Our immune system accepts silk on surfaces as sensitive as the human brain. When visual artist and poet Jen Bervin read that researchers were experimenting with silk medical sensors for patients monitoring serious health conditions, she asked, “If I were to have a silk sensor embedded under MY skin, what would I want it to say?” She imagined that the content the device carried could hold a great deal of meaning for the patient.
With Creative Capital’s support, Jen embarked on a three-year journey to create a series of microscopic poems exploring the themes of silk, healing and the body. Working with medical research labs, and drawing on research from textile archives across the world, Bervin began exploring the body and history’s intricate connection to the material of silk. In May 2016, her series of nano-printed silk poems premieres in the international exhibition “Explode Every Day: An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder” at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA.
Today I decided to go on a little adventure. A few hours away from me there’s the Northern section of the Appalachian Mountains.
I drive through a particular region of these mountains and came across a quaint little mountain village (with some remarkable views):
I sort of expected awesome views but part of what made it an exciting trip was the prospect of finding something unexpected, which in this case turned out to be the artist community that lived in this quaint village town.
A huge part of the town is made up of converted mill buildings, many of which were factories that made clothes for the Union army during the American Civil War.
It seemed to me like the better part of the community were actually artists, who’d converted these old factory buildings into both living spaces for artists, and museums/galleries.
Central to the town was a giant museum, an old factory which had in its own right been turned into a work of art. There were trees, suspended from wires and growing upside down. Catwalks went from building to building, decidedly steampunk in nature, combining their 19th century heritage with colorful madness:
(Image credit: Mass MoCA)
Once inside the museum the erstwhile barely-contained loopiness exploded into a full-blown unrestrained into the imagination.
(Image credit: Mass MoCA)
There were art exhibits inspired by the superheroes of the Golden Age of Comic Books, a giant warehouse space emptied of everything but a wall-to-wall painting of the mountainside outside:
The next room I found was filled with an entire art exhibition dedicated to literature! I loved this. They used a pair of messy bookshelves as an exhibit in its own right in addition to something a little more esoteric:
I went upstairs and found more superheroes, a dark room lit only by gnomes sitting at a campfire (in a crystal forest), as well as a massive warehouse space filled with hand painted canvas tents.
Then I crossed into a huge, maze-like room where the exhibits were essentially huge walls fitted to colorful praise of geometry. After wandering here for a while I crossed through one of the “steampunk” catwalks into another mill building. The catwalks seemed like steel capillaries funneling the mad art from factory to factory.
From the catwalk, you could look out and see stages where the community have set up for various events and artists they host:
On the other side of the catwalk I emerged into an area dedicated to… sock art. It was stunning!
Finally, before leaving I walked through a small exhibit dedicated to the birds of the world:
Right as I turned to go, however I came across a small sign that said, “Fraternity Boys Smiling” and I have to show you what I found:
After seeing this I decided I needed to leave (I’d actually seen everything by then). As soon as I set foot off the mill grounds the artistic energy shifted back to a toned down, quaint mountain village. Driving out of the village, you can see for 60+ miles in all directions just as when you enter.
I know this story doesn’t really involve any science but wait-for-it:
There’s a connection. I had no idea what I was going to find when I left for this little drive. As fortune had it, I found one of the coolest artist communities I’ve ever seen and by far the greatest art museum (and I just got back from NYC).
Serendipity is what happened today. Serendipity, a fortuitous turn of events that happen essentially by chance, can only happen if you take the risk and roll the dice. Chance is the key word.
Luckily in most (not all) science endeavors the risk of random disaster is low. Those risks are calculated but all are done in the hope of making a serendipitous discovery.
When someone asks why we should fund astronomy (or any science for that matter) I will probably think somewhat of this quaint mountain village and the staggering artistic talent hidden away from the world, waiting to be found, if even by chance.
If anyone’s interested in visiting this amazing museum it’s called Mass MoCA and it’s located in North Adams, Massachusetts. Even if you’re visiting Boston for only a week, I highly recommend the drive. It far surpasses any museum in the city and is well worth the drive.
For anyone interested in some more pictures, I’ll be adding them to my Instagram page shortly.