At the opening of the festival the cast of EMERGE will stage a tableau vivant or ‘living picture’ based on Joseph Wright of Derby’s 1768 painting An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump, with each of the artists and scholars taking the role of one of the figures depicted in this classic painting of science on public display. Historical painter Rupert Nesbit will spend the rest of the evening creating a new image, with Karolina Sobecka’s air pump experiment Cloud Services at the center: An Experiment on a Cloud in an Air Pump. The original painting holds central importance in the history and sociology of science as an image that represents key figures and ideas about how knowledge is produced through scientific experimentation. The men, women and children that watch and bear witness to the experiment embody social, gender and class roles that informed Mary Shelley in her fictionalization of trends present in the science of her day—trends that continue to structure science today. This theatrical performance and painting will explore new subject positions, forms of social authority, gender expression, and divisions between expert and audience that are emerging as modern distinctions between the arts, sciences and technology begin to blur in the 21st century.
Rupert Nesbitt is an artist and painter based in Newport Rhode Island and Brooklyn. He graduated from The Cooper Union with a BFA in 1991 and received his MFA in 2007 from Vermont College. In the early 1990’s his work involved documenting the act of climbing New York City’s numerous bridges. That exploratory sensibility resulted in extensive international travel in the developing world including eleven summers working in Egypt as an illustrator on archaeological digs for the University of Toronto and Penn State. The experience led to more illustration work in the field of toy design, ultimately resulting in multiple trips to Hong Kong and China as an animator of robotic toys. Animation developed into a full time occupation using digital 3D software. The interest in simulating reality in the digital realm broadened into a project simulating paintings. Which has turned into a current practice producing commissioned artworks. Draftsmanship is the commonality across these diverse activities. But more broadly, it is an interest in the problems of representation; the act of observing something in the world and making a second version of it. Representation in general and draftsmanship in particular both have a curious doubling in making a second version of a subject. Inherent in this doubling is the concept of a “copy” which entangles a host of other interests and disciplines; from drawing to DNA to learning languages to camouflage to forgery. Beyond the production of artworks has been a parallel interest in writing, speaking, and curating. From founding a public art organization, to critiquing a client’s painting collection, leading an art discussion Salon to a recent TEDx talk; Rupert Nesbitt’s interest in the world is omnivorous.