Redell Olsen Wins Art Prize

The poet, writer and visual artist has won the £15,000 DARE Art Prize for 2020-21 with her proposal for a new song cycle and film.

Her project will use scientific data which measures different insect species in the skies, combining artwork with a contribution to the University of Leeds’ BioDAR unit, exploring alternative ways to represent climate change and the risk of species extinction.

Such information is a by-product of the UK’s weather radar network and is very valuable in mapping insect life. Experts from a variety of disciplines in science will now see a somewhat unexpected discipline, the arts, join the programme.

The Prize challenges artists and scientists to collaborate as part of the DATE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds. There are also opportunities for residencies at The Tetley in Leeds and the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford.

Redell Olsen is a British poet and writer who works with film and performance as well as lecturing at the University of London on innovative poetics, conceptual writing, book arts and sound.

She asks for her proposal: “How might a poet/artist contribute to the interpretation of scientific data, or even propose the work of art as another potential recording device alongside scientific instruments?”

Redell has a year to develop her project, whilst taking account of the current constraints and finding ways to overcome these. So far, she has had virtual meetings with the BioDAR team and explored collaborations with Opera North’s staff and ensembles, exploring modes of artistic practice and audience engagement in a wide range of media alongside her writing.

Redell Olsen

Redell said:

“I am so pleased to be awarded the DARE Art Prize 2020-21. I don’t think there is anything else quite like it! I am so looking forward to developing a new piece of work in collaboration with the research of the BioDAR team at the University of Leeds and with the amazing Opera North. I am really excited at the opportunity to work with The Tetley Art Gallery and to be able to draw on the expertise of the National Science and Media Museum. What a great team to be in dialogue with! More than ever we need the possibility of such collaborative exchanges between art and science!”

Dr Christopher Hassall, Associate Professor of Animal Biology, University of Leeds, and leader of the BioDAR project, comments: 

“We are delighted to have an artist collaborating with the BioDAR project. The research project is already interdisciplinary, combining the unique and complementary contributions of atmospheric scientists, ecologists, and data scientists.

“However, a major challenge for us is how to present complex information in a way that is engaging and informative for technical and general audiences. Redell’s perspective on the work will not only add a novel way for us to communicate the project outputs but will also challenge us to think about how we work together as a wider interdisciplinary team.”

Entries this year were received from around the world, with all six shortlisted artists presenting compelling proposals for understanding and embodying scientific issues through a wide range of media. Submissions ranged from a collaboration between a printmaker and a sound artist to map and analyse the shifting boundaries between land and water, to an investigation of the concept of time-consciousness and an investigation into how the perception of time is altered in a state of psychosis, through performance and video art.

Anna Ridler, the 2018-19 winner of the Prize, spent her year investigating the intersection points between artificial and human intelligence. With the University’s School of Psychology staff, Anna taught a machine to draw and an algorithm was created to process musical scores. Anna’s exhibition opened online at The Photographers’ Gallery in London earlier this year.

Had it not been for the virus outbreak, a handover event between the two artists would have taken place.

Photographs provided by Opera North. Feature photograph shows Sapphires and Lemus (bookwork detail) by Redell Olsen.

Adam Kershaw

Adam combines his interest in Leeds with a flair for writing discovered back in school days. He says he'll tackle any topic as long as it's Leeds.

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