A new exhibit at the Beach Museum of Art mixes art, science and technology in an installation that deals with the past and the future.
“Charles Lindsay: Field Station 4” places ancient artifacts and natural elements in a high-tech setting designed to look like a scientific research station. Beach Museum director Linda Duke said it creates a futuristic yet magical environment.
“He wanted to create a sense of the future going into a scientific research station, but one that doesn’t use the methods condoned by mainstream science,” Duke said.
It is open at the Beach Museum until Oct. 17.
Artist Charles Lindsay began his career as a geologist working in stations like the one he recreates at the Beach, and then as a photojournalist. It’s his fourth installation like this. In addition to geology, Lindsay has lived with a tribe in Indonesia and studied traditional cultures in modern Tokyo. He was the first artist in residence at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), a scientific research institute based in Mountain View, California.
His work made him interested in how art and science, as well as history and the future, can work together.
“He’s always using the past to imagine the future,” Duke said.
The piece that has become a symbol for the installation is an old computer sitting on top of several equipment cases like those used to ship items to the space station. Stacks of these cases fill the exhibit. The computer monitor, encased in silver, is equipped with a yak horn “antenna” on each side.
Upon entering the exhibit, visitors encounter a glass case with horseshoe crabs. The crabs, one of Earth’s oldest life forms, are painted gold and set in front of a 15th-century painting of a Tibetan deity.
“Horseshoe crabs are such an ancient life form, and they’re painted gold to give the same effect as equipment sent to outer space,” Duke said.
Another piece shows another Tibetan deity hooked up to several wires. This deity can dissolve time and space into itself, in keeping with the ideas Lindsay tries to explore.
“It’s grotesque to see this figure wired up like this, but it’s grotesque to see a human or an animal wired up like that,” Duke said.
In the back of the space, a capsule displays a fluorescent mineral that Lindsay collected on an expedition to Greenland.
Duke said Lindsay’s efforts to link art, science, history and mysticism intrigued her. She said today’s scientists use more visual tools to communicate data, which can bring science and art closer together, but further, both artists and scientists are seeking answers and meaning about the world.
“People in the arts have been trying to find meaning for a very long time,” she said. “The arts are an enjoyable arena to develop those skills of looking and wondering and thinking about the connections between things. Those thinking skills are directly applicable in science.”
She said in art, there usually isn’t a right answer or one simple, straightforward interpretation of a piece, and that viewpoint can be helpful to scientists as well.
“Sometimes people think science is about memorizing facts, but real science that’s discovering things is about what we know and what we don’t know,” Duke said.
Duke said asking these kinds of questions can trigger a new way of understanding the world.
“We don’t have a lot of experiences in everyday life that we look at and say, ‘That’s nuts,’” Duke said. “When we have those kinds of experiences, it can jar our mind into thinking differently in a good way.”
Art and Science in the Anthropocene Age
Charles Lindsay will speak on a panel with K-State associate professor of physics Eleanor Sayre, associate professor of philosophy Scott Tanona, and professor of English Lisa Tatonetti. The panel will be at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Beach Museum of Art and will be moderated by associate professor of art Shreepad Joglekar.