Erwin Timmers Interview

What inspires/motivates you?
For me, I love creating things. I am definitely inspired by my environment, what I see around me both in nature and in culture. A big part of that is my family, so family life and trying to secure a world afterwards that they can live in is important. That’s where environmental issues have come into play for me, I see so much destruction happening and I see a lot that I can do.

How does data affect aesthetics in your work, and vice versa?
Numbers aren’t always directly represented in artwork, but symbols are huge, what represents cause and effect. I like to seek out those symbols, they steer me even if they don’t directly affect aesthetics. For me data and aesthetics aren’t exclusive, they flow back and forth naturally. Even in the creation of art you use science, temperatures of kilns etc. is a methodological process.

What adaptations has this involved both on theoretical and practical levels?
Thinking about the pieces I’m working on, it’s been a smooth transition with steps in between, where physiological data is transformed into something with visible impact. It’s all about making data interpretable; if you’re not a member of the scientific community then numbers don’t mean much. That goes back to the symbols, I’m working with that on the water bottles I’m rendering in glass. I’m taking something familiar and making it something different, forcing the audience to realize something they’d taken for granted.

What (if any) personal collisions have occurred in the combination of art and science?
In the work we do here we always have a resolution at the start of the project; each opinion helps form the game plan. I did see, in the workshop we did, all the students had brought in all of their symbols to be rendered in glass, and the way they were going about it was different from how an artistic person would do it, kind of starting from the other end conceptually, but they were able to produce a good product.

What “aha” moments have occurred in the process?
Actually I did ask some specific questions in the focus groups, mainly having to do with my own work. I struggle with how my work affects the environment as I’m making it, and trying to minimize the energy expense involved in making the art. In the art projects I was showing to the group, there was a large visible carbon footprint. I asked the group what they thought about that, and they hadn’t really considered or recognized that before. That was a really eye opening moment for me, that a general audience wouldn’t see that at first.

What has been most unfamiliar to you in this research process? What has made you take a second look at the process and/or product?
I was absolutely unfamiliar with the amount of waste generated by the medical world and the whole process of disposing of that waste. Obviously there are a lot of materials used and waste created, but I had no idea about the incineration processes that were used. I did think that the students were all very willing to discuss the issue of medical waste even though it could be considered “attacking”, and that was very uplifting.

Where might this work be displayed? Who is the target audience?
Initially it will be displayed at the Smith Center for the Healing Arts, after that Caroline has talked about taking it to her clinic. I’m in the process of putting it together now, matching up the work to the space available. It’ll be a steel frame structure that will hold the glass panels, all visible and close enough to touch and interact with.