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Art and science join forces at Wonderspaces

By Leonie O’Sullivan, September 27 2023—

It is a common misconception that art and science should not mix. Growing up I always thought that I had to fit inside one box or the other — lab coat or easel. I feared that if I committed to science, I would not get a creative outlet and if I opted for the arts, I may not get opportunities to unleash my curiosity. Wonderspaces has beautifully squashed these falsehoods by allowing art and science to symbiotically coexist. 

On March 6, Telus Spark Science Centre unveiled Wonderspaces, an exhibit that is showing until October. Wonderspaces relies on both science and art to create an immersive and interactive experience for guests. This is Wonderspaces’ debut at a science centre as well as being its first international voyage outside of the United States. At Spark, you can experience nine incredible collaborations of art and science. The overarching goal of Wonderspaces’ is to introduce art to wider audiences — but it also succeeds in launching attendees on their own scientific journeys.

My personal favourite is Blooms by John Edmark. The mathematical sculptor brought the “blooms” to life by incorporating high-speed rotation, strobe lighting and precise design. It provoked curiosity and I could admire both its design and aesthetics. It made me question my own eyes as I felt like I was succumbing to a hallucination trying to figure out how it worked. 

Earth’s environmental threats inspired two of the works of art and science. These were Sweepers Clock by Maarten Baas and Thank You Bags by Reed van Brunschot. Sweepers Clock is a 12-hour long video of two individuals sweeping waste into the arms of a clock to capture the time. The connection of time to the environment is an important one. How long can we continue to keep adding more and more waste to our landfills? I also pondered if the workers got any breaks during the recording. The Thank You Bags exhibit heavily relies on the shock factor — aided by its enormous size — to get its clear message across to visitors. 

On a Human Scale by Matthew Matthew exemplifies the diversity of humankind. As you press down on a key of this harpsichord — a keyboard instrument — you are immersed in an audio-visual experience as you hear and view someone singing the note. New Yorkers were recorded singing to bring their voices together to create this inclusive, human instrument, with each note being unique to a recorded individual.

Body Paint by Memo Akten relies on an infrared sensor that picks up heat emissions from your body. As you dance and move around the space your motions become the paintbrush for an artistic display right before your eyes. I think this exhibit provided the greatest amount of fun to visitors.

Don’t miss out on experiencing Wonderspaces before it leaves Calgary this October. Spark is the only location in Canada featuring work from any of the artists behind the nine installations. This exhibit masterfully opens up both science and art to broader communities. I hope children and adults alike walk through the exhibit and feel inspired to break down the barrier between art and science.

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