OU art professor presents upcoming projects

Dean Vaglia, Staff Reporter

Oakland University Associate Professor of Art Colleen Ludwig delivered an update about her post-sabbatical work at a Zoom meeting on Tuesday, Mar. 3. The update was delivered through a presentation titled “Worlds Collide: Research in Progress.”

Ludwig reported on her year and a half long research and sabbatical period studying with the University of Michigan’s A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. After working with technology like the computer-aided design (CAD) program Rhinoceros and the programming language Python to create artwork for a Master’s degree from the Taubman College, Ludwig shared her ideas for three new art projects.

The first project Ludwig plans to work on is creating a mycotecture project. Mycotecture is the concept of using mycelium as a building material. Ludwig plans on putting the mycelium into a casting mold and — by either killing the mycelium through baking it or keeping it alive by air drying it — turning it into bricks suitable for building with.

Ludwig is currently experimenting with mycelium structures and would like to combine the mycelium bricks with living plants to build a pavilion.

Ludwig’s second project, titled “Biomassacre,” is to make umbrella-like devices to be used at environmentalist protests. The implements’ proposed design is inspired by plant pods and will play music. The music can be modified by manipulating a lever attached to the umbrella’s stem, warping the sound like a guitarist using a whammy bar. Through the warped sound and tally-marked “pedal” design, the devices are intended to mourn the animals killed by climate change. 

Ludwig was inspired to make the implements by a 2009 parade where animal-shaped puppets were used by the marchers, by protests organized by UK-based group Extinction Rebellion and by the news of animals being killed in last year’s Australian wildfires.

Ludwig’s third project is to create a publicly accessible wildlife refuge in Detroit using land currently held by the Detroit Land Bank. 

“I want to work on [the refuge] so that there is a place where people can come and learn about coexisting with wildlife in an urban environment,” Ludwig said. 

The idea for the project came from Ludwig’s desire for more equitable land use in the city — an issue she learned about at some of last summer’s protests — and from living around the urban tree farms operated by Hantz Farms.

Ludwig seeks to create art exploring the idea of worlds colliding.

“I use ‘worlds collide’ [for the presentation title] because of the new connection or the deepened connection that I have made between the built environment and the natural environment,” Ludwig said.

Ludwig cites an encounter she had while vacationing in the Bahamas as the source of her interest with colliding worlds. 

“While I was there, I saw some environmental degradation that was very disturbing to me,” Ludwig said. “I came to this sort of epiphanal moment where I decided I really needed to directly devote my career to the climate challenge.”

Several of the projects Ludwig worked on at the Taubman College can be linked to her planned works. One such project is “Rolling Mold,” an art installation using plaster poured into a cast to create an arch. The techniques used in “Rolling Mold” are like those to be used in the mycotecture pavilion project.