NATHALIE MIEBACH

My work focuses on the intersection of art and science and the visual articulation of scientific observations. Using the methodologies and processes of both disciplines, I translate scientific data related to ecology, climate change and meteorology into three-dimensional structures. My method of translation is principally that of weaving – in particular basket weaving – as it provides me with a simple yet highly effective grid through which to interpret data in three-dimensional space. Central to this work is my desire to explore the role visual aesthetics play in the translation and understanding of scientific information. By utilizing artistic processes and everyday materials, I am questioning and expanding the traditional boundaries through which science data has been visually translated (ex: graphs, diagrams), while at the same time provoking expectations of what kind of visual vocabulary is considered to be in the domain of ‘science’ or ‘art’.

Sound and musical notation are further ways I translate and explore the behavior of meteorological data. I translate weather data into musical scores that are built entirely of weather data, but integrate human experiences and interpretations of weather events. The juxtaposition of objective data and more nuanced, subjective readings of weather, lead to a musical/sculptural translation that explores how human emotions and experiences influence the perception of weather. These musical scores are then translated into woven sculptures. At the same time, they are also used in collaborations and numerous commissioned work by emerging composers and have been performed in 14 concerts in the US and Canada. My collaborations with composers and musicians are two-fold: to convey a nuance or level of emotionality surrounding my research that is harder for me to reach through my sculptures, and to reveal patterns or stories in the data musicians might identify which I have failed to see.

Metaphors also play an important function in creating a more layered approach to building narratives with data, while also suggesting a parallel, futuristic and darker outlook. Focusing specific extreme weather events, I am exploring the dissonance and co-existence between the physic of weather with the theater of human responses as we come to terms with our changing weather. “The Sandy Rides”, and the subsequent series called “The Floods”, are two recent bodies of work that explore this dissonance.“The Sandy Rides” are sculptures that look like amusement park rides, but are made entirely out of weather data of Hurricane Sandy. “The Floods” series pulls together multiple narratives of recent weather events that have impacted human lives through floods.

Every extreme weather events have at least two narratives. The first is scientific, made up of temperature, wind and pressure gradients that generate energies to build these storms and propel them forward. The second narrative is made up human experiences, both during and long after the storms have left. This provides the important and nuanced emotional perspectives through which we interpret the storms and try to draw lessons from them. Such lessons can sometimes be over-simplistic. Often, they reveal less about the actual events and more about our human attempts to adjust to a volatile environment. I believe we need both types of narratives if we are to come to terms with climate change and its effect on weather systems.