On Saturday, 22nd April, on Earth Day, there was a March for Science throughout the world; a protest by scientists and individuals who care about the erosion of an empirical truth that Science represents. On this day too, in response to the what is arguably now known as The Anthropocene Era in geological terms, there began a global project to reverse another kind of erosion; one of trees. Both approaches present a slightly different perspective on a common problem, but by finding the language and metaphors through which both can align, we can create a resonant harmonic of thought that can truly transform things. As individuals, existential change – the most pressing of which currently is climate change – would be overwhelming, but en masse, humans can achieve almost anything and our achievements throughout history have been recorded through the visual arts. Art, both comforting and challenging, is society’s litmus paper. After all, we had cave paintings long before we had language.
And so, I write this not only from the perspective of the scientist I once was, but also as an artist seeking a common visual language – a Brave New World Aesthetic, I call it – a parity between so many subjects, some of which are truly objective and yet others, like our connections to each other and our world, highly subjective. Superficially, art and science appear quite different and yet both are governed by Nature, our connections to each other, and the physical laws of the universe.
From books like Huxley’s Brave New World written over 80 years ago to films such as The Matrix, we, as a species, have had a fascination with the ideal of the hero or heroine overcoming all that is Dystopian to create what was once envisioned by Plato over 2000 years ago in The Republic: a fair Utopian, green world in which everyone is taken care of by each other and their natural environment. Once, this future vision might have eluded us, but we are now in possession of the technology to make it happen and it is this that informs my work and gives me so much hope for the future. Some would argue that it is precisely because of our scientific advancements that we are in a situation when species are dying off; trees are disappearing and the very air we breathe is smothering us as we hurtle towards an Anthropocene Age. But perhaps by simply changing our perspective, we can see this as a wonderful opportunity rather than an existential threat.
I have experienced the power of a changing perspective in the last few years as my work moved from purely “sciart” – academically manipulating the physical laws and the materiality of paint to represent scientific ideas – to an entirely new process that was inspired by my environment and my connection to people and ideas. One moment of insight involved re-framing a classic physics experiment as literally “painting with light,” and another came from a walk one day amongst the trees when the leaves appeared so bright that I could literally touch where the edges met the sky. As a “city girl,” it felt quite overwhelming but once embraced, it taught me that intuition is one of the most creative tools we have. If we can only listen to it. My vision now is one in which not only art and science collide, but also technology, philosophy, spirituality, and society.
My search in this brave new world is currently focused on growing an installation made of thousands of plastic leaves to recreate a forest floor. It is interactive not only because of the colors but also because we want people to add their own leaves, which I am looking to make purely from recycled plastics.
By taking the throwaway and transforming it, I am hoping to raise awareness of the fact that 95% of all plastic is only used once, and that the continued waste is devastating our planet. I am also working on a series inspired by people and evolution; ours and that of the innovations on the horizon, as well as on the future thinkers that are changing the world. I trained as a painter; so much of my work was based on “life” that this continues to be an inspiration, but in terms of processes, I am forever an experimentalist.
A dear friend named my work “Quantum Sculptures” as they are so dependent on the relationship between the observed and the observer, changing in color with a tilt of the head. The same metaphor applies to our planet and fellow inhabitants, whose wellbeing we need to remember is inextricably linked to our own.
This is an age of reinvention and change. I believe artists and creative thinkers can help us find new metaphors and reframe our perspectives. Through a new aesthetic, we can reach the top-most rung of Maslow’s Pyramid from which we have a chance of understanding our position and responsibilities in the Brave New World we are creating. Because no matter how clever our ideas or innovative our processes, we all possess the same frailties and need for compassion and empathy; as does our home planet.
To borrow from something seen on Instagram: The Earth without Art is just Eh.
It’s all about perspective.
(Top image: Detail of Resonance in Leaves, a growing interactive floor installation of thousands of leaves made from plastic and light. Photo: Maria Katsika.)
Jasmine Pradissitto’s Quantum Sculptures in light embrace the dual world of the Physicist and Artist. Described as “holograms you can touch,” forms inspired by nature, the human condition, and scientific breakthroughs are melted and reshaped from plastics into sculptures as a commentary on an Anthropocene world. Currently represented by Marine Tanguy, and with continued technical support from LSBU, Jasmine has a PhD from UCL on the quantum behavior of silicon and has studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths College and Sir John Cass. She has had solo shows in London and Venice, been shortlisted for various prizes including the Threadneedle and Celeste, and has work in various collections.
5 thoughts on “A Search for a Brave New World Aesthetic”
Brilliant article that gives context to some even more brilliant art work. Are you showing at the Venice Biennale this year or by any chance at the Sydney Biennale next year or in London in the near future?
Alice… very touched by what you wrote…. Its writing articles Like this which helps me as artist clarify my narrative in relation to what’s happening in of society. It’s always a joy when something resonates:). I am actually at the VB next week but not showing… working with one of the curators as we are hopefully doing something in China later in the year. But if you email me directly I can put you on my list of events so hopefully at some point you can see the work in the flesh and we can say hello:). J
Great! I enjoyed reading about your thoughts and musings. Thanks for sharing