Science within Art: #ArtTree

The interactive artificial carbon capture tree, or #ArtTree, bridges the gap between science and art through a creative project that models a real-life technology. It was built as an artistic representation of Professor Klaus Lackner's carbon capture technology, which passively captures CO2 from the atmosphere 1,000 times more efficiently that trees. The #ArtTree was created, designed and constructed through collaboration among Samson Szeto of ASU LightWorks ®, Shahrzad Badvipour of the Center of Negative Carbon Emission (CNCE), and Phil Weaver-Stoesz and Dallas Nichols – graduate students at the Herberger Institute at Arizona State University. The display has been featured at TEDxASU and Earth Day Texas (EDTx), allowing participants to simulate how carbon capture technology works. The #ArtTree is an excellent opportunity to educate attendees at events, not only about climate change issues but about a technology we’re developing here at ASU to solve climate change.

Szeto explains, “Many times, technology and research can be hard to explain or demonstrate to the general public, but the #ArtTree provides a tangible, dynamic installation to express carbon emissions. Our hope is to create more artistic projects that can represent the current innovations tackling climate change here at ASU to educate and build awareness for our community. Can you imagine not only having one #ArtTree but an entire forest with different types of artificial “trees and plants” solving our climate change issues?”

What inspired the #ArtTree? According to Weaver-Stoesz, “The initial idea was inspired by three things: the idea of PVC as an artificial material, the concept art of a negative carbon-emission tower, and the interactivity with Velcro as a metaphor for carbon sticking to the filters. We wanted to bring together both an aesthetic artifact that people could imagine on a landscape and a fun game so people could enact their understanding of the concept with play.” “Using the filter concept design and watching videos on carbon capture, we wanted to make this a tangible and fun experience! It was important to have participants actively involved in understanding how the filter worked,” said Nichols. What do you hope comes from an artistic representation? In the opinion of Stoesz, “Forward progress takes both technology and imagination. Something doesn't just come into being because the technology is there – an artistic vehicle is necessary for creating the vision of a possible future. By artistically representing the artificial tree, we can create a carbon-negative future, rather than wait for it.” Bridging the gap between science and art was the goal of this display – was that achieved?    Stoesz explains, “The toughest problems in the future are complex ones – global warming, geopolitical instability, disrupting digital technologies. These are not problems that can be solved with one idea, in one department, in one discipline. These problems require that people not only gain the ability to collaborate, listen and work with those from different backgrounds, but that they empower themselves to become internally transdisciplinary – that artists find the scientist within them and scientists locate the artist within them. By building bridges, we can start to lay a framework for building solutions to urgent, complex problems.”