Nature's Toolbox: Biodiversity, Art, and Innovation at Chicago's Field Museum

07 May, 2012

Nature's Toolbox: Biodiversity, Art, and Innovation at Chicago's Field Museum

Professor and BCNM Executive Committee member Paz Gutierrez will be exhibiting one of her digitally fabricated walls made of agricultural infill at the Field Museum (Natural History) in Chicago as part of the Nature's Toolbox: Biodiversity, Art, and Innovation exhibit. The show will be up from May 22 through December 2, 2012. It will then travel in 2013 to The Leonardo Museum in Utah and the Ulrich Museum in Kansas; and then on to the Singapore Art Museum in 2014.

The wall fragment developed by Professor Paz Gutierrez (BIOMS) and artist Donald Gensler consists a light control wall made 67% of sucrose and 33% of PMMA that integrates mutiscale digital fabrication and explores biosynthetic polymers for new building technologies. The work is part of a series initiated in 2006. The new fragment was produced by Gutierrez with a team comprised of UCB research assistants (Charles Irby-M Arch 2013, Peter Suen- M Arch 2013). The wall prototype questions the use of a highly controversial agricultural product (sucrose) scanning both sociocultural and physical conditions of the material.

Press Release for the exhibition is below.

New Art Exhibition at the Field Museum Explores Connection Between Conserving Nature and Quality of Human Life

Nature's Toolbox: Biodiversity, Art, and Invention Runs May 22 Through Dec 2, 2012

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, March 9, 2012 - Nature's Toolbox: Biodiversity, Art, and Invention, a new traveling contemporary art exhibition, opens at Chicago's Field Museum May 22. Harnessing technology and inspired by nature's amazing design concepts, the show's innovative, eye-capturing art helps visitors understand and appreciate the life-or-death interdependence between the 10-20 million species on earth — including humans — and the quality of the environment we share.

"Many people still don't realize how much our very lives depend on the biodiversity of plants, animals, and everything else," says Randy Jayne Rosenberg, Curator of the show and Executive Director of Art Works For Change, which developed and manages the exhibition. Indeed, some ecologists predict that half of all mammals and birds could be extinct within the next century, with similar losses in plants, marine life, and other species — entire ecosystems, in fact. Each loss carries with it lost benefits to human well-being because of the key roles these species play in providing such things as clean air and water, pollination, and climate regulation.

The purpose of the exhibition is to show that humans aren't just part of the problem but also the solution: by harnessing nature's most brilliant ideas, we can improve the quality of human life while living in harmony with nature.

In Nature's Toolbox, which features artworks from artists around the world across a wide range of media, Rosenberg asked artists to use nature's wisdom as the inspiration for new artworks. "They explored its genius and found opportunities for invention by employing the lessons nature offers," she says. "We learn, for example, how by mimicking nature we can harness energy from algae, create fabric with the strength of a spider's web, self-medicate like a chimp, create amphibian cities with the structure of a lilypad, and build walls made from sugar."

The show brings viewers a fresh perspective on the relationship between everyday activities and biodiversity, such as Donna Ozawa's Waribashi Project, an impressive display constructed of 90,000 waribashi, or disposable chopsticks. Every year hundreds of billions of waribashi are thrown away after just a single use, contributing to deforestation, one
of the largest contributors to the loss of species.

Unique works such as a series of short films by actress Isabella Rossellini, offer fascinating scientific insight along with a big dose of humor. The exhibition also features Charles Lee's Dissipative System, a wall of touchable tiles that change color in response to heat — mimicking the color, humidity, and temperature changes in the exoskeleton of a
Hercules beetle.

Awareness is the first critical step in changing our individual and collective outlook from one that exploits nature to one that nurtures it, points out Rosenberg. Art builds awareness by helping us visualize our complex relationship to the natural world. "Science provides facts while art tells stories," she says, adding. "The need for environmental stories has never been greater — people are hungry for positive images of the future. The stories at the heart of Nature's Toolbox offer fresh solutions, making it clear that humanity is itself an essential piece of this system. By understanding the relationships, not only can we save nature, we can save ourselves, too."

Nature's Toolbox Artists

Allora & Calzadilla • Suzanne Anker • Antonio Briceno • Vincent Callebaut • Rob Carter • Catherine Chalmers • Ri Crawford • E.V.Day • Anthony Discenza • Chris Drury • Aganetha Dyck and Richard Dyck • Cao Fei • Free Range Studios • Donald Gensler and Maria Paz Gutierrez • Hall & Moline • Joyce Hsu • Chris Jordan • Kahn& Selesnick • Christian Kerrigan • Isabella Kirkland • Charles Lee • Katja Loher • Lori Nix • Lucy& Jorge Orta • Donna Keiko Ozawa • Sven Pahlsson • Susan Plum • Ken Rinaldo • Isabella Rossellini • Tomas Saraceno • Yuriko Yamaguchi • Xu Zhen • Marina Zurkow