Many people feel that art and science are separate entities of thought, but artist John Ruppert challenges this idea in his exhibition, “LAB: Empirical Evidence.” The purpose of the exhibition is to explore how humans are connected to nature, and Ruppert experiments with a variety of media to answer this complex question.
Ruppert works with an array of natural phenomena, his exhibit including everything from suspended oriental bittersweet vines and looping footage of a volcanic eruption in Hawaii to volcanic sand sculpted by magnetism and speakers that emit sound in time with real-life seismic events.
The exhibit is set up in such a way as to immerse the viewer into the man-made natural world, forcing the viewer to acknowledge aspects of nature taken for granted or forgotten in everyday life. Sculptures cover the space and videos of natural phenomena project on the wall while speakers play nature recordings, allowing the viewer to experience the piece through multiple senses.
Ruppert’s installation, “Bittersweet Vines,” exemplifies how humans and nature are connected. In the main part of the gallery, vines tangle and knot, climbing up from the floor to the ceiling and then spanning across the space. Behind the vines, a video of ice collapsing is projected onto the wall. The vines in front of the projection create shadows that simulate real-life vines in the foreground of the video.
According to the description of the piece, the oriental bittersweet vine is not native to the United States but is a parasitic plant that grows in areas where nature meets the man-made environment. In the exhibit, the vines span across the room, giving the appearance that they are consuming the space. The oriental bittersweet vine is an example of how humans have affected nature and are thus in turn being affected by nature.
Humans introduced the vine into the North American ecosystem, thus altering the local habitat. The oriental bittersweet vine is consuming native species and slowly taking over the landscape. By having the vines wrap around the room, the viewer is made aware of the impact of nature on the man-made world.
Humans tend to view the artificial world as being entirely separate from the natural world when, in reality, the two landscapes affect and are affected by one another. Ruppert’s installation, “Bittersweet Vines,” shows how these two worlds collide. The natural world and the man-made world need to stop being viewed as separate but rather as one connected landscape.
Just as important in Ruppert’s exhibition is the link between art and science. “LAB: Empirical Evidence” is a perfect example of how art can be used to communicate important messages to the community. Ruppert’s work causes the viewer to reflect on how humans interact within their environment and how the existence of nature and humans is interconnected.
Nature is not merely a place where people build houses and shopping malls but is also a rich source of natural resources to be respected. Ruppert’s exhibition showcases how humans are only one part of a larger network of life on Earth, all the while having a great impact on their surroundings.