In the KeckCAVES visualization facility at UC Davis, one can walk into a snowflake or fly over a landslide. Images from around space and time flicker into existence as researchers interact with their data in three dimensions. Among the sights to be seen are ancient microbes, chaotic attractors, and the surface of Mars; and, now, the beginnings of a vortex of dreams, a virtual installation built from the inner lives of researchers studying the outer world. “Take Me To Your Dream (Dream Vortex),” a virtual installation in-progress by artist/writer Meredith Tromble, geobiologist Dawn Sumner, and willing CAVES researchers, is intended as a creative stimulus for anyone at work in the CAVES. And it is the springboard for a discussion of imaging and collaboration in art and science, including Sumner’s experiences on the Curiosity Mars mission.
Meredith Tromble is an associate professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies of the San Francisco Art Institute with a practice that intermingles drawing, writing, and performance. Her areas of interest include creative process and interdisciplinary research. She is currently writing “Art & Shadows,” a blog on contemporary art in light of contemporary science, funded by the Art Writers Grant Program of the Andy Warhol Foundation, and creating a new series of “Madame Entropy” lecture/performances.
Dawn Sumner is a geobiology professor at the University of California, Davis. In her research, she focuses on interpreting processes from patterns, mostly patterns in rocks, to understand interactions among life and environments. She has recently expanded beyond ancient Earth to explore living microbial communities in Antarctic lakes and help lead science operations for the NASA Mars rover, Curiosity. Adventures of all sorts feed her personal curiosity.