The Cabinet Project: Using Art as a Medium to Explore the Sciences

Article by: Nina S Rafeek

The Art-Sci Salon at the Fields Institute for Mathematical Sciences is composed of a group of artists, scientists and art-sci tech enthusiasts who meet once a month to engage in critical discussions on topics at the intersection between the arts and science.

In January of last year, co-founders of the Art-Sci Salon, Professor Stephen Morris and Lecturer Roberta Buiani, put on a gallery show at an independant gallery at 401 Richmond St. which featured science-themed works of art.  The art and science exhibition was the first of its kind for the Art-Sci salon and it proved to be a success as the pieces sparked lively discussions and debate.  After the success of their first exhibition, they decided to put on a science-themed art exhibition once a year.  From there, the concept of the Art-Sci Salon Cabinet Project was born.

The Cabinet Project will bring life to the outdated and neglected spaces around the U of T St. George campus.  In March,  the students, faculty and the wider U of T community can expect to see science-themed works of art in 10 cabinets across the campus from 12 selected artists, bio-artists, media artists and visual artists.  The creative displays will engage with the objects and instruments created in the science labs nearby or stored in the UTSIC (University of Toronto Scientific Instruments Collection).

“There are so many cabinets near the science departments and they are empty and they have been empty for a long time”, says Buiani.  “Our hope is that this Cabinet Project will reanimate these public spaces and have people coming and realizing that there is actually a lot of liveliness behind these closed doors”.

In the 5th floor of the Physics tower, Professor Morris’ office is peppered with science themed art, including a framed poster-sized composite photograph of a row of a dozen icicles.  The icicles, however, are not hanging from a tree or a rooftop in a wintry background.  Each one is suspended from an artificial metal contraption and magnified enough for one to notice that each one has a distinct pattern formation.  It is a part of his ongoing research called “The Icicle Atlas”. Amongst his stacks of files and papers, he also has a photo of a magnifed soap bubble and a 3D printed model of a blue icicle   “The end goal is to have fun”, says Professor Morris.

Morris is the J. Tuzo Wilson Professor of Geophysics at the U of T.  His primary research and interest lies in emergent patterns in fluids, granular media, ice formations and fracture.

Roberta Buiani is a researcher, curator and media artist based in Toronto.  Her work is focused on the balance of theoretical and applied research at the intersection of science, technology and creative resistance.  She has earned a Ph.D communication and cultural studies and has worked in the space of Art and Science for almost a decade.

“Ultimately, I really hope to have the arts community and academic community a little bit closer and to engage the public in art and science”, adds Roberta.

Stay tuned for more updates on this extraordinary project.