LOOKING AT WATER: Conversations with artists and scientists
Observational Practices Lab @ Parsons
The New School University, New York City

The online publication and documentation of this ongoing research project can be found here:

A series of three online panel discussions with artists and scientists about what they see when they look at a glass of water.

It is well documented that we are living in a critical moment of climate crisis–the Anthropocene is often portrayed through images of catastrophic wildfires, ice shelves breaking into the sea, drought-stricken landscapes. But how is global warming embedded in everyday objects and transmitted through habits of perception? How can observational research from across the visual arts and sciences engender new insights into the climate crisis?

Initiated by the Observational Practices Lab, “Looking at Water” begins with a commonly overlooked object–a glass of water–and explores how artists and scientists use the tools and methods of their practice to observe it and document the results.

Panel #1, October 1st, 10-11am EST
Matthew Brandt (Photographer)
fields harrington (Artist)
Elizabeth Hénaff (Computational Biologist)
Sherri Mason (Chemist)

Panel #2, October 22nd, 10-11am EST
Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong (Visual Artist)
Brianna Rita Pagán (Space Ecohydrologist)
Mark Stoeckle (Environmental Geneticist)

Panel #3, November 5th, 10-11am EST
Zoom Link
Derya Akkaynak (Oceanographer)
Alexander Robinson (Landscape Architect)
Batia Suter (Visual Artist)

Derya Akkaynak

Derya Akkaynak is a Turkish engineer and oceanographer whose research focuses on imaging and vision underwater. She has professional, technical, and scientific diving certifications and conducted fieldwork from the Bering Sea to Antarctica. Akkaynak was a finalist for the 2019 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists for resolving a fundamental problem in underwater computer vision—the reconstruction of lost colors and contrast which led to the development of the Sea-thru algorithm. She is starting her research lab in Eilat, Israel.
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Matthew Brandt

Calling his approach “a little bit messy and experimental,” Matthew Brandt produces large-scale photographs through labor-intensive processes recalling the 19th-century origins of photography, often incorporating the physical matter of the subject itself. Attuned to the history of his medium — and its resolute physicality — and inspired by classical American landscape photographs, Brandt traverses the West, photographing and collecting material samples from nature and cities. The reciprocal relationships that Brandt creates between his subjects and the materials used to represent them are always conceptually grounded, often in response to social and environmental issues. He is deeply inquisitive, even fearless, in his exploration of subjects, materials, and processes, reinvigorating the medium of photography with a sense of wonder. (Portrait courtesy of Graham Walzer)
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fields harrington

fields harrington (b. 1986 Brooklyn, NY) is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice revisits the history of Western empiricism and scientific paradigms, addressing legacies of colonialism as well as the enmeshment of science, racism, and ideology. By appropriating scientific processes and subverting their grammar, he strives to sublimate the subjective experience of racial violence through a material language of form. The interweaving of vernacular and scientific idioms in his work proposes the formation of a relational knowledge that recodes the universal language of science through the poetics of everyday life.
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Elizabeth Hénaff
Computational Biologist

Dr. Elizabeth Hénaff is a computational biologist with an art practice.
At the center of her work is a fascination with the way living beings interact with their environment. This inquiry has produced a body of work that ranges from scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, to collaborations with architects, to working as an artist nationally and internationally. She has made contributions to understanding how plants respond to the force of gravity, how genome structure changes in response to stress, and most recently has turned her attention to the ubiquitous and invisible microbial component of our environment. Her art work has been shown at the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Storefront for Art and Architecture in NYC, the Detroit Science Gallery and the Okayama Art Summit in Japan.
She currently holds an Assistant Professor position at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in New York City, where she teaches courses in biodesign and directs the Laboratory for Living Interfaces.
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Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong
Visual Artist

Sze Tsung Nicolás LEONG is a British-Mexican-American artist, born in Mexico City, and currently based in Los Angeles. His visual practice focuses on how we see, understand, and belong to the world: whether it is by assembling together a new landscape that questions how we divide near and far, foreign and familiar, as in his series Horizons; by revealing how a society can be reshaped through the erasure of its built history, as in his series History Images; or by surveying the newly unfamiliar terrains of a political map discolored by isolationism and nationalism, as in his series Atlas.
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Sherri A. Mason, Ph. D.
Chemistry/ Freshwater Plastic Pollution

Dr. Sherri A. Mason (aka “Sam”) earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. She completed her doctorate in Chemistry at the University of Montana as a NASA Earth System Science scholar. Her research group is among the first to study the prevalence and impact of plastic pollution within freshwater ecosystems. While she continues her research endeavors, she has also recently moved into a new role as Sustainability Coordinator at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.
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Brianna Rita Pagán
Space Ecohydrology

Brianna is first and foremost an environmentalist with a passion for making science accessible and understandable to the masses. Over the past 10 years, she has worked on local and international environmental efforts in four different countries. Her research and expertise are in satellite-based remote sensing, eco-hydrology and climate with specific focuses on drought and climate change scenario planning. She is currently the Director of Remote Sensing at SpaceSense.ai, working to further democratize space intelligence for environmental purposes.
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Alex Robinson
Landscape Architecture

Alex Robinson is a landscape architect, researcher, and scholar. His work seeks to reinvent our most consequential anthropogenic landscapes through collective authorship, multidisciplinary tools, and community engagement. As an Associate Professor in the University of Southern California’s Landscape Architecture + Urbanism program, he researches how civic infrastructure can function as landscape, exploring methods to re-envision ecological function and community value.
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Mark Stoeckle
Environmental genomics

Mark Stoeckle is Senior Research Associate in the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University. Dr. Stoeckle’s research applies information from DNA to better understand the natural world. He helped organize the early meetings that laid the foundation for DNA barcoding, a standardized method for identifying species from DNA. His current work is developing methods for analyzing DNA in seawater, called environmental DNA or eDNA, to help count fish and other ocean life.
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Batia Suter
Photography / Art / Image research

The Swiss-born, Amsterdam-based artist Batia Suter (b. 1967) studied at the art academies of Zürich (CH) and Arnhem (NL), and was also trained at the Werkplaats Typografie. Suter produces monumental installations of digitally manipulated images for specific locations, and works on photo-animations, image sequences and collages, often using found historical pictures. In 2007 and 2016 she published Parallel Encyclopedia and Parallel Encyclopedia #2, artist books based on compositions of images taken from old books she has collected along the years. Her other books Surface Series, Radial Grammar and Hexamiles (Mont-Voisin) are evocative montages of found images exploring the diverse resonances of geological shapes and landscapes, visual surfaces and image structures.
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Spreads Parallel Encyclopedia #2 / Published by Roma Publication Amsterdam / 2016

Spreads Parallel Encyclopedia #2 / Published by Roma Publication Amsterdam / 2016

This project is partially funded by The New School University Fellows program that supports teaching, research, and creative practice that crosses the boundaries of disciplines, colleges, and conventional pedagogies or approaches.
Visual by Patrick Macdonald.