Remix of Memory: Working with Ame and J

March 29, 2010

Note: All photos and materials on these pages are under copyright by A. M. Hoch

“I want the space enveloped by my installations to feel like the center of the atom: a place where our mundane laws of space and time breakdown, where the architecture of matter is replaced by the architecture of the imagination; where the laws and truths of the emotions and the spirit prevail over the material world” – Amy Hoch.

Ok, I am doing something that I am not sure is verboten in blogging – but I am returning to this post. It began as a post about Ame, but now I need to add another person. The first blog was this one

I am returning to this post because I am working with artists and scientists on art/media projects and it’s impacting me…it’s exciting and I see how science and art can play together, freely.

Since 2001 I have been working with a lovely and insightful artist named Ame Hoch.  She was trained as a painter, though over the years she moved into installation and has found a way to make you feel you are inside a painting. My eyes have changed working with Ame. First, she is incredibly humble, while being obstinate and brilliantly opinionated! If I want anyone to tell me the truth, it’s Ame. If I look to anyone to tell the truth in a piece of art – while turning my head inside out – it’s Ame!

Though, she got me thinking about science, biology and it’s place in a piece — no person had ever made me think about this before.

I grew up not equating science with art, nor for that matter, women. Though Ame, and many I now know, have begun to turn to science as a place to look at the beginnings of time: the beginnings of the body. I have always had an interest in the esoteric elements of science (or so they seem) in Quantum Physics (which, hello, I really struggle to understand, but Love the struggle all the same). Where science used to be the place of guys, I now am engaging in science as a part of the narrative, paint, theme for art: where the heart of being a woman (and her voice) has a partner with the scientific data.

And, I am also interacting with scientists who care about media/art. Dr. Wallace J Nichols is one I am lucky to be working with. More about his work anon.

My interaction with those in science interested in art began in the early 2000’s when I was part of a team of people looking to develop a national art and technology network through The Kitchen. The Kitchen is a multidisciplinary cultural center in New York that was bringing together artists, scientists and tech tools to see how there might be collaboration. What I felt back then was that scientists and artists were still split apart by a need to “defend” process, their own, as well as argue over what art is or is not (is engineering pigs with wings in fact art? is putting sensors to a dancers body still his body, or does it belong to the software program?) These arguments were, well, arguments to me. I wanted to see what happened when you mushed those worlds together – but, that was not what people wanted to do.

I see a change. Academy’s of science have art programs. Galleries are comfortable with technology being a part of collection. Visual artist are using more and more science in their work – found objects and natural elements of nature are part of the palate. It’s exciting to me.

Though, I still want the mush, that mash up, the combustion of artists and scientists to play together: to tackle the large, achy topic of the planet.

Like I said, I’m working with a scientist named Wallace J. Nichols (everyone calls him J) who is a world expert on Turtles (picture of him on the right of the turtle) J lives with his lovely family in the woods of what he calls the Slow Coast off Pacific Hwy 1, but spends a great deal of time on the road, traveling the world working with communities to save, salvage, re-organize their habits around fishing, the sea and the turtles he protects. Though, what is startling to me is that he’s a natural media maker. He has the artist in him. And, what’s that? It’s the ability to turn a fact into feeling, and a feeling into visual representation that makes people stop – look – and perhaps change their lens.

On the project we are developing I turn to J a lot, not just for his crazy smart brain, but what I now see as that practical, data driven approach to thinking: it’s not cold, it’s just exact. Though, he’s able to look at the metaphor of a thing: the intangible element of a topic or problem because, as a scientist, it’s his job to understand, not to be right, just to watch, learn and share the observation (which can be totally dangerous – think Darwin et al).

And, it’s this exactness (and observation) that great artists have. And, it’s what makes me so interested in the chance I am now having to work with scientists and artists together: when well matched they have similar passions – What is going on in that picture? What is making it do that? What do I want to learn? What do I need to share with the people? What will my work do to influence this environment (space, canvas, ocean, mammal).

Ame is a great example of this artist who wants to dive into the world a Scientist like J dives into: the actual cells of a life – the impact of how life is formed, and how that metaphor becomes a part of what she wants to make.

