The intersection of science and art via “Revival Field”

In my history of art class this week we talked about global artistic responses to climate change. From photography to mixed material paintings, we saw the range of experiences that can arise from a single issue. We also noticed how one macro issue can be broken down in infinite micro issues that are specific to geographic locations, communities within larger populations, unique natural resources, and more.

My interest peaked when we entered a conversation about Mel Chin’s “Revival Field.” Considered to be an outdoor installation, “Revival Field” is an artistic work that directly engages the environment. At face value, it appears to be a garden with interesting geometry built into the fencing, though it has a much deeper function. Placed near a notoriously hazardous landfill in Minnesota, the plant species within the garden were curated to extract heavy metals from the contaminated soil. This continuing project that began in 1991 exists in partnership with a senior research agronomist to find on-site, ecologically sound, and low-tech means for detoxification. In addition to sculpting the natural elements of the area, “Revival Field” involves real effort towards the natural area’s rehabilitation.

Is “Revival Field” art? A science experiment? Or both?

As a dual-degree student in the arts and sciences, I was floored to bring this part of my identity to the table as a talking point because the fight to legitimize the connection to my areas of study is one I am constantly in.

The arts and sciences share common ground as they’re similarly truthful, subjective, and educational. I agree that science has strong associations to “truth,” but transcendent art has its own form of fundamental truth having to do more with the human condition instead of biochemical mechanisms. Data may be considered finite, but the interpretation of data is almost always subjective. Framing is done around a hypothesis (and publication bureaucracy) just as art is quite literally framed. Lastly, art and science exist to teach. They explain phenomena, theories, and feelings in distinctive ways that people resonate with.

My answer to the classification of “Revival Field” is that it is both. It is both science and art. The coexistence of the academic and artistic is what makes this project’s initiative so unique, and I believe there needs to be more of it in the world so people can stop thinking of the two disciplines as mutually exclusive.


Below is a short video from the artist and scientist about “Revival Field.”

Considering anemones


This Laurence Wieder poem was just published in the most recent edition of The Paris Review. Upon first read, my mind immediately connected the mention of “anemone” in the title to unlikely predatory invertebrates of the sea. As I sat with the words for longer, context clues describing decaying springtime made my ideas of marine life recede. This realization prompted my research into finding a form of anemone that exists on dry land. I found a flower.


Etymologically, “anemo” refers to wind and the suffix “-one” means daughter; taken together, the anemone flower translates to “the wind’s daughter.” Legend has it that when the gods took Adonis for their own, Aphrodite’s tears over his grave produced Anemone flowers.  In ancient Greece, this wildflower came to represent two things—although dichotomous, they both both signify major change.

  1. The arrival of warm winds foreshadowing the beginning stages of spring.
  2. The painful loss of a loved one.


In “These Anemones, Their Song Is Made Up as They Float Along,” Wieder speaks directly to the pain and impact of death’s finality on the living by using spring and anemone flowers as allegorical framing. In June of 1954, nearly all elements of nature decided to turn their backs on the circadian clock of Mother Nature. Stolen sunlight, repressed blooms, silenced birds, and heavy grass do the work of creating lifelessness in this new version of the world. The final turn of the screw is that there is no form of hibernation available in this new place. Whoever left living is doomed to be awake, witnessing every moment and passing feeling, unable to avoid circling the drain.


When I get to the bottom of historical nuances like these woven into poems, I am suddenly struck with a whole new understanding underneath the surface of the words. All it takes is a little extra digging into questions that may seem trivial…nearly everything about artistic choice is intentional, so I implore taking action on impulses to find out more about what makes those choices multidimensional.

Proverbial Support

This finals season is most definitely a bag of bricks to the face. When your inner circle is slammed with assignments of their own and your family might not necessarily understand the heftiness of the “Michigan difference,” where do you turn for support? I tried proverbs.

A common misconception is that proverbs are religious. Proverbs are short pithy phrases that state one general truth or a piece of advice. Here are some that felt particularly salient to this dreary day. Feel free to disagree with my projections of meaning.

“If you bow at all, bow low.”

If you’re going to do something, don’t give it any less than a 110% effort. Nothing done is worthwhile if there was no intent in the first place.

“One beam, no matter how big, cannot support an entire house on its own.”

Leaning on others is inevitable. No one is immortal, all knowing, perfect, or fully self-sufficient.

“Every step makes footprint.”

I saw a dual-meaning in this one.

  1. Effort, no matter how small, is still effort. Taking tasks one step at a time is admirable.
  2. Aggression, no matter how small, is still aggression. Think of the one thousand tiny cuts metaphor for micro-aggressions.

“Qui n’avance pas, recule.”

Who does not advance, recedes. Aka, keep on keeping on.

La Fresque

Ballet Preljocaj’s performance of La Fresque showed a surprising amount of variety in an hour and a half. There was ballet, folk dance, modern, contemporary, theater, graphic design, and aerial elements at play. I don’t think all of which were necessary to supplement the intended plot of the choreography, but they were unexpected and interesting nonetheless. The ballet sought to investigate “the mysterious relations between representation and reality, sites at which the dance creates the bonds that link the fixed image and movement, instantaneity and duration, the live and the inert” via a traditional Chinese tale about a painting.

The original story of “The Painting on the Wall” was included in the program to better contextualize the evening length performance. It is as follows.

Once upon a time, there were two travelers, one called Chu and the other Meng. One a rainy, windy day, they arrived at a small temple. In this peaceful place where the silence was disrupted only by squalls of rain, a hermit who lived there invited the two travelers to look at a magnificent fresco painted on the temple wall. The fresco showed a group of girls in a corpse of parasol pines. One of them was picking flowers. She was smiling sweetly, her lips were bright as the flesh of cherries, and her eyes were bright. Chu was fascinated by her long, loose dark hair, the symbol of girls and single women. He stared at the girl so intensely for such a long time hat he felt as if he as floating in the air and was transported inside the painting. The adventure lasted for several years, years of idyll and happiness, until one day some warriors chased Chu out of the world of the fresco. When he returned to the real world, his friend mend had only been looking for him for a few minutes. The two friends looked at the fresco. The girl was still there, but her hair was now in a magnificent chignon, the symbol of a married woman.

Before this show, I’d never seen a story told thoroughly through contemporary/modern dance forms. It felt like a reprise of a story ballet, rather than interpreting the piece’s meta meaning, which is what Im accustomed to doing. The passing scenes onstage corresponded perfectly to the provided traditional Chinese tale, which was beautiful to see. The two men were introduced first then taken to the anticipated painting. The fresque was denoted by stage elements enclosing the space on a vignette of women. They devoted themselves to a dance with their hair before inviting the man inside their world. Before my eyes, a love story unfolded between a young woman and man, just as described in the program. Their pas de deux was tender and grateful, mimicking their growing kin. It was clear that time was passing. The stage darkened, a door smacked the ground out of nowhere, and let light leak through exposing outlines of warriors; the same warriors that banish the man from the painting. Just as quick as he stepped into the frame, he rolled out of the frame: back to his real life. No time had passed outside of the painting, but he’d lived half a lifetime inside the painting. The show ended in that realization, bringing hush and heartbreak over the audience.

I had initial reservations about this performance. Given Ballet Preljocaj’s company ethnodemographics, I was worried that a classic Chinese story was going to be appropriated by Eurocentric culture. Tokenization and exoticism are concepts that I am extremely sensitive to as a Filipino American, and I definitely did not want to see in-genuine fascination with a culture that’s largely unsupported outside of trends. I think the performance was definitely a Western version of the famous Chinese tale, but more importantly, I think it was the concepts within the story rather than the culture that were being examined and used as inspiration. The choreography was less about Chinese elements, and more about the idea of what it means to overcome the laws of time and space and jump between dimensions.

(Image credit: Google images)

“Oh, I’ve only seen the movie.”

Maybe it’s a recent trend, but why why why do people think that seeing the major motion picture of a book is the same as reading the book itself? Simply unacceptable. Let’s bring “well-read” back into style.

I’m responding egregiously solely because I’ve witnessed this foul assumption arise around works of my forever favorite author, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Just because because you’ve seen another one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s starring films doesn’t mean you understand, or even begin to fathom, the gravitas of the world that Fitzgerald created in that body of text.

The final words of The Great Gatsby.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…And one fine morning—

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

If you have only seen the movie, you certainly don’t pick up on the nuances of this final knife twist. Pick up the book, it’ll ruin your life for the better.


Better yet, let’s address another qualm of mine: why do “notable works” of Fitzgerald begin and end with The Great Gatsby? Why aren’t Tender is the Night or This Side of Paradise well-recognized, except to a select few? Are those books meant to be kept secret?

Let these two excerpts take you into their clutches.

From a chapter break entitled Egotist Food for Consumption.

“Don’t let yourself feel worthless; often through life you will really be at your worst when you seem to think the best of yourself; and don’t worry about losing your “personality,” as you persist in calling it; at fifteen you had the radiance of early morning, at twenty you will begin to have the brilliant melancholy brilliance of the moon, and when you are my age you will give out, as I do, the genial golden warmth of 4pm.You are bound to go up and down, just as I did in my youth, but do keep your clarity of mind, and if fools or sages dare to criticize don’t blame yourself too much.”

From a later portion of the book: let it be known that I’ve replaced the names with he/she to eliminate spoilers.

“His love waned slowly with the moon. At her door they started from habit to kiss goodnight, but she couldn’t not run into his arms, nor were they stretched to meet her as in the week before. For a minute they stood there, hating each other with a bitter sadness. But as he had loved himself in her, so now what he hated was only a mirror. Their poses were strewn about the pale dawn like broken glass. The stars were long gone and there were left only the little sighing gusts of wind and silences between…but naked souls are poor things ever, and soon he turned homeward and let new lights come in wit the sun.”


In conclusion, let’s agree to read more books and be not only well-read, but well-versed too. 🙂


After being beaten down by one of the harshest Michigan winters yet, early hints of spring are finally beginning to materialize. The gray is getting a little less gray and people are looking less like their outerwear, and more like themselves. No wonder spring is associated with rebirth and newness; as nature comes back to life, so do we. After spending some well-deserved time under the warmth of the sun, I feel the Ann Arbor start to thaw. Be soft with my scribblings.


the sun came out today and so did you.

coaxed out by warmth and distant birdsong, a small flower started growing from my collarbone.


i fall in love too fast

i fall in love too hard

i want it all at once,

like wanting to climb the nonexistent branches of an infantile sprout.

it’s the promise that hurts the most.


in the teachings of mother nature,

good things come to those who wait so,

i’ll bide my time, i won’t rush,

but i will recognize

when the plumule becomes a bud, becomes a stem, becomes leaves, becomes a flower.


please don’t wilt, stay as you are.


i am the hug of humid morning air.

i am the gentle fingertips of a penetrable ray.

i am the wisps of a stretching cloud.

i am the golden dust particles that hang inches above the grass at dusk.

i am the lain blanket on our sticky sweet night.

one flower became two strewn across my chest.




the sun left today and so did you.

so i left

the door of my house open

and stood in the middle of the street

away from the streetlights

so that i may look upon the stars how they were intended to be seen.


the only stars that are visible are ones that are dying.

i’m embarrassed to ask so much,

to have this audacity,

to demand answers from a thing slipping from existence.

is this the only choice?


the breeze just barely disrupted the abandoned sneakers on the power lines, but somehow

i can’t hear myself breathe anymore.


my eyes betrayed me as I continued to stare at heaven’s fated departures for my missing virtue.

i failed to notice that my flower petals had fallen, the petals drifted into the wind,


and left me too.