Rebecca Rutstein and the Ocean Memory Project
March 15, 2023 - September 15, 2023
NAS Building, 2101 Constitution Ave., N.W., Upstairs Gallery
Free. Photo ID required. Masks are optional.
Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays; closed weekends and holidays. No reservations required.
This immersive video installation is inspired by the intricate workings of microbial networks in the deep sea and beyond. From abstract imagery to stunning undersea video footage and computer modeling, it offers a glimpse into the interconnections and resilience of our planet’s smallest yet most vital living systems. Blue Dreams flows between micro and macro worlds to portray geologic processes at play with microbial and planetary webs of interactivity. Microbes are essential to the functioning of the Earth: they produce the air we breathe, regulate biogeochemical cycles, and are the origins of life on our planet.
Created by multidisciplinary artist Rebecca Rutstein in collaboration with a team of scientists, Blue Dreams is a testament to the profound impact that microbial networks have on a global scale. This installation offers a unique and thought-provoking perspective on the interconnectedness and sublimeness of the natural world.
Blue Dreams was created by artist Rutstein in collaboration with Rika Anderson, Samantha (Mandy) Joye, Shayn Peirce-Cottler and Tom Skalak through a grant from the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) Ocean Memory Project. The Ocean Memory Project is a transdisciplinary group who believe that the ocean and its inhabitants are an interconnected system with agency and memory, where environmental changes are recorded through genetic and epigenetic processes within organisms and through dynamic processes within the ocean structure itself.
Blue Dreams evolved through a year-long collaboration between its five contributors. Anderson, an environmental microbiologist at Carleton College, advised on marine microbial adaptation and resilience, microbial gene sharing networks, and the implications for exoplanet science and astrobiology. Joye, a marine biogeochemist at University of Georgia and explorer of diverse deep-sea environments, provided insight into the biogeochemistry of vent and seep systems, and the interplay of microbial networks with large-scale ecological processes. Skalak, a bioengineer, provided conceptual vision and insight into methods for abstracting the data into system models, including agent-based simulations that could provoke visualization of swarm and collective behaviors. Peirce-Cottler, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia, created agent-based models of deep-sea microbial growth patterns generated from color patterns of original Rutstein paintings on the same subject. And multi-disciplinary artist Rutstein researched, synthesized, abstracted, and layered imagery, animation, video, and sound to create Blue Dreams.
This exhibition is organized by Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences.
Generous support was provided by Schmidt Ocean Institute
Additional support provided by Nancy Rabalais, Jody Deming, and Richard Lenski.