Courtesy of Monique Atherton
The cold steel and subterranean setting of scientific spaces are enough to make even the most seasoned photographer shudder. The Center for Collaborative Arts and Media seeks to showcase these spaces through a new lens.
This month, the CCAM released the first volume of its new arts journal “Maquette.” The journal is designed to exhibit interdisciplinary art and artists who integrate science and technology into their work. One of its featured articles is a photo essay by Monique Atherton ART ’16, titled “Yale’s Wright Laboratory.”
“The most important thing for me [about Maquette] was to create a space where all the ideas and projects that come through CCAM could live for an audience outside of CCAM as well,” Alex Zafiris, editor of Maquette and CCAM writer in residence, said. “New media by nature needs a lot of discussion and sensitivity around it.”
Zafiris stressed “Maquette’s” aim of promoting conversation among technology, science and art. “The journal really is a way to ground the need for dialogue while expanding upon it,” she said.
Dana Karwas, director of the CCAM, referred to this dialogue as “cross-disciplinary intelligence.”
Both Zafiris and Karwas saw artistic opportunity in Yale’s Wright Laboratory for the first edition of “Maquette.”
Karwas noted the laboratory’s “incredible” history and complicated space. The two sought an artist who could understand and interpret the space’s nuances.
“[The scientists] are all working on things they don’t even know exist,” Zafiris said. “We need a photographer who’s particularly sensitive to showing the magical properties of a thing.”
Karwas said Atherton is particularly qualified to capture such a complex artistic idea.
“My work deals a lot with my relationship to space and the people within the space, so it was a perfect collaboration,” Atherton said. “Dana told me about the lab first and then told me about the amazing machines that they have, and my face lit up. These machines sound incredible. Neutrinos — what?”
Atherton spent an entire day in Wright Laboratory, but she only had 30 minutes in each room. Yet time constraints were not the only challenge she faced.
“One of the hard parts was bringing the machines to life in the photograph,” Atherton said. “When you see them in person you can kind of hear them humming. When you photograph a still machine, it comes out still.”
To liven her subjects, Atherton pulled from a bag of photography tricks. She recalled using slower shutter speeds to create a blurring effect, indicating motion. She also photographed objects through a prism to yield a warm glow over the cold machinery.
“I brought in all these elements to try and recreate the energy I felt,” Atherton said.
Although Atherton was not familiar with the science or the instruments involved, she approached the photo essay with enthusiasm, said Victoria Misenti, the Wright Laboratory program director. In the process, Atherton “almost fell in love with the things she was seeing,” Misenti added.
The current edition of “Maquette” features other works exploring the intersection of technology and art, including films and essays. Zafiris sees “Maquette” “as continuously evolving. It’s an archive in motion.”
The Center for Collaborative Arts and Media is located at 149 York St.