Dario Robleto
Unknown and Solitary Seas:

Dreams and Emotions of the 19th Century

November 4, 2019–January 18, 2020

Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery
Hours: Noon–5 PM, Monday–Saturday
Byerly Hall, 8 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Opening talk and reception: November 4, 2019 at 5 p.m.

Unknown and Solitary Seas (Dreams and Emotions of the 19th Century), 2018. Earliest waveform recordings of blood flowing from the heart and in the brain during sleep, dreaming and various emotional states (1874-96), rendered and 3-D printed in brass-plated stainless steel; lacquered maple, 22k gold leaf.

Unknown and Solitary Seas (Dreams and Emotions of the 19th Century), 2018. Earliest waveform recordings of blood flowing from the heart and in the brain during sleep, dreaming and various emotional states (1874-96), rendered and 3-D printed in brass-plated stainless steel; lacquered maple, 22k gold leaf.

Dario Robleto’s exhibition for the Radcliffe Institute examines the 19th-century origins of the pulse wave as a graphic expression of internal life. Robleto explores the profundity and confusion of this early moment, when ineffable emotional and sensory experiences first became visible as data. These waveforms eventually led to the voracious clinical data collection of today, but the earliest experiments were delicate and hesitant: pulse waves were traced into sooted paper with a stylus made of a single human hair, and scientists were not sure how (or whether) to interpret them. Robleto’s multimedia installation, based on extensive archival research, reawakens the intimacy, beauty, and emotional complexity of these first waveforms drawn from and by the heart. Sculpting them in steel and brass, printing and retrieving them from new layers of soot, and converting them into video and engineered sound, Robleto encourages us to attend to them with resonant forms of empathy, to reflect upon the lives of the 19th-century subjects who bequeathed them to us—and ultimately to imagine more heartfelt ways of inheriting and interpreting historical data.

Throughout his 20-year career as an artist, Robleto has sought to cultivate rigorous, mutually transformative interactions among the arts, humanities, and sciences. Tapping into multiple creative traditions ranging from astrophysics and paleontology to poetry and DJ culture, his work has focused with particular intensity on theories and practices of recording and on the material and emotional structures of intergenerational relay and memory. His work has been exhibited widely and is held in prominent collections including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Menil Collection, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He has been a research fellow or artist in residence at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, the SETI Institute, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and a wide variety of other cultural and academic institutions. Robleto is currently serving as the first artist-at-large at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Block Museum of Art. He lives and works in Houston, Texas.

Exhibition organized by Jennifer L. Roberts, Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the Arts at the Radcliffe Institute and Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University