On Dec. 6, 2017, Fathomers presented a casual art-meets-science brunch with artist Michael Jones McKean and paleophysiologist John VandenBrooks in conversation with Stacy Switzer, Fathomers’ curator and executive director.
VandenBrooks is consulting on McKean’s effort to replicate a 300-million-year-old atmosphere within a simple residential house — one of a dozen sites around the world that make up Twelve Earths, the project-in-progress launched by McKean and Fathomers to unfurl over the course of the next decade.
"Atmosphere is the thing that we're living in.
It's the thing that literally shrouds our bodies, the thing that seeps into our clothes, the thing that we breathe inside of our bodies momentarily, and extract something, and then exhale certain exhaust out.
It's the thing that we kind of take for granted every single second of our life.
As an artist, trying to think about a project that considers the earth itself as a total object, it felt essential to consider this invisible force field that is gluing us all together in the room -- that is at one with us right now."
-- Michael Jones McKean
Michael Jones McKean (b. 1976, Micronesia) is an associate professor of sculpture and extended media at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he has taught since 2006, and the co-director of ASMBLY, in New York. He has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Nancy Graves Foundation Award, an Artadia Award, and fellowships and residencies from the Core Program (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), the International Studio and Curatorial Program (New York), the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program (New York), the MacDowell Colony, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts — where he devised and employed a large-scale self-contained water harvesting and storage system to produce a simple but phenomenal visual event: a rainbow in the sky.
John VandenBrooks, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of physiology at Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz.. His research focuses on how varying amounts of atmospheric oxygen over geologic time influenced the physiology, development and evolution of animals. He has consulted on and appeared in television and radio programs from National Geographic, the Science Channel, the History Channel and the BBC, and has been awarded grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the American Museum of Natural History, and the American Philosophical Society, among many others. VandenBrooks received his Ph.D. in geology and geophysics from Yale University in 2007 .