I'm an Indigenous Australian whose role at UTS is Artist in Residence in the Faculty of Science. I practice and facilitate the arts as language that is vital for generating and passing on knowledge. I lead the Living Data program to expand understanding of human impacts on natural cycles of climate change.
My heritage is Australian Aboriginal and European. I was born on Norfolk Island. I do not know my country or my mob. I grew up by Victoria's Sherbrooke Forest in the house built by my great grandfather, Colonial artist Tom Roberts. My mother worked as an artist in Bill Onus's Aboriginal Enterprises studio and inspired my passion for drawing and dance. My father was a merchant seaman and his stories inspired a fascination for the Ocean. Formal studies include dance, visual arts, animation, Indigenous perspectives and Antarctic perceptions. My PhD was inspired by working in Antarctica as an Antarctic Arts Fellow with the Australian Antarctic Division. The research was practice-based and led to the development of a lexicon of primal gestural forms that I now use in animation to combine stories shared by Indigenous and non-Indigenous scientists and other artists. See full Bio.
Ongoing work is developing Oceanic Living Data, an installation that evolves, like a scientific model, to reflect new knowledge. Validation of the accuracy of our work, its clear language and sensory appeal, is representation in international events including Sydney Science Festivals, Sentinel Science and Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (Hobart), Sur Polar art and science festivals (Buenos Aires), and Climarte (Melbourne).
Key achievements include:
- Establishing and leading the Living Data program
- Making and distributing digital animations that contribute to scientific and popular understandings of Euphausia superba (Antarctic krill)
- Developing Antarctic Animation: a lexicon of primal gestural forms for combining scientific data and sensory expressions of connection
- Authoring and animating the first online Antarctic Thesaurus
- Co-authoring Roget's Circular, the animated interactive thesaurus for Macquarie Library's first digital publication of their reference work
Current research is Track Changes - an exploration of how gestures can be used in growing and sharing knowledge by aligning individual beliefs and collective knowledge gleaned from science.
Track Changes is independent research facilitated through the University of Technology Sydney with supervision from Professor William Gladstone,Head of the School of Life Sciences. The research builds on the PhD study, Antarctic Animation: Gestures and lines describe a changing environment(UNSW 2010) tha identified gestures as essential components of accurate communication. Now more than ever, diverse and well-informed responses to climate change are vital for effective adaptation.
Kawaguchi, S, Kilpatrick, R, Roberts, L, King, RA & Nicol, S 2011, 'Ocean-bottom krill sex', Journal Of Plankton Research, vol. 33, no. 7, pp. 1134-1138.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
For the first time the entire sequence of the mating behaviour of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) in the wild is captured on underwater video. This footage also provides evidence that mating can take place near the seafloor at depths of 400-700 m. This observation challenges the generally accepted concept of the pelagic lifestyle of krill. The mating behaviour observed most closely resembles the mating behaviour reported for a decapod shrimp (Penaeus). The implications of the new observation are also discussed.
Roberts, L & Nicol, S 2011, 'Krill looks and feelers: a dialogue on expanding perceptions of climate change data', The Polar Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 251-264.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
In order to stir action on climate change, people beyond the scientific community need to make sense of the relevant data. When scientific data are expressed aesthetically, an appeal is made to our senses which in turn leads us to attend to reason. This article examines the process of collaboration between artists and scientists. Moreover, the article itself, written in the voices of an artist and a scientist, is an example of one form of cross-disciplinary collaboration. It focuses on the case of Antarctic krill - key creatures in the marine food web that must be specially understood. The combination of artistic and scientific methods, and the use of new digital imaging methods, enable the representation of krill as beautiful living creatures rather than mere dots on the computer screen. This collaborative process exemplifies the kind of shift towards collective knowledge production that is a necessary part of communicating climate change data.