Tuesday June 7, 2011

Irish Science Exhibit Opens In Chelsea

Michael John Gorman, Director of Science Gallery Dublin and Amanda McDonald Crowley, Executive Director Eyebeam Art & Technology Center (Getty Images for Science Gallery)

By Vincent Murphy

One of Ireland's newest and most successful galleries has opened an exhibition in New York for the first time.

The Science Gallery at Trinity College has attracted 750,000 visitors in the three years since it opened - far exceeding its target of 50,000 visitors a year.

The gallery has a reputation or putting on exhibitions which make science more accessible to the general public.

"It was really a bit of an experiment by Trinity College," explains Michael John Gorman, the gallery's director.

"Let's find a new way for the university to engage with the city and to bring together science and the arts - to connect the Ivory Tower with all of the creative community around the university."

One of those exhibitions was called Biorhythms: Music and the Body, and was seen by more than 60,000 people in Dublin last summer.

It explores why our bodies react differently to hearing Lady Gaga and Beethoven.

Now, it has opened at the Eyebeam Art and Technology Centre in Chelsea, Manhattan as part of the World Science Festival.

It's the first time that the Science Gallery has taken an exhibition overseas, and also the first time that the World Science Festival has ever invited an exhibition to participate in its program.

"It's a great honor to be the first one," said Michael John Gorman, "For us, it's exciting to be on the international stage."

The exhibition is being supported by Imagine Ireland, the year-long promotion of Irish arts in the US by Culture Ireland.

"That's a pretty great thing to be part of," said Gorman, "It's really thrilling to have the experimental mix between science and art suddenly being regarded as part of emerging Irish cultural activity."

Singer Gavin Friday and composer Linda Buckley were among the curators of Biorhythm.

Trinity Provost Dr John Hegarty travelled to New York for the launch last Friday, which saw a New York beat boxer and his band take part in a live experiment on stage, having their emotional and physical responses measured as they performed to see how music and the body interact.

A visitor enjoys an interactive exhibit (Getty Images for Science Gallery)

The exhibition runs until August, and the Eyebeam Art and Technology Center has planned a book launch, workshops and other events to run alongside it.

"It's unusual for us to host an exhibition, but we were really excited about the possibility of this show" said Amanda McDonald Crowley, the center's executive director.

"We're not a gallery for hire. It wouldn't make sense for us. We're in Chelsea. There are 389 galleries in a five block radius of us. We're much more interested in the possibility for collaboration."

The exhibition offers a chance to experiment with different kinds of installations.

It includes the world's largest research experiment on music and emotion, which is being conducted in collaboration with Queens University Belfast.

"They're actually using the visitors to the gallery as experimental subjects, and by attaching them to sensors for skin response and heart rate, they are testing how people respond to different types of music," said Michael John Gorman.

"And it's a real scientific experiment, where they're going to create this huge database. So one could imagine that being used for example in devising new sorts of musical experiences, which are tailored to your mental state, which is a next generation type of music."

There are also a range of more playful installations - like a sonic bed which you can lie in and feel the music pulsing through your whole body, an acoustic armchair, a giant ear.

There's also the chance to create your own music and sounds.

"I think what's really interesting here is the combination - there's a number of works that are really rather scientific in approach and there are some that are much more arty in their approach," said Amanda McDonald Crowley of Eyebeam.

"The idea of mixing up those works conceptually and thinking of sound in the context of both art and science, and where those ideas meet, that's what's really interesting for me."

The Science Gallery hopes the event will lead to new links with international artists and scientists, with Dublin designated City of Science in 2012.

BIORHYTHM: MUSIC AND THE BODY at Eyebeam Art +Technology Center at 540 W 21st St. runs til August 6th.

Open Tuesday-Saturday 12-6pm. Admission free!

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