Academia & Creative Processes

Conceptualizations become divided when put into practice. One idea, whether creative or academic, can become a never-ending series of individual tasks and communications during its exploration. This can change creative endeavors into marathons; artists regularly feel uncomfortable showing work because it is difficult to mentally define and accept completion or finality. One of the many difficulties with both creative and academic work is that the scope is not defined at conception, but evolves over time through exploration.

The initial concept for my project, the Campus Energy Constellation, was developed from an experience I had with an art piece during a time that I was concurrently working on an academic project. During a trip to Barcelona, I saw an installation (I have since lost the names of the installation and artist) at the MACBA that consisted of thousands of nylon threads tied across a pitch black room with three changing lights very dimly and partially illuminating each strand. I spent the rest of this vacation thinking about this installation, and trying not to think about the work I had to do when I got back to Pittsburgh. That work was the Pitt Sustainability Dashboard, an academic project that consolidates Pitt sustainability data and creates interactive web content aimed at informing the university community on progress made towards reducing our environmental impact. Upon my return, I had defined the concept of creating an installation using a dark room and lights changing brightness to abstractly depict Pitt’s environmental impact.

Upon receiving the Creative Arts Fellowship, the central idea had been established. However, I had no idea that I would have to learn Arduino, or construct a 10′ x 10′ x 10′ white cube. These are the ways my concept was divided into buying, coding, wiring, soldering, sawing, drilling, painting, testing, and assembling. How could I ever possibly feel that there is no more to do?

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