For the 2019 session of Forrest Island Project, an artist residency program in Mammoth Lakes, I co-curated a collaboration with the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory (SNARL) administered by UCSB titled Avalanche Dynamics—derived from snow science that offers a metaphor for creative breakthroughs. My ongoing research and contributions to the project run along three tracks: (i) digital composite images of snow taken through filters; (ii) attempts to produce an ice lens to act as a temporary sculpture, observational instrument and camera; and (iii)sculptures based on Rudolf Luneburg’s description of a spherical gradient index lens.
From Avalanche Dynamic an exhibition of work developed by artists (myself, Alice Könitz and Nina Waisman) during the 2019 iteration of the Forest Island Project’s Residency in Mammoth Lakes, CA:
The process of data collection assumes that a critical mass of minute parts will accumulate into a whole producing a picture that has meaning.
Seen through the right instruments, snow, as Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory researcher Jeff Dozier describes it is “the most colorful substance on earth.” But a clear picture of data requires interpretation and interpolation. Brian O’Connell’s interest is in the inbetween parts of this process. Here, triple digital exposures of the same scene, each with a different filter (red, blue and green) are altered at the pixel level to recreate what a sensor sees. Layered back on top of each other and cropped down to a tiny fraction of the actual image, the fragments are then printed as elements of the total data set.
Zoomed in models of structures that, when combined, could create a version of the “gradient index lens” (invented in the 1940s by scientist Rudolf Luneburg at USC where O’Connell also teaches) manifest again as tiny parts of a larger structure, one that is actually used to see. Growing out of conversations with SNARL researchers and missions to various locations around Mammoth Lakes, a quixotic mission to produce a perfect ice lens, an experimental sound dish, and other technological experiments further explore the various processes of capturing and filtering information as playful examinations of our contemporary understanding of visual space, both as seen by the human eye and as augmented by technology.