Science as Art

Enlarged models of penises anatomically correct in every detail are part of Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s exhibition “It’s Not Size That Matters It Is Shape” at Arc One. The exhibition examines the shapes of the penises and intromitent organs of various species of Harvestmen, those little spiders with the very long legs that are commonly found in a corner of the ceiling. These little spiders have strange shaped penises complete with folds and spikes. In the exhibition there are resin models of these elaborate organs mounted on steel bases in glass tubes, like a giant dildo display for spiders, along with prints of electronmicroscopic scans and digital models. Each of the images and sculptures are carefully labeled with the full Latin name of each species.

In the cellars of the Donkey Wheel House Elizabeth van Herwaarden’s “Sentinel Island Project” is exhibiting dried pressed plant specimens with cyanotype blueprints of each specimen. The specific nature of the project is art but the approach has been borrowed from science. It is a mix of artistic and scientific techniques; a video projected on the opposite wall shows the plant’s rocky habitat. Each specimen has been carefully identified, labeled, pressed, dried and mounted.

At fortyfive downstairs Megan Evans “To bee” is about bees and honey; long glass flasks like huge drips are filled, each displaying a different type of honey from a different part of Australia. The different colors of the honey from orange blossoms in Millawa, Redgums in Taggerty or Mango from Kuranda Nth Queensland can clearly be seen. Accompanying this display there are also photographs of bees mounted in clear acrylic with a similar texture to the flasks of honey.

Considering three exhibitions in Melbourne that show scientific techniques I think that contemporary art is replacing the old exhibitions of natural history museums. The variations in the moths or stick insects are replaced by variations in the artist’s series. Currently museum displays are for children, or adults who aspire to be children; the reverse is true in the contemporary art gallery. The scientific methodology of close examination, of recording and understanding the variety is not exclusive to scientists; it is also an important feature of art.


About Mark Holsworth

Writer and artist Mark Holsworth is the author of two books, The Picasso Ransom and Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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