Pipettes & Paintbrushes | Spring 2018

How do you represent growth? (unfinished)

How do you represent growth? (unfinished)

Henry Moores Francis, Architecture
Metal and thread

This piece experiments with two main concepts that are not separate from one another: 1. how can translating raw data (in this case, the growth of river herring) into three-dimensional form yield unexpected and new realizations in the research, and 2. how can sculpture help represent the drastic changes of growth and its varying factors in better ways than conventional data graphics and charts. The piece shown is one of an unfinished, four-part set that is an experiment in the physical translation of the data of my collaborator, Lian Guo. Most properties such as measurements, proportions, shape, and color within the piece are pulled directly from her data. Working in this way is not an act of designing but rather realizing a physical shape that exists within the data and its inherent relationships; the artist then takes the role of a translator following a set of rules rather than an abstractionist.

Tank 21C4X. Lian’s research included creating separate tanks with four different environments based on two factors: water temperature and amount of food. The circular base represents the water temperature and the vertical piece is the amount of food. As a set, the four sculptures would represent each tank condition and would be color coded to differ each factor. The measurements of the individual pieces are based off the growth in mg/day of the fish within the tank. The strings represent the growth of the fish within this environment, connecting the two main factors showing their relationship that either facilitated or inhibited growth. This tank fostered the most growth out of the four.

Partner: Lian Guo, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

As once plentiful forage fish species, alewife and blueback herring (collectively river herring) hold great ecological, economical, and cultural significance throughout the eastern coast of the United States. In the last century, the implementation of dams and overfishing drove population crashes in both species, such that river herring harvests are only allowed in two states along the US eastern seaboard. More recently, river herring populations have been observed to be contracting northward, potentially as a result of a warming climate. My research aims to understand how water temperature and food availability affects physiology (e.g. bioenergetics) and fitness-based performances (e.g. growth, swimming ability) during juvenile life stages of river herring. If higher water temperatures negatively affect the ability of juvenile river herring to grow or swim, it could lead to lowered recruitment to adult river herring populations. This research will help fill basic knowledge gaps in river herring biology, as well as examine whether temperature is a limiting factor for southern river herring populations.