Hannah Irlan observing the exhibit. Photo by Katy Barnes
Science can be a difficult thing to talk about. Many don’t understand it, and many more are scared of it. This is what artists Wendy DesChene and Jeff Schmuki call Science Friction. With their clever satire and unique way of looking at science through the lens of art, they’ve found many ways to combat this sense of science friction. One such way is through their creation of the Moth Garden.
The Moth Garden came about as a way to educate the world about the importance and beauty of pollinating species. Species like bees are suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder, which stems from the usage of neonicotinoid poisons within many plants ranging from corporate-owned farms to plants one might find at Home Depot.
The purpose of this poison is to act as insecticide but because of this, pollinators also end up picking it up. This causes the creature’s synapses to become interrupted causing them to die. Most of the time when discussing pollinating species, people mention bees. Moths, however, are just as important and just as endangered.
Moths are second shift pollinators, which means that during the night they continue the pollination process. Much like bees, they’ve been suffering an intense decline due to insecticide. Unlike bees, moths are easier to show off to the public.
DesChene explained that moths aren’t as scary as bees, especially when lit up in the manor of the moth garden. They can’t hurt you, people aren’t allergic to them and they’re just easier to keep in a van. By showing off the beauty of the moths, DesChene says people become less scared of insects as a whole.
“It’s wild to see something that’s thought of this ugly thing have such beautiful designs. There are moths with designs on them like skulls or moons – ugly to society can actually be really beautiful,” said sophomore, costume design major Kayla Twilley.
By showing off the moths via the garden, it also allows the duo to talk about the things that go into our food. Schmuki states that one of their goals is to campaign for transparency concerning what we eat.
“Many people don’t know what they’re eating and there are people who want to keep it that way,” said Schmuki.
Currently, one out of every three bites are bee pollinated, but with the decline of bees and the incline of genetic experiments this is likely to change.
DesChene and Schmuki don’t only focus on inspiring discussion around pollination, they also focus on all types of natural conservation. In addition to their exhibit, they brought a trailer filled with robotic plants called Plantbot Genetics. Schmuki defines it as a “Satirical Biotech Company” – it acts as a play on actual companies who continuously blur the line between natural and not.
When you walk into the trailer, you are immediately surrounded by robotic plants with different functions, most designed to sing and dance at the viewer. This is another attempt to dissuade Science Friction.
“Humor’s a great way to begin discussion,” stated Schmuki. “It gives us traction to start discussing more serious issues.”
By seeing these robots, the artist hopes that it inspires more questions.
The goal of this art exhibit is to get people thinking – thinking about the world they live in and the things they eat. Through the combination of the lab and the garden students can start to think about the two worlds of science and art in less distant terms.
Katy Barnes is a writer for The Alabamian. She is a third year theatre major who enjoys movies, comics, and Montevallo culture. Previously she has written a Lifestyle Column for the Alabamian.