Imag(in)e the way-finding

Image © Denis Groleau, courtesy of the scientist.

What happens when an artist and a scientist meet for the first time, with the mandate to “collaborate” on a new research-creation project? Performing, as the institutional  “experiment” ourselves, in a meta relationship of sci-art co-mingling, our goal is to generate a unique, rigorous and enriched body of new knowledge, the form of which is yet to be determined.

What are the parameters for collaboration? Aside from logistics, each collaborator brings a wealth of professional practice to the table (literally, in the case of my first meeting with Dr Groleau, the dinner table). Where are the convergences and divergences amongst our respective background experiences? Excavating these will be a slow, nuanced and anti-methodical process: one of relationship-building, accidental discoveries, false starts, meanderings, deliberate allowances, detachment from “results”, sniffing out fresh concepts/methods/states and, the active fostering of mutual ownership throughout the process. This can be intimidating and stressful for some, impossible for others. As an artist well-versed in shaping the malleable unknown, I find entering into a blind, somewhat indeterminate arrangement such as this a wonderfully invigorating endeavour.

The above image was sent to me by Denis Groleau after our first meeting. This image represents some of his early published research with bacterial enzymatic action on plant cellulose, Cellulolytic activity of the rumen bacterium Bacteroides succinogenes (Can. J. Microbiol. 27(5):517-530 (1981), a good starting point for us, given my recent collaborative research with bacterial cellulose (here and here). And so, we have our first convergences: bacteria and cellulose. The difference between our research, however, is that my work has been directed towards preserving cellulose generated by bacteria, while his is specifically geared towards breaking down cellulose using bacteria.

I was delighted to discover during my first tour, that Sporobole houses, among other fabulous resources, a beautiful audio editing suite with 16-channel mixing capabilities. Dr Groleau asked me right away if I would be amenable to working with music. And so, my first thoughts are to start with developing a multi-channel sonification of bacterial processes… Metabolic? Enzymatic? … Or, whatever may be able to be captured as data and then translated. I have no idea how this might be accomplished or how it will evolve, but I look forward to finding out. We have ten months to play!