Through a series of profile stories, ScienceNetwork WA takes a look at the people behind the science in Western Australia and what inspires them.
AS A kid mesmerised by art Eleanor Gates-Stuart did not have an inkling where this passion would take her in life.
She had no idea it would send her to the depths of the world’s biggest gold mine in outback WA, to labs in California to understand the ID coding of fingerprints, to Taiwan to work as a professor of ‘techno arts’.
She could never have envisaged that one day she’d lure crowds of hundreds of thousands to watch giant insects projected onto buildings in Canberra, for bringing about the production of perfectly scaled titanimum weevils, for fusing science, art and communication together in a riotous array of artworks, scientific papers and scientific collaborations.
And she probably never envisaged herself in Perth. But Dr Gates-Stuart is now Scitech’s 2016 artist in residence, during which she will offer a mesmerising installation that invites participants to ponder the mineral riches in WA’s Super Pit.
While Dr Gates-Stuart had long harboured a fascination for art, it wasn’t until she was head of Media Arts at Australian National University that she had the idea of merging art and science.
She and the scientists she worked with in the university’s science faculty quickly came to realise that art could play a pivotal role in communicating science to the layman.
Such was the success that she found herself on a whirlwind career, working in the United Kingdom, America, Taiwan and Australia.
Among her many projects was a Science Arts Commission which allowed Dr Gates-Stuart to examine the 100-year history of wheat.
In this project she helped scientists better understand the weevils (Curculionoidea) that were causing such damage to stored grain by bringing about the production of a 3D model of a weevil.
The true to life reproduction meant entomologists could suddenly determine the sex of a weevil—something they’d never before been able to master.
Dr Gates-Stuart had images of giant weevils projected on the building to delight the public—and suddenly art had become the catalyst for both scientific advancement and public enjoyment.
That, accordingly to Dr Gates-Stuart, is what it’s all about.
“You go out, you research, you get all the information but the challenge is to know what to do with it,” she says.
“You are not a reporter—you’re here to allure an audience—you want to get them in and go ‘what’s this?’ and once they’re in you give them the information that backs it up.”
Dr Gates-Stuart is discussing her year-long artist in residence project Under the Surface at Scitech from January 28th to February 4th.