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Still Waters Run Deep (2004)

“Art can deal analogously with the state of things ‘beyond physics’” (J. Kosuth, Art after Philosophy, new York, 1970)

Still Waters Run Deep, an AHRC-funded project with interdisciplinary and regional impact, developed new means of visualising and communicating complex factual, scientific data relating to nature and the environment through sculpture, using new technology and traditional modelling techniques. Focussing on the representation of the interconnectedness between climate change and the development and restoration of flood plains, Still Waters Run Deep re-evaluated the role of the artist as interpreter and communicator of scientific data. Jurack investigated the relevance of sculpture as a means of drawing attention to these pressing environmental concerns, by using automated stereo-lithography and hand modelling techniques to interpret data drawn from recently developed survey systems for flood plain topography such as GIS/Lidar and ultra sound mapping technology. The project was collaborative, conducted with the Research Centre for Environmental Change and Management (River Basin Management and Sustainable River Development) and the Spatial Analysis Research Group (Development and Application of Advanced Spatial Analystical Techniques) at Newcastle University.

Research Context
Within the North East there have been a number of discursive collaborations between artists and scientists with the aim of developing new languages to stimulate interdisciplinary debate within the two fields and beyond. Since the inauguration of the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Institute at the Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne, projects exploring the interface between art and science in the region have focussed largely on the articulation of ethical responsibilities in relation to science and technology. Jurack’s project, with its aim of representing complex scientific data sculpturally, investigates the interpretive role that artists can play in these ethical and environmental issues. Other artistic projects that inform this context include Cornelia Hesse-Honegger’s series of watercolours depicting mutated insects (After Chernobyl and The Future’s Mirror (1997), organised by Locus +, exhibited at The Hancock Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne, Oxford University Museum and Tullie House museum, Carlisle) and Lloyd Gibson’s (2000) sculpture of a shape-changing androgynous child (also commissioned by Locus +) for the former Anthrax-polluted island Gruinard in North West Scotland. Like Jurack, these artists draw attention to and comment on contemporary environmental issues. Within Jurack’s own art practice, the project builds on her 1998 collaborative work with the ICI Acrylic Research Centre which used acrylic sculptures to visualise a futuristic state of Teesside’s industrial environment, and on her more recent work realising the normally submerged terrain of lakebeds in sculptural form. These hand modelled sculptures used scientific data from bathymetric maps to make the subterranean fluid volumes of lakes spatially perceptible, thus making the data available to a wider audience. The project has local significance, focussing on the River Rye in the north east of England, and contributing to real social concerns in the area. Evaluation of the pilot stages of the project included consultation through public discussion with members of the affected communities and representatives of the Environmental Agency in the field of sustainable river management.

The research led to the production of a number of distinct sculptures, drawings and a digital animation. These were exhibited in Crossover, Water, Culture, Community, a series of exhibitions in the Ecology and Art Pavilion, Mile End Park, London (2002); at the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Toyota, Japan; and at the 3rd World Water Forum at the Honen-In Temple, Kyoto, Japan (2003). The work was also exhibited in the contemporary landscape exhibition Sea, at Wolverhampton Art Gallery (2002), which was recommended in the Guardian Guide (16.02.02).

The publication of a catalogue, Still Waters Run Deep (2004), with essays by C. Wegener and M. Newson, and also a website, contextualised and disseminated the research further. Jurack’s work also appeared in the touring exhibition, publication and website Infallible, curated by Roxy Walsh of Kingston University, a project that focussed on the fragile state of factual information when it is appropriated by the fictional narrative of authors. This last exhibition received widespread coverage and critical success, appearing in the Guardian Guide’s “Pick of the Week Exhibitions” for four weeks in a row (18.10.03 – 8.11.03); the local press reviewed Jurack’s contributions to the exhibition in particular as giving the show “substance” (Leam Courier, 14.11.03).

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