24 June 2008

Wonderland - the start of something remarkable

The pioneering Wonderland exhibition, a showcase of the talent, imagination and creativity of Professor Tony Ryan from the University of Sheffield and artist and designer Professor Helen Storey from the London College of Fashion, will be shown in a citywide event in Sheffield between 18 June and 13 July 2008.

This unique exhibition brings together the worlds of art and science to shed light on some of today’s most pressing environmental issues. By working together, the scientist and the artist have been able to use their different backgrounds to spark new ideas on the application of science and discover practical solutions to current ethical issues.

The project has developed a number of products in varying stages of completion. The exhibition in Sheffield will demonstrate two of these including the ‘dissolving bottles’ and the ‘disappearing dresses’.

The dissolving bottles, to be shown at the city’s Botanical Gardens, are an exploration of intelligent packaging. Once finished with, the bottles dissolve under hot water to form a gel in which seeds can be grown. The concept could revolutionise the packaging industry and aims to highlight issues surrounding waste plastic.

Meadowhall Shopping Centre will be home to the exhibition’s disappearing dresses. The dresses, made from dissolving textiles designed by Trish Belford at Interface at the University of Ulster, will be hung from scaffolds and gradually lowered into giant goldfish bowls of water where they will slowly dissolve, creating vibrant underwater fireworks. This part of the exhibition questions the environmental sustainability of our current fashion industry and what happens to used clothing. Events and exhibitions will also be held at Sheffield’s Millennium Galleries and the University of Sheffield.

The partnership between the scientist and the artist was formed after Professor Storey heard Professor Ryan talking on BBC Radio 4’s Material Science programme. It has organically grown into a dynamic working relationship and the pair have now been given funding by NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) to provide a blueprint for collaboration for universities around the globe.

Professor Ryan said, “This project has pushed the boundaries of what is achievable to provide remarkable results. Not only do we hope the products we have created can provide practical solutions to live issues, but that the conversation we’ve started about re-thinking our current behaviour can continue and gather momentum.

“The exhibition is all about stimulating the public conscience in visual and dramatic ways and empowering people to dream about alternative ways of consuming.”

The Alumni Foundation, which channels the donations of Sheffield alumni (former students), staff and friends of the University into projects involving current students and staff, was happy to support the Wonderland project with a grant of £1,000.

For more information about the Wonderland project, please visit the link below: