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@emilymap: instagram exhibition review of biology-inspired art maps

By Kimberly Glassman

There is a lot of talk right now about how the museum will adapt to the digital age. Some museums such as Modern Art Oxford (@mao_gallery) have started to use software to upload their physical gallery spaces online (giving you that futuristic virtual reality experience). Others such as the History of Science Museum in Oxford (@hsmoxford) have created apps that allow you to unlock more content when you take a picture of the museum objects (creating a Pokemon-Go, augmented reality feel to the museum experience). The collaboration between scientists, engineers, and artists have resulted in many awe-inspiring works, but for those who cannot afford the expensive software, 360° cameras, or are not part of a large institution who have the tools to create an artificial reality app, you really don’t need to look further than Instagram. Take @emilymap for instance!

Emily Garfield (@emilymap) creates imaginary maps inspired by the patterns of neurons and cells. In July 2014, Emily started her instagram account, @emilymap, with an image of a work-in-progress map she was creating of the East River in New York. In the early years, Emily’s posts mostly featured a behind-the-scenes look into her process and sneak peaks at upcoming experiments. Occasionally, a personal post would creep its way in. Not unlike how a curator might include additional images or objects to support a viewer’s understanding of an exhibition, Emily’s personal posts shed light on her influences from day-to-day life.

Thematically dividing her content, Emily optimally uses the Instagram story highlights to her advantage. She takes into consideration relevant material, much like a curator does when deciding what content to include to supplement an artist’s exhibition. In her “Art Seen 🖼” stories, she tags other artists she comes across, such as @dereklerner (NYC based artist Derek Lerner) and @whimsiology (artist and illustrator Verónica Fuentes). In doing so, we get to see the world through her eyes, if even for a brief moment. Her “Shows/Displays” highlights gives creds and tags to the galleries and affiliates she exhibits with, akin to an exhibition history list (such as @linknycofficial, @sprechgesanginstitute, and @theboweryunion). But really I absolutely love her “Sketchbook” and “Studio” stories. We get to walk the bridge from the artists inspirations to her exhibitions via her process, all organised via Instagram stories.

There is one specific ‘wall’ in Emily’s Instagram gallery where she started working with geometric forms and experimenting with computer-generated imagery influenced by her work in Photoshop. We see her first investigations into the difference between human and computer-generated randomness and are witness to her questioning the very nature of what a map even is?

In 2018, Emily posted her first ‘curated work’, as I would call it. Having completed a commission based on the Manitowish area of connected lakes, she includes three photos. The finished work to start and then two additional ones, posting “Swipe for some behind-the-scenes shots of what goes into my process 😊)” and tags @manitowishwaters. Scrolling a bit further up (closer to the present-time), again we see three works curated together showing her recent inquiry into idiosyncratic mini data vis. Nowadays you can find Emily posting everything from beautiful scribbles of notes taken at inspiring talks such as @biobat_artspace or exclusive video clips into experimental mini zine collaborations, such as with @nyc_hub.

Her Instagram posts are like reading footnoted poetry:

“thanks to @nyc_hub free printing✨I made a mini zine/treatise explaining the connection I see between maps and rules and science🔬🔭

The text is adapted from the transcript of my 2016 talk at @miranda.aisling’s What I Make conference. I’m sure there is more to add though, so please leave suggestions in the comments! 🗺

In one statement, Emily links together the Freelancers Hub NYC with fellow artist Miranda Aisling (some of her most interesting works being knitted canvases) and the larger hashtag communities of sciart, mapart, and patternsinnature. Clicking into any one of these tags will bring you on an inspiring journey exploring the inspirations, connections, and breadth of creativity between maps, artistic production, and zines.

My encounter with Emily’s Instagram ‘gallery’ has me thinking about the nature of digitising the arts and the access to science communication. Emily beautifully wraps together explanations of her art process and, in doing so, reveals the scientific inspirations that lead to her unique aesthetic. I encourage you all to visit her Instagram account as you would a gallery and explore her website, which serves an accompanying catalogue publication. It provides videos and blog posts explaining her inspirations and artistic process in greater detail. Her Instagram account is a living breathing sciart exhibition that continues to grow every day. Even in our current lockdown isolations, Emily’s exhibition brings people together to comment, like, and share in ways that a physical exhibition never could.

Emily live streams twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays, so you can see her work in action: Let us know what your favourite @emilymap Instagram post is by tagging us, @convergenceinitiative and @emilymap!

Kimberly Glassman Short Bio
Kimberly Glassman completed her BFA at Concordia University in history of art and psychology and obtained her MSt from the University of Oxford in history of art and visual culture. Her research investigates science used as an artistic medium, colour theory, the art/science of botanical illustrations, and curatorial digital engagement.  Kim served as Fine Arts Communications Manager for Convergence: Perceptions of Neuroscience from 2016-2017 and is ecstatic to be returning as a contributing author. She currently works at The North Wall Arts Centre in Oxford and regularly contributes to art-science publications, such as SciArt Magazine. 

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