“I’m a scientist, and as a scientist I’ve come across the opinion that scientists suck the wonder out of everything – they make things dry. But as a scientist, that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

“The scientists I’ve worked with are some of the most curious, excited people I know,” Natalie Andrews, Cambridge-based artist and scientist, said at the COLLISION17 opening at the Axiom Gallery Friday Night.

Andrews‘ piece, Wonderlust, is an attempt at capturing that curiosity. The body of the piece is composed of mysterious spindly forms, with tiny human forms peppered among them, examining. When viewers move close to the model, the mist rises, making for a clearer view.

“I’m interested in the question of what examination does to things. Are you making things better or worse?”

Andrew’s is one of 23 pieces to make up COLLISIONcollective’s COLLISION17: Transformer exhibit. Housed at the Axiom Gallery in Jamaica Plain’s Green Street T stop, the gallery curates exhibits aimed at the cross-section of science and art. COLLISION17 features interactive works from a steampunk lighting device to digitally rendered experiments, as well as photography and film.

One of the more immediately intriguing works is Antony Flackett‘s Mortaility Shmortality, a cardboard oatmeal box with a small hole cut out. Inside, there’s a looped digital projection of a scientist creating a monster and coping with it.

“As an artist trying to be creative, trying to make something bigger than yourself, something immortal, you realize it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes creative projects fail,” he said.

COLLISIONcollective started in 2002 as an offshoot of an MIT student art group, since then they’ve put on 17 exhibits looking at the future of art through the lens of scientific form. Past exhibits have explored themes as broad as the properties of fluids and point of view, and also highlighted individual artists, like COLLISION collaborator John Slepian. Axiom Gallery has hosted six of COLLISION’s exhibits, and the two work closely.

As guests filled in, helping themselves to snacks and $1 beer, Beverly Artist Dave Gordon was still fiddling with his steampunk light fixture, Light Mobile. In the steampunk tradition, the piece puts a Victorian Era aesthetic into modern technology. A lamp, fashioned out of a copper toilet float and made to look like a hot air ballon, and a picture of Queen Victoria, run along a conveyor belt. A control panel allows the user to move the lamp and picture along the 4-foot circular belt.

“It’s a whimsical yet practical piece,” Gordon said. “It exposes the technology, but it’s really quite modern.”

The piece manages to use the greenest LED lighting technology while looking like it was stripped off the ship in 2,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

Another artist taking a critical look at modern technology is photographer Arnold Koroshegyi, whose photo set, Electroscapes, is displayed prominently in the entrance. The landscape photos capture the natural beauty of the Columbia Ice Fields in Canada, but also display the man-made electronic activity happening in a place often considered far removed from the grid.

He did so by hacking electromagnetic activity using a “packet-sniffing” surveillance software developed by the FBI, as well as devices that monitor satellite and I.P. address activity.

Other exhibits include a take or refracted light, a guitar string sound sculpture, a video of a self-controlled robot covered in bacon, a grid matrix of computer fans, an interactive display rendered by a modified PS3 and many others.

COLLISION17 is kind of like a walk through Bill Nye The Science Guy’s lab in an alternate reality where Bill Nye has respect for himself. Stop by on your way home from work; It’s open until April 7.

UNTIL SAT 4.7.12



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  2. Lona Lona says:

    This was a treat to attend! I could barely tear myself away from the Mortality Shmortality box – such an awesome piece!
    I went with a friend not knowing of the scientific slant to the show, some incredibly amusing and thought provoking pieces.
    And thanks for providing links to the artists’ websites!

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