As an example, Ame’s been creating enormous images of Mitosis: they feel like cells you want to climb into – sleep in – become a part of. That’s the genius of Ame, she makes you feel you are a part of something as tiny as a cell, and as remote as a lost memory. (These are her twin bed mattresses below)

Note: All photos and materials on these pages are under copyright by A. M. Hoch

So, what of all this?

Here is what I see, and what I believe: the blending of artists and scientists (scientists who can create media, and artists who can internalize both data and abstract concepts of evolution) can be remarkable partners. But, it all comes down, like it always does, down to the project and the people. It’s been talked about in creation/media circles that these kinds of science/artist projects are the future of art – and some have been successful (a lot from MIT). I have seen a lot of this blending through technology and media projects. But, I think that installation is a great place for this collaboration – especially if you want to work with biologists who have a really strong sense of place – site specific work is a total canvas, and it is open to all those who engage in this work. I have no data, no proof that I am right here – but I sense it, like one might sense a painting about to arrive or a pattern in the sea.

A few years ago, Ame and I put a request out to work with scientists on a project ( – back then we thought we were putting it out there with some hope that someone might be interested. Now, I am sure that we can do a project with these new breeds of scientists who are quietly, like secret advocates, bubbling up to take part in creating stories about the earth – or simply art.

I am so excited I think my cells might burst.

8 Responses to “Remix of Memory: Working with Ame and J”

  1. wj nichols Says:

    I’ve felt a few cells burst, myself.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by sarah kornfeld, sarah kornfeld. sarah kornfeld said: Remix of Memory: Working with Ame and J: […]

  3. brand-new Says:

    Your site is top-notch I will have to read it all, thank you for the diversion from my coursework!

  4. Amy Hoch Says:

    I’ve got about 28 things I’d like to say in response to Sarah’s thrilling post, but first, just for the purposes of accuracy (since I too like exactness), I want to say that I don’t define myself as an “Art and Science” or “Art and Technology” type artist — except when forced into such categories by grant applications and the like. (Sometimes my work uses scientific imagery and ideas, sometimes it doesn’t.) Those labels seem to only bolster and rigidify very artificial boundaries in thinking and creative processes. Often when artists and/or exhibitions highlight the “Art and Science and Technology” connection, artists are cast almost as illustrators of scientific theories, or made to find clever ways of demonstrating the dazzling capabilities of some new technology. This misses the profound and meaningful connection that exists between artists’ and scientists’ minds. Dr. Semir Zeki, who has been exploring the mysterious relationship between art, aesthetics and the brain, says that all great artists are instinctive neuroscientists. Artists innately seek out ways to circumvent thought and go right to the nervous system (Francis Bacon talked about this too) — to jumble up our brains and wake us from our usual hypnotized state — that is, rouse our souls and soothe them simultaneously. Breakthroughs in scientific thinking do the same thing, but take a different route.

    As far as women’s participation in art and science, it seems to me that women have long been confined to a virtual internment camp in the history of western civilization. There’s been a very wild party going on for thousands of years (western civilization) during which women have mostly been called upon to play the role of hostess (at best), rather than actual participants. Excluding women from the arts (not to mention every other profession) has been pretty much universal — in the US, it’s only in the last 30 years or so that women have been included in museums or galleries — but in the US, there’s a further complicating factor in that for much of our cultural history, the arts have been considered almost superfluous. Of course, this leads to a kind of mass psychosis since, as Professor Zeki puts it, “Art is not a luxury for the brain, it is a necessity.” The fact that the US media continues to lump together “Arts and Entertainment” — or combines all of them into those very very skinny Arts and Women’s pages — is symptomatic of a grave pathology in our collective consciousness, presenting a weird skewing of what matters on this planet. I’m looking forward to the day when the front-page headlines of a newspaper read something like: “For Yet Another Night, Millions and Millions of Human Beings Lay Down Horizontally for Many Hours and Went Somewhere We Don’t Really Know.” I’d be thrilled to explore that long-standing unsolved mystery with a team of artists and scientists any day…

    There are still about 23 other things I’d love to comment on — Sarah’s posts are delightfully thought-provoking — but I’ll stop here for now.

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  6. Thanks very much! I am glad you found me…please let me know what you think of other posts.

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