New York artist Brandon Ballengee creates multidisciplinary works from information generated by ecological field trips and laboratory research, exploring the boundaries between art, science and technology. Since 1996, Ballengee has collaborated with numerous scientists to conduct primary biological research and advanced imaging procedures. His works have been exhibited in New York, Beijing, Vienna, London and other cities.
Brandon Ballengee was artist in residence at Gallery Oldham in November 2002 as part of the CleanRooms exhibition. Working in collaboration with a small group of unemployed young people, he developed a project which explored the origin and growth of current practices in genetic engineering. The group visited English farms, pet shops, urban parks, markets, and biotech laboratories to help trace the history of humankind’s struggle for dominance over natural evolutionary forces. According to the Ballengee, “the ‘Unconscious’ selection of our early ancestors shifted to selective breeding or artificial selection and has now evolved into the manipulation of individual genes to create entirely new species.”
Creating images of hundreds of species/breeds, they created two enormous visual time-lines exploring the changes in plant and animal life over the last 25,000 years. The work became an integral part of the CleanRooms exhibition and toured with it to the Natural History Museum in London in 2003, where Ballengee was again artist-in-residence and further developed the work in collaboration with the public and museum scientists.
From visits to local farms, pet stores, parks and markets, Ballengee and his collaborators traced the history of humankind's struggle for dominance over natural evolutionary forces, creating a gallery and on-line installation from images of domesticated and engineered organisms, titled From Farm 2 Pharm.
During 2007 and 2008, artist Brandon Ballengée led numerous public fieldtrips and biodiversity walks, projects with schools, workshops, study days and events, and ran a public bioart laboratory, as an integral part of his UK amphibians study and residencies at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Gunpowder Park and SPACE London, organised by The Arts Catalyst.
Urban ecologist Dusty Gedge, and wildlife photographer David Cottridge also joined Brandon to lead a study day of particular interest to artists wishing to develop their ecological-art practice and ecologists interested in working with artists to raise awareness of ecological issues.
The artist also set up installations, Love Motels for Insects, at Gunpowder Park (the 2nd Artists International Airshow) and SPACE, sculptural works that use ultra-violet (black) light to study and photograph spiders, moths, beetles and other nocturnal creatures, and ran a popular 'Bug Party' at SPACE, a drawing workshop for all ages which incorporated music, graffiti art, and an urban bug hunt to discover the insect life of Hackney.
In 2009, this body of work then culminated in an exhibition and a publication entitled Malamp: The Occurence of Deformities in Amphibians. The publication was a survey of Ballengee's study of amphibians across several countries and was published by The Arts Catalyst. Malamp included a scientific paper written by the artist and his collaborator Professor Stan Sessions.In the exhibition, The Case of the Deviant Toad Ballengée presented variations of his sculptural series Styx which display cleared and stained specimens of deformed toads, each tiny animal presented in a precisely illuminated glass dish. In a gallery context, the specimens resembled translucent gems; enchanting, terrible and other-worldly. Framed watercolour prints of detailed vibrant specimens scans are reminiscent of x-rays, presenting large-scale images of fragile delicacy to invoke viewers' empathy.