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Art installation on Arts Quad depicts nature in academia

The natural surroundings of the Arts Quad will be the site of an art installation by visiting architecture critic Yehre Suh for the second consecutive year. The new installation, to be in place April 5-9, will explore various representations of nature in academia.

"Stories of Nature" will feature three small greenhouses erected on the Quad and filled with specimens and images from Cornell research centers, laboratories and academic departments. Grouped by their morphological aspects, the contents of the greenhouses will range from plant specimens to insects, seeds, soil samples, and microbiological specimens, Suh said.

Last April, Suh's "Field" installation covered the Arts Quad with a grid of 2,800 red sacks filled with straw.

"This time I wanted to engage a different type of audience," she said. "Basically, I wanted to look at how nature is studied through different representational methods. Coming from architecture, this idea of 'nature' is always interpreted through means of representation."

The individual specimens will document the pedagogical classification systems of various university departments, while the assembly and configuration of the artifacts as a whole will present a cultivated overall image of nature. "The project is an attempt to navigate between the scientific understanding of nature and the cultural construct of nature," Suh said.

She engaged the participation of researchers in approximately 40 Cornell units for "Stories of Nature," including academic departments in six colleges.

"It was useful for us to approach different departments involved in the research aspect of nature, because [Cornell is] so diverse and intensive," Suh said. "I wanted to see how that research translates into material culture, when it's being looked at from arts and sciences and humanities viewpoints."

The Lab of Ornithology, Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future, Institute for Genomic Diversity and Cornell Waste Management Institute were among the units contributing materials to the installation.

The project is sponsored by the Cornell Council for the Arts and the Department of Architecture.

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Blaine Friedlander