Motion Studies

The desire to see beneath the surface of things that artists and scientists share has led to parallel developments between the two disciplines throughout history. Observation and experimentation are at the heart of both fields, and because of that artists and scientists are natural allies. Recent developments in specialized digital imaging systems in both fields have created an unprecedented ability to unravel the codes underlying the beauty and mystery of nature. Video installation artist Fernanda D'Agostino and Biomechanist Dr. Bret Tobalske have formed an alliance to create work which exposes new developments in our understanding of the physics of flight to a wider audience.

Motion Studies, investigates the intersection of Art and Science. The core of the project are actual motion studies from Dr. Bret Tobalske's wind tunnel at the flight lab at the University of Portland. These flight studies are then translated into video at the lab and in D'Agostino's studio. Motion Studies uses a fluid imaging system known as digital particle image velocimetry to examine the structure of the wake of flying birds. The power the flying bird puts into the air is revealed as a moving picture. The fluid dynamics of the air currents around the bird are made visible by the application of colors and grids that respond to the flow of air generated by the bird’s flight. At times this footage is a moving abstract painting, at other times the bird's flight is more explicit. Combined with these images, is footage of bird mating dances & flights, shot during the migration of cranes along the Columbia River., and of Vaux Swifts returning to their roosts during their annual migration. This footage, which was shot on location with a slow motion, high definition camera, has also been altered by digital particle velocimetry. An interesting development in the collaboration came about as a result of experimenting with the possibility of altering footage shot in the wild using digital particle image velocimetry. When the footage of the flocking swifts was processed we discovered that some of the same principals of Fluid Dynamics apply to the patterns of movement within the flock as apply to the air currents produced by individual birds. This is an area of inquiry we hope to pursue in the future. The possibility of new areas of scientific inquiry emerging from artistic experimentation is very exiting.

A sound tract of digitally manipulated bird song accompanies the video.

Motion Studies is also a video installation projected on sculptural screens. The footage is projected on a series of stainless steel and hand painted mylar "wings" suspended in the air. The wings respond to the slightest air current creating an analogue experience to Dr. Tobalske’s investigations of the role of air currents in birds flight. The video projections on translucent surfaces create an activated space that viewers can move around and through, giving them a physical experience of being "within the flock."

© 2023 Fernanda D'Agostino