VIEW: An Artist, a Scientist, an Urban Stream

The Visible and the Invisible:
An Artist and a Scientist in Conversation with an Urban Stream

Carsten Prasse, environmental chemist
Jordan Tierney, environmental artist

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

View a recording of the event HERE.

Urban streams are often polluted and neglected waterways, yet they remain essential refuges for urban wildlife, places to nurture ecological care and imagination.

Here’s a live conversation alongside Baltimore’s Herring Run stream: on perception and imagination in both art and science, on how to understand environmental degradation through creative and analytical methods.

Jordan Tierney is a Baltimore-based artist who sculpts from nature, working with wood carvings and salvaged materials. A professor at Johns Hopkins University, Carsten Prasse studies contaminants in the urban water cycle and their impact on environmental and human health.

This was a hybrid event. Here’s a glimpse of what it was like for those of us who attended in person. Thanks to Nicole DeWald for these photos.

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Thanks to everyone who tuned in and contributed to this great conversation!

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That was amazing! Also feel like we were preaching to the choir. How can we do and advocate for things that will reach citizens who are living on autopilot under the thumb of consumer culture? I liked Carsten explaining the labelling on drugs and how they impact our environment. How can we get people to ask themselves, “Is this good for the planet?” before they reach for or do?

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I hear you, on the choir. But I’m also thinking about the reach of different styles of expression. Your art @jordan moves out and about in the world in a very different way than the evidence that @carstenprasse assembles through his scientific work. Different choirs with only partial overlap. It also seems to me that art has a way of reaching people, more subtly, in a manner that arguments and evidence may not, in a manner less likely to risk defensiveness and rejection. I think you were talking about that yesterday, in musing on the appeal of objects like the ones you brought. And I know this is something that @jslang (Judith Selby Lang) who was also part of the conversation online (all the way from Northern California) has been thinking a lot about, in the artwork that she and her partner Richard Lang have been making with beach plastic. I’m tagging her here in case she might notice and chime in!

Happy to chime in.

We are in the choir but we did not feel as if we were being preached to.
Maybe it was the pleasure of being stream-side instead of being cooped up in a ZOOM screen grid, once the technical glitches were solved the conversation was as fluid as the water flowing by.

We were intrigued with @jordan combines of natural and manufactured. Wanting to see more, we spent time exploring her website and blog.
Found her definition as “visual philosopher and bricoleuse” totally apt.

This year we’ve been sheltering, staying close to home, so Richard has been working on some new bricolage tools:

We marvel at the colors of plastic - it’s what makes it such a great art material but we have long been concerned about the pollution of colorants and chemicals in the slosh of all that nigh-invisible soup of god-knows-what. In our research, we found that most colorants, are proprietary and the make-up closely guarded industrial secrets. We welcome more about this from @carstenprasse

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Love those tools you dreamed up! And that poetry jukebox! Found materials are so fun to work with. I also love how with enough weathering things can look no longer like they were made by humans…

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When we saw your tools on your website a shout went out “KINDRED SPIRIT” and indeed you are. So happy to learn more about what you are doing.

We enjoy sharing the fun we have in creating with trash that would otherwise be thrown away. By showing the results of our endeavors in an enticing way, others are inspired and start picking up and finding creative uses for plastic too. When the problems seem so dire, engagement with a creative activity can be empowering. Pleasure; of course—not fear—is the prime motivator for human change. We know the supreme pleasure of a creative life.


Folks @jslang @jordan it’s so lovely to follow these exchanges between you. What if we started a channel on our chat “Commons” on the topic of Art and Ecology, as a space to keep thinking and sharing ideas? I’d be happy to set it up if the idea would appeal…

We enjoyed tuning in to “An Artist, A Scientist, an Urban Stream” program and the introduction to the work of @jordan and @carstenprasse

We applaud the mission of the Eco Design Collective mission. While exploring the site we discovered your poetic musing Seaside Lament.

We will continue to tune in to programs and respond in ways that we can. We are, however, already so overbooked that we hesitate to commit to participation in a full-fledged Art and Ecology channel.

We will keep an eye out for the Channels already on your site and will stay in touch via the conversations.

Richard says: Love what you are doing, and channeling Molly Bloom, “Yes, and Yes and yes again…” Judith reminds me I’m not even keeping up with half of what is already on my to do list…Please have a look at the short piece I wrote honoring our dearly departed Wm T Wiley…

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