Water Research

Water Light

Perhaps it all started in August 2015, when walking through the countryside near my father’s house in France I noticed a nearby river flowing under tree cover. I saw how light coming through the trees projected branches on and through the water. And I photographed what looked like a tree caught in a moving river, hung up on rocks and rippling.

Painting: Network 12

Over the next year I slowly developed this visual exploration, as it echoed the work I had then been doing on networks – the ripples and refracted light mirroring branches, rippling as a wave rolls in and washes out, sky becoming water.

Network 12v2 / Water 1
But this formal interest in water is not what prompted me to apply to a 2016 interdisciplinary National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) conference on the Deep Blue Sea. I was actually afraid of the ocean, and the idea of deep ocean exploration seemed to have little to do with the small river behind my father’s house or the paintings I was making.
What drew me was the promise of interdisciplinarity.

Starting with my involvement with scientists at the Broad Institute in 2003, I have been exploring the echoes of science and art, and have become deeply involved in research at the intersection of disciplines. And so, I applied to the conference because of its unusual format; a science conference which took interdisciplinarity as its premise.

Does the ocean have memories?

This is the question I arrived at nearly two years after photographing the river near my father’s house, while at the NAKFI conference on the “frontiers of deep ocean science.” This question was then developed by a group of us over 3 day long conversation about the limits of human perception, microbiomic processes, environmental events, oceanic systems, and the structure of memory. By the end of the conference, our group had outlined a framework for a series of interdisciplinary research, science, and art projects to probe the logic of oceanic memory.

The ocean memory project, which may well be the focus of my work for the next several years, involves (among other things): oceanography, music, epigenetics, cartography, microbiology, theater, anthropomorphic inquiry, visual design, and experimental forms of data collection. And of course, painting.