University Museums

Title: Organic Dreams Synthetic Means
Name: Installation
Date: 2018
Medium: Formed fiberglass rods.
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: Commissioned by the University Museums and the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Liberal Arts and Sciences. An Iowa Art in State Buildings Project for the Advanced Teaching and Research Building (ATRB). In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, Advanced Teaching & Research Building (ATRB)
Object Number: U2019.1
More Information
How do we make artwork for an audience of biologists if we ourselves are not biologists? How do we confront this challenge within the context of an art practice where we explore structure and materiality rather than representation?

Organic Dreams Synthetic Means grew out of an extensive investigation into the material properties of fiberglass rod. This was our first experience working with the material, so, we felt like scientific researchers making hypotheses about its potential for sculpture, then testing each through full-scale mock-ups and models.

Our design process began with straightforward questions - what kinds of structure and forms can we make with fiberglass rods that we couldn’t accomplish with other materials? In other words, what do the rods want to become? Why are they unique and what formal and structural proclivity does this particular material have? We then asked questions relating the site: how can we make a structure that holds its own within the busy public space at the Advanced Teaching and Research Building?

Rather than accepting the flat plane of the wall as a backdrop for a two-dimensional artwork or making a sculpture that rests on the ground plane, we asked how we could engage the space in an unexpected way by making a work that launches from the wall, projecting into the room and over the heads of viewers. What does it mean for a sculpture to project off of a wall twenty feet? Our next step was to ask how to coax form that is suggestive of several biological entities from this highly engineered sculptural structure.

Although it is clearly synthetic - a man-made product of design and fabrication, the structure and materiality have affinities to several biological systems and processes. For example - the growing shoot tip of a plant, a branching network of capillaries in a vertebrate circulatory system, or a papilla on the surface of a leaf, to name a few.

For the biologist as well as the layman we hope to evoke multiple references. The association of the form with particular biological structures will be dependent upon the viewer, their discipline within biology, and their level of experience and understanding of the biological world. Organic Dreams Synthetic Means should not be viewed as a biological model of a specific entity, but instead, be left open to interpretation by the viewer regardless of their field of inquiry.