Interdisciplinary Anatomy Course

Students in library
Students visit the rare books collection at Penn State to see Renaissance anatomy texts.

For the past year, I’ve been teaching a new course at the Pennsylvania State University called The Visual Body. The course is co-taught by Dr. Nicole Squyres, and takes a holistic approach to exploring the field of scientific illustration. Students look at anatomical illustrations from the twin perspectives of art and medicine, using the field as a lens to study the histories of science, technology, and publishing. Alongside the history of the field, the course includes lab exercises with cadavers and design workshops that span traditional media to digital platforms. In an effort to put these skills to use, and step into the role of artists and authors themselves, students spend the final weeks of the course making zines and alternative publications about human anatomy.

The course is open to students from a variety of disciplines, and has proven to a be a novel mix of technical knowledge and freewheeling discussion. As in some of my own projects, I get to work in creative and analytical modes, and help students discover the possibilities of stepping outside traditional academic boundaries.

Here are a few of my favorite images from the vaults of anatomical illustration:

Charlies Estienne, 16th cen, Italian
Charlies Estienne, 16th cen, Italian
Guido da Vigevano, 14th cen, Italian
John Arderne, 1430, British
Frederick Ruysch, 17th cen, Dutch
Frederick Ruysch, 17th cen, Dutch

Recent Writing

I’m continuing to write weekly blog posts for my virtual residency with SciArt Center, along with collaborator Paz Tornero. We’ve been sharing research about water pollution, creative activism, and data visualization; it’s a mix of important topics, so go check it out.

Along with that I wrote an article about the ongoing public discourse around “post-truth”—given my own practice of inventing narratives and mixing fact and fiction, I felt compelled to weigh in. There have been so many op-eds struggling to make sense of U.S politics recently, that I had plenty of information to go on when I began comparing Trump’s gaslighting to Fictive Art. The article was originally published on Medium but has since appeared on Bmore Art.

“Under the Scope” at Goucher College

Art by Benjamin Andrew in an exhibition at Goucher College

I’m excited to be participating in another art-science project (still can’t quite bring myself to use the word “sciart” in passing) at Goucher College. Under the Scope is a group exhibition featuring seven artists from the mid-Atlantic whose work engages science – both as subject and process. I’m showing three different projects form the past four years, including Sounds of Discovery, Chronoecology Corps, and the recently concluded Foggy Bottom Microobservatory.

Alongside objects and installations from those projects, the show features two of my short films, including a newly re-edited special edition of Chronoecology Field Report 2013064. 

The reception on Thursday Oct. 27 will also include a hands-on workshop inspired by the Microobservatory and focusing on wild fermentation. Since this workshope will be indoors, this one will also feature a microscope for examining yeast and bacteria under the scope (sorry).

Visit Goucher’s website for more information. 

SciArt Virtual Residency

Benjamin Andrew and Paz Tornero Sciart collaborators

I’m excited to be participating in a “virtual residency” hosted by the SciArt Center called The Bridge. The program pairs together artists, scientists, and hybrid practitioners to collaborate on new projects across geographic barriers. I’m partnered with biologist/artist Paz Tornero curently working in Spain. We’ll be blogging regularly over at SciArt, so check back there for updates to see what happens.

Paz and myself share an interest in microbiology, ecosystems, and environmental activism, though she’s worked in actual laboratories at universities around the world (compared to my studio-kitchen experiments).

Micro-Ecosystem Workshops

Benjamin Andrew - Foggy Bottom Microobservatory Workshop

As part of the Foggy Bottom Microobservatory in Washington D.C. I recently led a workshop about natural fermentation and wild microorganisms. After meeting at the Microobservatory itself, we discussed the near universal presence of wild yeasts and microbes and their legacy within a given environment. Yeasts replicate identical copies of each other, leading us to wonder if wild yeasts from Foggy Bottom’s historical breweries could still be present in the area. By cultivating wild microbes for foods and drink, we can literally ingest a living environment and transform our own micro-ecosystems.

Participants in the workshops learned about my project of cultivating wild yeasts for homebrewing beer, and made naturally carbonated sodas and sourdough starters that they took home at the end of the day. We also used sanitized cotton swabs to sample local plant life in hops of discovering wild yeast for brewing.

A second workshop will be offered on Saturday September 17 from 12:30-1:30pm.

Click here for more info on all Turf and Terrain events. 


Foggy Bottom Microobservatory

Foggy Bottom Microobservatory

I’m well into an ongoing project that is part of the 2016 Foggy Bottom Sculpture BiennialTurf and Terrain (curated by Danielle O’Steen). The Foggy Bottom Microobservatory is an effort to explore natural fermentation and wild microorganisms through the lens of a working observatory. A physcial structure is located at 915 26th Street NW, Washington D.C. and shows the ongoing work of a team of tiny researchers—or “micronauts”—as they study the tiny beasts responsible for fermented beers, sodas, and more.

Micronaut adventuring in a world of wild yeast

These microbes actually can be collected from a given environment and observed through a microscope. Over the next several months I’ll be culturing and isolating specific strains of yeasts and bacteria for use in homebewing and other DIY fermentation experiments. Inspired by the United States Naval Observatory (once supervised by Matthew Fontaine Maury!), which sent out a telegraph each day to mark the national time, the Microobservatory will be posting updates on experiments and adventures each day at 12pm EST. Follow @microobservatory on Instagram or visit the website to subscribe to a weekly email or just view the Broadcasts online. Also see a short feature on the project in A Creative DC.



Art + Science at JHU

Last year I took my first step into the world of curating, and while it was a sort of rag tag experiment of a show it did highlight a number of issues I’ve explored in my own work. I’m organizing a second iteration of Research Remix this year, and so wanted to mention it here.

The program is organized by the Digital Media Center at Johns Hopkins University and is designed to foster collaborations between JHU researchers and local artists and designers. As with last year project, participating researchers will submit summaries of their work and artists will choose a project to remix or interpret into a work of their own. This year we have substantial funding through an Arts Innovation Grant from JHU and are hoping to create even more collaborative art/science projects. Artists, designers, and researchers can sign up at the project website. See the video below for excerpts from last year’s program.

Zero Tide Release

Zero Tide interactive webiste

You can now read (watch?) my new digital comic online on a super special website. The comic will be displayed in an outdoor sculptural installation in Station North’s Ynot Lot from April 23-25, 8-10pm as part of Nature in the Dark. As part of the launch tonight, I’ll be speaking on a panel with the other artists and a slew of climatologists from Johns Hopkins and some folks from the Ocean Research Project. Including Matt Rutherford, who apparently holds several records for sailing around landmasses in small boats.

Learn more about Zero Tide or read the digital comic here. The website is a juggernaut of video and animation, so be prepared. And use Chrome for best results.