Fiona McDonald is an interdisciplinary artist/educator based in dublin. She holds a BSc in Biological Chemistry from University of Ulster at Coleraine, a BA & MA Fine Art from NCAD and completed an MSc in Multimedia systems at TCD 2006. During 2013 to 2 015 she worked as a visiting lecturer on Art in the Digital World MA & BA Media at NCAD. Here she delivered new technology/ physical computing workshops. Fiona has continued studying through self directed learning, participation at Workshops (K3 University, Malmo, Sweden) (Hacklab, CTVR center TCD) (Science Gallery, Dublin) (Transmediale, Berlin) and collaborative research projects with Dr Nicholas Ward, Sonic Arts Research center Belfast and Andy Cavatorta, Brooklyn NY.
Mc Donalds’ artworks consist of bespoke experimental apparatus which meditate on the dynamics between art, science and science fiction; manmade and ‘natural' systems; the technological and the ‘alive'; macro and micro worlds; experiment and knowledge; form and content. Fiona’s works explore generative approaches to systems of science and natural phenomena. Many of her works incorporate physical computing & sensor technology to create data driven generative systems. In other works she uses special photo equipment to film the microcosms and tiny dynamic landscapes within these electrically driven chemical reactions. These HD video works provide a view into unseen microcosms, meditative transforming crystalline landscapes in which the viewer is the only inhabitant.
For her residency at UCD Science, Fiona outlines her objectives:
"The project I aim to develop during the Residency at UCD is exploratory and will take the form of two main strands of enquiry which engage with contemporary issues such as climate change and energy
● “Visualising Data” Visualising environmental and analytic scientific data in realtime using audio (Puredata a real time audio programming language), algorithmic drawings (Processing and p5.js ) and dynamic sculptural outputs.
● “Materials Research” looking at the physics of materials at the forefront of technological change and at micro and macro scales. It also looks at the environmental consequences of ubiquitous media and rapidly changing technologies.
Initial exploration will explore new analytical technologies and the use of programming hardware/software and sensor technology to reveal the changes in our environment, from climate changes to how our environment is increasingly saturated by visible and invisible signals.
Content may represent live data from Web APIs, data captured using a variety of environmental sensors such as those used to measure WiFi saturation, it may also include output data from a range of analytical instruments used in chemistry physics and geology such as spectrophotometers, seismometers.
I am interested in the work of researchers at UCD in areas such as
● The Climate Change Science and Impacts MSc designed in cooperation with Earth Institute.
● The Space Science & Technology MSc at UCD’s research in Earth Observation,
Telecommunications & Satellite navigation & the many active researchers working with Space at UCD
Also of particular interest is the work of the UCD "WaveObs" project which aims to measure the force and location of the most energetic Atlantic Ocean waves off Ireland’s West Coast. Seismological vibrations generated by powerful waves can be detected by land based sensors which are connected directly to 3G routers allowing data to travel straight to scientists in the lab.
The data from this part of the ocean has practical applications from Marine safety to assessing potential sites for renewable energy. I am interested in using the temporal and spatial distribution of the largest waves data to create a number of sculptural prototypes which will emulate in real time the ocean generated microseismic noise.
My second strand of enquiry will look at the environmental consequences of ubiquitous media and rapidly changing technologies. “Media we use everyday are described as immaterial, cognitive, frictionfree and weightless, but they are not so. Manufacturing, using and recycling digital media actually involves immense quantities of materials and energy.”(1) My research will explore this network of stories about the environmental and social impacts of extracting digital materials indium, gallium, arsenic, germanium, sapphire, copper, aluminium, lead, gold, zinc, nickel, tin, silver and the using & recycling of plastics, oil, nuclear and toxic waste.
I also aim to develop research related to the physics of materials at the forefront of technological change from carbon, graphite to semiconductors transistors piezo electrics, nanotechnology, biosensors, supercapacitors. As the world becomes more instrumented with billions of transistors nanotechnology will play an increasingly important role in the design of future computer chips that are smaller, smarter and more energy efficient. If feasible in terms of collaboration with Nanochemistry Group at UCD this research will also include a study of the structure of nanoparticles, natural nanomaterials, carbon crystals lattices, fullerenes. This study will be carried out with a view to understanding how and why the emergence of form leads to certain structures and to replicating these structures on a larger scale using 3d printing to create speculative futuristic complex structures. I am also interested in learning more or experimenting with a common method used to produce fullerenes by sending a large current between two nearby graphite electrodes in an inert atmosphere. The resulting carbon plasma arc between the electrodes cools into sooty residue from which many fullerenes can be isolated."
(1) Sean Cubitt : Ecoaesthetics Media after the Environmental Impact of Digital Technology, Openhere Conference 2014, Science Gallery Dublin.
Fiona McDonald, UCD Science 2016 Artist In Residence