Avalanche Dynamics

Forest Island Project, Mammoth Lakes, CA 2019

For further information and documentation of process and reseach related to these works please visit: 2019 Research

I co-curated and participated in the 2019 session of the Forrest Island Project artist residency program in collaboration with the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory (SNARL, administered by UCSB). We titled our iteration Avalanche Dynamics—a term borrowed from snow science as a metaphor for creative breakthroughs. My contributions to the project follow three tracks: digital composite images of snow taken through filters ; attempts to produce an ice lens to act as a temporary sculpture, observational instrument and camera; and sculptures based on Rudolf Luneburg’s description of a spherical gradient index lens. 

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.

— Avalanche Dynamics Press Release for an exhibition of work developed during 2019
ART, BOC_DATE, Elements, Forest Island, Ice, Ice Lens, PROJECTS, RESEARCH, Water