewable electronics and programmable interactivity). The design and production brought together modern fabrication instruments with traditional textile techniques integrating conductive graphene screen prints, sensors and actuators into a body of interactive artworks.
The exhibition has a number of related traditional publications including “Enchanting Materialities: e-textiles installations for an ecosophic world” (ISEA 2020 published conference proceedings) and “Materials Science, Slow Textiles, Ecological Futures” (ANAT Spectra 2018 conference abstract published in Leonardo).
The larger research project resulted in a range of outcomes that have significant impact on the quality of collaborative and interdisciplinary research practices. In materials science, Sayyar extended his research into ecologically sustainable alternative processes (that moved away from the current use of organic solvents) in graphene synthesis and applications. In addition, the incorporation of graphene in interactive artworks (in the public setting) also allowed the materials to be tested for their durability.
As an experienced science communicator, McGregor provided an overview of climate science research as well as a range of datasets that acted as a catalyst for the artworks’ visual design. Specifically, the concept of coral fossils as bio-archives of climate data is visualised in the largest electronic textile work where corals (colonies of coral polyps) are featured in a fantastical environment. The graphene printed panels are based on reflected light microscope images of coral polyps (Porites spp) produced as part of McGregor’s research.
This project deepened the interdisciplinary team’s understanding of how artistic strategies can be employed to explore climate science and open up new possibilities for innovative materials applications. The collaboration resulted in knowledge exchanges with specific regard to material investigation and research practices. This seed project provided many avenues for future development, most notably in approaching Art-Science research collaboration, developing storytelling techniques in the science communication context, and the use of graphene or novel materials in the context of art gallery museum to drive energy-harvesting and energy-storage agenda.
Dr Agnieszka Golda is a Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Arts at the School of the Arts, English and Media. She is an artist-researcher who explores the intersection of art, feeling and place in ecological and socio-cultural contexts. Through image making, materiality and creative arts/science collaborations, her artworks contemplate the questions related to our well-being, our role in environmental stewardship including marine conservation, and our symbiotic relationship with living creatures and non-living forms. Central to her investigations is the consideration of storytelling, environmentally sustainable materials and ‘slow making’ methods as essential aspects of climate action, migrant traditions and self-care. Golda’s textile, painting and object-based works and large-scale installation projects draw from her field studies in Australia, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Japan and Poland, personal experiences of migration and making on and with Country, as well as studies in anthropology, archaeology, ethnography, environmental studies, and cultural geography.
Associate Professor Jo Law I am currently the Head of School of the Arts, English and Media, in the Faculty of the Arts, Social Science. I contribute to learning and teaching in the Bachelor of Creative Arts and the Bachelor of Communication and Media. My pedagogical approach draws from my professional experience as an artist, filmmaker and media designer. My curriculum design centres on the exploration of mediums and technologies to support challenge-based inquiry in ways that are relevant and accessible to all students. I teach a range of subjects that include experimental film and video, creative coding, interactive electronic art, and animation as well as art history, theory and criticism. My research masters investigates Hong Kong cultural politics through film media and my doctoral thesis explored art as the technical organisation of experience that extends the philosophy of Walter Benjamin. My research investigates how the textual imprints of media and materials in artworks shape human experience. My current research projects focus on the collaboration between scientific and creative disciplines to examine how art and technologies shape the ways we make sense of our world in creating our futures.
Dr Sepidar Sayyar Sepidar earned his PhD in Materials Engineering from the University of Wollongong, Australia in 2015. Since 2014, he has served as a researcher at the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute, University of Wollongong. As the lead researcher in recent years, Sepidar has been responsible for the development and characterization of composite materials, as well as the fabrication of structures and devices for various applications. Currently, he holds a faculty position as a Research Fellow and materials scientist at the Australian National Fabrication Facility-Materials Node. In this role, Sepidar oversees master’s and PhD students, as well as previously supervising international master’s students who have successfully completed their research and graduated.