Saving Glaciers Through Multisensory Art

A collaborative exhibit featuring the work of Emily Dzieweczynski ’19 and faculty member Betsy Byers uses virtual reality to create empathy
Posted on April 26th, 2019 by

The work of Emily Dzieweczynski ’19 and Associate Professor of Art Betsy Byers will be featured in a new exhibit opening today at the 410 Gallery in Mankato. The two recently collaborated to create 0°C, -3°C, a body of multisensory work focused on the melting of the Rhone Glacier in Switzerland.

The show is an immersive multimedia experience, featuring everything from felt, lights, heat lamps, dirt, water, and even virtual reality. Both Dzieweczynski and Byers are passionate about the environment, and Byers has focused on glaciers with her work for the past few years. As a mutual collaboration through a Gustavus Adolphus College Presidential Grant, the exhibit combines Byers’s passion for glaciers and climate change with Dzieweczynski’s exploration of empathy and altruism. Byers believes the exhibit wouldn’t have been possible without their collaboration. “Emily and I brought two very different skill sets together to make the work, and the continual discourse forced us to think both technically and critically about how to resolve the problems that arose in the studio,” she says.

Dzieweczynski focuses on the creation of empathy with her art, and she is curious about what can make people ‘do good’. This interest led her to Daniel Batson’s Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis, which is the idea that the more empathy people feel for something, the more likely they are to want to selflessly help. This exhibit hopes to inspire empathy for the glaciers, and inspire people to act to save them.

The team’s search for creating empathy with art led them to virtual reality, after finding recent studies that show virtual reality can inspire empathy. Dzieweczynski says virtual reality is a way to fully take a different perspective, which is what empathy is all about. “You are able to leave your geographical and physical location and inhabit the experience of someone or something else else,” she says. Byers created paintings based off of the glacier, and Dzieweczynski then animated them and turned them into a 360 virtual reality experience. Visitors will be able to experience this virtual reality at the exhibit.

The exhibit runs today through May 12 at the 410 Gallery in Mankato. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. An opening reception will be held April 26 at 7 p.m. The reception will feature a talk from glacial microbiologist and postdoctoral research scientist Alexander B. Michaud on “Life of Ice.”  A documentary by Alexander Theship-Rosales ’19 titled “To Walk Alongside: Awakening Ecological Spirituality” will be shown April 29 at 7 p.m. More information about the 410 Project and this exhibit can be found here.

 

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