Wheat Mandala Series
DATA SOURCE: Graphic imagery related to wheat throughout history and society compiled from various open source resources online, in addition to data provided by the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre.
In September of 2016, the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and the Data Physicalization Lab at the University of Lethbridge invited six artists to participate in a project that asked them to respond to agricultural data developed by Dr.Jaime Larson and Dr.Andre Laroche. Extensive research into wheat throughout history and society ensued, the resulting work manifested in the form of three mandalas - a triptych - each focusing on a specific narrative relating to wheat throughout history. The layout of graphic imagery is carefully composed into the form of a mandala as a way to couple the historic shift from the spiritual to the scientific lens by which we in western society view forces at play in the agricultural landscape. The mandala brings a sense of stability and introspection.
Each mandala in the series - Year Without A Summer, Manmade Famine, and Puccinia Striiformis - is profiled below including the narrative story and source imagery.
Year Without a Summer
YEAR WITHOUT A SUMMER begins with the eruption of Mt.Tambora in 1815 - the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history in which ash was dispersed around the world, blocking the sun, lowering global temperatures, and causing worldwide harvest failures and major food shortages across the Northern Hemisphere.
The lack of oats to feed horses inspired German inventor Karl Drais to research new methods of horseless transportation, which led to the invention of the draisine, an early form of the modern bicycle.
That same summer, the author Mary Shelley, vacationing at Lake Geneva, was forced to stay inside due to the unusually inclement weather, Shelley wrote her influential novel Frankenstein (The Modern Prometheus) after engaging in a competition with her traveling companions to see who could write the best horror story.
MANMADE FAMINE represents catastrophic human failures that have resulted in mass famines throughout history to present day events, caused by social, economic, and political decisions. This includes Stalin’s Five Year Plan of Industrialization and subsequent Holomodor, also referred to the Great Ukranian Genocide in 1932-33, Chariman Mao’s Great Leap Forward involving mandatory agricultural collectivization resulting in the Great Chinese Famine, and finally the current humanitarian crisis in war-torn Yemen in which at least six million people are facing imminent starvation.
PUCCINIA STRIIFORMIS shows the many faces of a plant pathogen from the fungi kingdom that causes stripe rust on wheat, from the Roman god of agricultural disease, to scientific models of spores, to microscopic views of rust cells, as well as the Zagots wheat growth chart and Dr.Andre LaRoche’s RNA data.