Symposium Exhibition: The Woven Cosmos

Non-Fiction Gallery, 1522 Bull St.

The Woven Cosmos: Visualizing the Invisible through Textile, Modern Science, and Ancient Worldviews

Curated by Isaac Facio and Elizabeth Pope

Exhibiting Artists: Helen Yuanyuan Cao, Benedikt Diemer, Isaac Facio, Heather MacKenzie, David Martinez-Moreno, Elizabeth Pope

Charting and mapping are ancient human impulses—methods used by cultures throughout world’s history to gain understanding of their place in the cosmos and exercising authority over their local environment. Cartographers have mapped our planet’s continents and oceans, while charts of celestial bodies reveal deep-seeded structural patterns that reflect the diverse scientific, cosmological, and cultural worldviews.

By charting Dark Matter that fills our vast universe, modern science is working to visualize the invisible within our cosmic landscape. In the collaboration between artist Isaac Facio and astrophysicist Benedikt Diemer this data takes the form of a complex textile web, rendering the unseen, seen, and the immaterial, material. Visualizing the unseen forces and matter of the cosmos has precedence in the cosmographies of the ancient world and traditional Americas—by providing a cross-cultural perspective, art historian, Elizabeth Pope, will lead the deep philosophical and religious impact such approach can have to explain the deeper realities to the larger community. Artist Heather Mackenzie will link multi-layered weaving with the structure of human society and civilization in cloth that depicts Platonic and Euclidean geometry—the foundation to contemporary mathematics and physics. Artist David Martinez-Moreno will reveal the allegorical understanding of creation through a modern interpretation of nature in a Mesoamerican model of the cosmos in an installation of jacquard-woven cloth intermingled with the altered root system of a Ceiba tree.

The innovative approach taken here shows how breaking the traditional boundaries of art and science, modern thought and traditional worldviews can be a fertile environment that can reveal the deeper significance of contemporary cosmic inquiry.

With an interest in pre-Columbian art, architecture, and ritual performance—specializing in the ancient Maya—Elizabeth Pope has worked in the Department of African Art and Indian Art of the Americas at the Art Institute of Chicago since 2005. Previous curatorial appointments included the Dallas Museum of Art and Yale University Art Gallery. She earned a BA in Cross-Cultural Studies from Colgate University, a MA in Archaeological Studies from Yale University, and a PhD in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin; she has conducted fieldwork throughout Central America and in North America.

Isaac Facio specializes in textile technology with a research emphasis in 3D woven structures and the development of new mechanisms that challenge the formation of conventional fabric into solid cloth forms. He is co-founder and leads the Textile Technology Research Group and received a Master of Science in Textiles Technology and Engineering from the University of Manchester, UK. He is an MFA candidate in Fiber and Material Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is part of the textile conservation staff at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Textiles.

Benedikt Diemer specializes in computational astrophysics, meaning that he runs and analyzes large computer simulations. His main research interest is Structure Formation, the gravitational collapse of matter in the universe into the structures we observe or infer today, such as galaxies and dark matter halos. Additionally, he works on cosmic explosions called Type Ia Supernovae. He received a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Chicago and a Master of Physics from the University of Manchester, UK. He is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC), a subdivision of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CofA) at Harvard University.

Heather MacKenzie is an artist, writer, and educator currently living in Richmond, Virginia, as the Fountainhead Fellow in Craft and Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Heather looks to the textile as a foundational piece of human technology. In two- and three-dimensional work, as well as performance, she examines other, equally foundational systems that span the material world and the abstract one: platonic mathematics, Euclidean geometry, and standardized measurement. For the academic year of 2014-15, Heather was a Fulbright Fellow in Paris, France and studied traditional textiles in Ecuador, Ghana, India, Zimbabwe, and Europe.

David Martinez-Moreno is an art historian, bonsai professional and biohacker. His expertise combines the traditional craft of Japanese bonsai and molecular biology with interests in the design of living organisms as cultural objects. He developed a project to insert mitochondrial DNA from human subjects into bonsai trees and is now working on developing Somatic Embryogenesis in woody plants to create artificial biodiversity. David is now a Low Residency MFA candidate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a Textile Technology Research Group associate and currently lives in Belgium.

Helen Yuanyuan Cao has a career in the life sciences sector. She has contributed to the development of businesses that create kits that facilitate molecular biology experiments for industry, basic research and community biohacking labs. Helen mentors several biotechnology accelerator programs which help young biotech companies in design product prototyping and propel their growth. She is a short story writer and has an experimental theater background. She is now exploring the juxtaposition between culture through sociological research and experimental theater. Helen holds an M.A. in Neurobiology from Washington University in St. Louis.

All exhibitions have been organized in partnership with Art Rise Savannah

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