by Ana MacArthur
My interest in the mixing of art, science, technology, and environmental knowledge came from a drive of curiosity. I have always been motivated to understand the alchemy of how things transform in nature and in technology. At a very young age I recognized my obsession with light, as I always moved my chair into the sunlight in the room. I discovered the thrill of collaborating with scientists while in art school in my early 20’s as I explored bringing light through clay by working with ceramic engineers who equally inspired me because of their curiosity about my ‘problem’. Living in NY City in the early 80’s I discovered the magical light of holograms and with the burning desire to make them I built with a partner one of the few dichromate holography labs. In a 20-year chapter as a pioneer in this field with holograms and lasers it expanded my knowledge of the physics of light by hands on trial and error. –Ana MacArthur
Pollinator Concentrator is a site-specific, interspecies installation addressing the concern of pollinator decline and designed to radiate awareness of pollinators locally and broadly. Approaching the installation’s site a pole appears above a lush field of 4 ft. tall rye grass as if an antenna drawing one near. Surrounding the antenna is an undulation of landscape covered with short grass leading into its focal point, a ten foot, buried parabolic dish. The antenna inside the dish functions like a sundial, elaborating on the relationship amongst the shadow of the antenna, the hour of day, and the alignment with specific tiles as a measurement of time. The parabolic surface is lined with tiles of a series of pollinator species referencing a larger diversity. The tiles are dyed a range of blues incorporating symbolism, as, in the human’s visible range, blue is at the edge of the short wavelengths, and symbolically it calls in meditation, spaciousness, and depth of thought. On specific nights the edge of the parabolic will glow in ultraviolet light, using this frequency to attracts insects and some pollinators. This encounter potentially increases one’s ability to study and thus respect many minute creatures, and their roles, that otherwise go unnoticed.
Due to the discovery of 20 species of bats on the property in April 2019, a bat detector was designed in collaboration with bat biologist Mike Balistreri,and honoring these unusual creatures with their role as pollinators. The bat monitor tower will pick up bat ultrasonic signals as they fly over in the evening.The result is that the UV lights, lit on certain evenings, will undulate when bats are detected in the area around the installation, and engender more empathy and familiarity with these creatures that otherwise remain invisible.
Ana MacArthur’s trans-disciplinary practice functions as a creative catalyst by excavating nature’s processes and connected metaphors through the specific lens’s of life’s relationship to light, environmental intelligence, and appropriate technology. MacArthur’s history in working with light based technologies, has evolved to increasing work immersed in the natural world. For years, her projects have evolved from collaborations with scientists, and are manifest in installations using light based media and site-specific projects. Formerly a key member of the Museum of Holography in NYC, she co-founded and was a 20-year pioneer in a dichromate holography lab from which she produced many individual works.
Banner Image: Ana MacArthur, Pollinator Concentrator, 2019, An interspecies perminant installation; 10 ft dia. parabolic dish, a NM pollinator library, a sundial, and UV lights to attract insects for study and as monitor of night flying bats. All other images courtesy of Jim O’Donnell.