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Source: City Pages
Author: Sheila Regan
Date: February 23, 2011

The Bell Museum, located on the University of Minnesota campus, was established in 1872 in order to collect, preserve, and display animal and plant life for research, teaching, andpublic appreciation. The museum exhibits natural life from the state, region, and beyond,and is a center for scientific study and education. The museum’s new quarterly event brings together contemporary art and science for social activities, performances, and presentations around a topic. Each themed evening features the creative work of a Bell Museum artist-in-residence, who uses the museum’s collection of artifacts and specimens to create artwork. Past artists have included Matthew Bakkom and Ali Momeni.

The current artist-in-residence, Olive Bieringa, is eight months pregnant, and has created a piece designed for an audience of one. “I’ll be in the room as a live animal inhabiting the room,” Bieringa says. The audience becomes an active member in an exhibit that is both intimate and interactive. Proximity is a response to the Bell museum’s collection, Bieringa says; to the space and to the nature of a natural history museum with all its “weird dead animals.”

The work is also a sneak peak at a larger piece that Bieringa plans to develop that takes as its subject the separation between animals and humans, and the edge between nature and nurture. The conversations Bieringa’s had withscientists at the museum have been different depending on whom she has spoken to, she says. The artist-inresidenceprogram, which was developed by Shanai Matteson, the community programs associate at the museum, is new, and some of the scientists were not used to talking to an artist. “Mostly the conversations have been: they are experts and me asking a lot of questions,” she says. However, she did have a more interactive conversation with a grad student who will be giving a lecture Thursday.

Science is definitely a part of the larger body of work that BodyCartography Project has explored. “It comes out of curiosity to understand the world as a dance maker and a movement artist,” she says. “I like to learn things.” Gaining access to somebody in a different field is invaluable. “You can read a book, but there is something lovely about spending time with someone who is passionate about what they do–which is different than you, but you have a shared topic of interest–and you can have a conversation about it. There’s something really exciting about that. I’ve craved it for a long time.”

The evening will also feature a walking tour of the museum’s dioramas with the Bell Museum wildlife expert Jennifer Menken, who will explain what it takes to get a date in the wild.