Art Supplies of the Future - a talk by Trevor Plint - October 21, 2015

There was a resounding BANG! when Trevor Plint started his stellar talk at 49 McCaul last week, engaging students and faculty across OCAD’s disciplines with his research and the latest findings from the world of organic chemistry. That ‘bang’ was the sound of the proverbial ‘OCAD Bubble’ popping (a phenomenon, noted by students and past graduates, whereby the insulation of our big black-and-white box in the sky leads us to forget the existence of the outside world), as Trevor took us on a guided tour of new developments in gene art, micro-structural colour, and nanomaterials. But the most exciting thing about Trevor’s talk wasn’t the technical and scientific fireworks - it was the impassioned way he improvised on the how these discoveries could inform artistic and design practice.

Although Trevor is a chemist and scientist, his deep love for and understanding of art was easy to see. At each turn he proposed ways to incorporate these new materials and principles into artworks that could celebrate the beauty and wonder of the physical world, and point critically at the potential for both utopia and dystopia as we become more adept at manipulating the fundamental elements of our world. What will performance art look like when the human microbiome is the stage? What might happen when altering our scent, our sense or our physiology is as easy as getting a tattoo? And what implications will predictable, repeatable genetic modification have on the phenotype-fashions of tomorrow? 

Trevor not only took time to lead a post-talk discussion, letting us viewers share the wild ideas that were germinating in our heads, but volunteered to help connect artists and designers with the scientific supplies and research talent at U of T. I sincerely hope that some among the crowd take him up on his offer, as I can’t wait to see what collaborations come out of this cracking kick-off to the Impact Collective’s guest lecture series. 

Trevor Plint is a Ph.D candidate in the faculty of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at The University of Toronto. His area of research centres around understanding the interactions between light and matter in organic semiconducting materials. He is a Junior Fellow at Massey College, a graduate college founded on the principle of interdisciplinary exchange. In addition to a lifelong love of art, he is fascinated by the interconnections between the aesthetic experience and the act of scientific discovery. 

Written by: Tom Doughty, OCAD University, Industrial Design student; grOCAD member

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