Art, Science and Nature’s Day-to-Day Miracles
The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.1
In the exhibition Granite Belt Wildflowers: Out of Oblivion, Renata Buziak restores our appreciation for wildflowers of the forest floor. Fascinated by these native plants, the artist shares with us her research at The Piano Mill – a remote property in the Granite Belt. Fusing art and science, she acknowledges the scattered – and often hidden – tiny blossoming plants that are there for the seeing if one truly looks, transforming them into large-scale portraits of life’s vast cycles of death and renewal. Granite Belt Wildflowers: Out of Oblivion is part of the artist’s overarching series entitled Flickering Overtones, in which she makes a synesthetic connection between colour, sound, and the ephemeral experience of a bush walk. This exhibition brings plants like Twining glycine and Yellow buttons into the public eye, to cultivate curiosity in what we might otherwise take for granted.
For Buziak, nature provides the nexus where art meets science to interpret our world. While science privileges empirical observation, art embraces subjectivity and affect. Both disciplines offer the community access to new knowledge – to create sustainable futures. As cultural theorist Bruno Latour suggests, “the entanglement of the human and the nonhuman,” studied through art and science awakens us to today’s environmental challenges.2
In Buziak’s method, which she developed and named the biochrome, objective science feeds imagination and art translates plant and microbial specimens into visual poetry. During the biochrome process, physical and aesthetic relationships amongst species mirror survival’s dependence on decay and renewal. Thus she crosses the boundaries of art and science and shifts our perception of humanity’s place within the natural world. In her work, she is able to bring out the beauty of the very normal microbial processes happening in our guts and on our skin, as well as in the earth’s soil, waterways and atmosphere. Seamlessly immersed in an ecology surrounding, interpenetrating and supporting us, we breathe air; we eat plants and animals; we drink water; we live.
Granite Belt Wildflowers: Out of Oblivion also includes large biochrome prints on fabric, like Ponds at the Far Pavilions (2017) or Picnic at the Rock Ponds (2018). Created to accompany public performances amidst the towering trees of The Piano Mill grounds, these tall silky textiles catch and move with every breeze, materially incorporating the air and wind.
The artist’s ongoing experimentation with media communicates new ways of understanding interconnectedness. Filmed over a period of several weeks, the time-lapse video Flickering Overtones Continuum (2016 – 2019) depicts the haunting, gradual deterioration of plucked blossoms and leaves. Beauty’s slow decomposition is wondrous and strangely comforting: as vigourous colour gives way to microbial browns and reds, the passage from vibrancy to decay resolves to near total disintegration.
But then the video loop begins again, and we’re amazed to feel how easily we’d forgotten the flowers’ original vitality. This is primal stuff – listening to the familiar, cyclical voice of plants to reclaim our proper place within unfolding life processes – viewing the poetic rebirth of flora; speculating that humankind can redress imbalances through acknowledgement of interdependence with humans nonhumans alike.
Carol Schwarzman is an independent arts writer and visual artist. She is currently a PhD candidate in the School of Communication and Arts at The University of Queensland where her research focuses on art-science collaborations with nonhumans.