Mark Neyrinck was all ready to share with visitors to the Science Gallery in Dublin what he’s learned from thinking about the universe in origami terms.
“I think that it is important to communicate science through art, make it accessible to all,” says Neyrinck, whose research focuses on cosmology, and the arrangement of matter on large scales in the universe.
Neyrinck’s contribution was going to be one of several pieces included in the exhibition Invisible, the latest project at this gallery at the end of Trinity’s campus by Pearse Street Station.
“With 95% of the universe a mystery, what role do artists and scientists have in unravelling and understanding the unknown?” the exhibition was to ask. And then it would strive to discover “the unknown through physics and philosophy”.
Then Covid-19 hit, and Science Gallery Dublin closed its doors to visitors, leaving the Invisible exhibition invisible to the public.
So now the gallery’s team and those behind the exhibition are working to move it online, where so much more of life is happening in these days of physical distancing and isolation.
Creating an online exhibition is new territory for the Science Gallery, and Aisling Murray, the gallery’s exhibition manager, says she is proud of what they are doing. It’s important for the gallery to continue through this time, she says.
“We have a responsibility to keep our audience engaged in terms of entertainment and distraction,” Murray says.
Putting Invisible Online
There are multiple ways that Murray and the Science Gallery team are looking to put different parts of this exhibition online.
“I’ve been talking to a company about doing a 360 [degree] capture of the space, creating a 360 [degree] virtual space,” says Murray.
They’re also looking at creating webinars, online panel discussions and video tutorials. “Everybody is really taking the challenge of how we can really translate this,” says Murray.
“The team we have here is people with media backgrounds, people with science backgrounds, people with art and culture institution backgrounds. We’re all mucking in together,” says Murray
The nature of Dublin Science Gallery has helped with putting material online, says Murray. “By doing experimental work, it is at that intersection of innovative artistic practice and research,” she says.
Bernard Owens, a research assistant for the exhibition, is helping to make it visible again using the software Open Source Broadcaster.
“This is like your own little TV studio and you’re the TV producer. A person hosting a show can do it all from their own computer,” Owens says.
It allows users to line up multiple features during a broadcast, like live-streaming a video call, or showing videos clips or photos, and put it all together into a broadcast, with title cards, he says.
“You can essentially create your own online show and push it out through the platform of choice whether it’s YouTube or Facebook Live,” he says.
Owens is going to put the software to use to bring online a planned interview with the illustrator Laura Callaghan, who made a piece for the exhibition called Whoever Shines Must Be Observed.
It’s a mural of three Irish women who made significant contributions to astrophysics and astronomy. Among the other ways it interprets its theme, the exhibition looks “at the invisible barriers to science both present and in the past”, says Owens
The mural features Annie Russell Maunder (1827–1869), Mary Bruck (1868–1947) and Mary Ward (1925–2005), three scientists who “didn’t have the spotlight on them back in their day”, he says.
While the mural won’t leave the gallery, Owens is scheduled to be online displaying images of it while interviewing Callaghan on the Dublin Science YouTube channel at 3pm on 25 March.
Science and Origami
Along with all this, the team is also making a video tutorial using origami to help people understand the “cosmic web”.
“The cosmic web is a network of filaments,” says Neyrinck, the cosmology researcher. “These are thread-like formations kind of like a spider web”, he says, of galaxies connected by threads of dark matter.
Neyrinck came up with the idea after watching origami expert Robert Lang online.
“Robert Lang is pretty famous, well famous among the origami community,” he says. “He was talking about mathematic connections in origami and I wondered could that be for cosmology too?”
Neyrinck says he was happy enough to see the exercise moved online. “Definitely people learn through doing hands-on activities so this will be a great opportunity,” he says.
Murray, the gallery’s head of programming, says the team is trying all kinds of approaches to moving Invisible online. “It’s a little bit of everything and there is definitely going to be some trials and errors because we are all existing inside a new and uncertain landscape,” she says.