Eve Andrée Laramée
distillation /ˌdɪstɪˈleɪʃn/ n. 1 the action of purifying a liquid by a process of heating and cooling. 2 the extraction of the essential meaning or most important aspects of something.[i]
Apparatus for the Distillation of Vague Intuitions by American artist Eve Andrée Laramée consists of an array of tall metal stands, clamps, PVC tubings, glass beakers, flasks and vials. Although much of the equipment looks standard from afar, the installation is a dysfunctional and mythological sort of laboratory that highlights the inherent but often unnoticed subjectivity in scientific inquiry.
First conceived in 1994, Apparatus for the Distillation of Vague Intuitions has been showcased in numerous exhibitions including Facts Are Slippery[ii] at Rice University Art Gallery and Unnatural Science[iii] at MASS MoCA.
In this fantastical and visually dazzling Apparatus, many of the glassware are hand-blown with various cloudy or luminous turquoise solutions and copper wires attached to large exotic flowers contributing to the spectacle of a giant chemistry experiment gone amok.
Upon close inspection, a second level of complexity is revealed by the seemingly unscientific words and phrases such as “HANDFULS”, “LEAP IN THE DARK” and “UNNECESSARY EXPLANATORY PRINCIPLES” delicately etched into the glass, exposing a sense of insecurity and imprecision behind the process of science.[iv]
Last but not least, Apparatus for the Distillation of Vague Intuitions not only evolves and adapts through each incarnation in different contexts, its state of being also changes over the course of any one exhibition setting as water evaporates and metal gets oxidized. This double temporality mirrors the fluidity of science and the obsolescence of new technologies.
In her artist statement, Laramée affirms, “I am interested in the ways in which cultures use science and art as devices or maps to construct belief systems about the natural world. I try to draw attention to areas of overlap and interconnection between artistic exploration and scientific investigation, and to the slippery human subjectivity underlying both processes. Through my work I speculate on how human beings contemplate and consider nature through both art and science in a way that embraces poetry, contradiction and metaphor.”[v] In an interview, Laramée further iterated the similitude of the process of art and science by saying, “To me, my art is my research. While my work has its place in the art world and the art market, what really drives me is the research. I make art about the things I am passionately interested in that I do not understand.”[vi]
- Siu Yu
[ Images from USA Projects]