Artists Lane Hall and Lisa Moline provide an unusual mix of descriptions for their upcoming show, Phylum, the inaugural installation at Colorado College's new Cornerstone Arts Center.
The show explores attraction, revulsion and ... poetry, Hall says.
"We've worked with tapeworms, snakes, insects things gross and creepy and we blow them up to great magnification," he adds. "Our desire isn't to shock. We want people to see how cool nature is up close. There is so much life in a drop of water."
Phylum opens Friday at the I.D.E.A. (InterDisciplinary Experimental Arts) Space gallery inside the new center, on the south edge of CC's campus. Curator Jessica Hunter Larsen describes the installation as a blend of art, science and music experienced through four-channel video and large-scale print. She calls Phylum "a fun, first kickoff for the mission of this building, which was imagined as a laboratory for collaboration between art and other creative endeavors."
Both children of scientists, Hall and Moline describe themselves as artists passionate about science, and balk at the polarizing idea that science and art cannot connect. Ten years ago, they met aquatic zoologist J. Rudi Strickler, who loved art as much as they loved science, establishing the symbiosis that inspired Phylum.
In his archives, Strickler had reels of 16-millimeter film showing microscopic life form, which Hall and Moline first digitized, then edited. Awed by the strange beauty of Strickler's films, they began collecting bio-samples of their own to film from large, urban areas like Milwaukee, where they teach art at the University of Wisconsin. They then fed their samples through an electron microscope and magnified the images, which reached 8 to 10 feet high, onto walls, and life became art.
When I tell Hall the dictionary definition of phylum ("a principal taxonomic category that ranks above class and below kingdom"), he laughs and says, "Yes, well, a scientist would just let the film of amoeba and plankton run. An artist sees the film as incredible, beautiful footage taxonomy and poetry together, using scientific language for artistic, poetic purposes. This blending brings us back to the very mystery of life, just below our level of perception, to the base of the food chain."
According to Hall, city dwellers often compartmentalize nature it is something you go to, rather than live in. They hope to change this thinking with Phylum.
Larsen adds, "This installation seeks to re-imagine our perception of nature ... we are dominant over microscopic images. Hall and Moline make the microscopic ascendant, thus equalizing perspective."
Finally, the artists set the film to the haunting, ambient tones of CC's own Bowed Piano Ensemble, headed by composer and director Stephen Scott, a longtime friend and collaborator of Hall's. Hall explains that the music provides narrative for the show without guiding too much. It exists to heighten the experience, not force it.
"It's interesting for us to bring this new work to a new level of exhibition," Hall says. "And I'm a Colorado College alumni [B.A., 1978], so it's been fun to be part of this event."