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Singing Darwin: A new media exhibition and performance art event celebrating the 150th anniversary of Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species'


BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 2, 2009 – From Nov. 4-25 the Armory Gallery at Virginia Tech will host "Singing Darwin: A New Media Exhibition on the 150th Anniversary of Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species.'"

Singing Darwin is a three-dimensional installation with an evolving sound and image-scape, created and natural objects, live coral and specimens from the College of Science and from the paleontology collection of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. On Nov. 19, from 4-6 p.m., there will be a public reception to meet the artists and students who created Singing Darwin.

Special 24-hour Singing Darwin performance art event open to the public and including featured visiting artists: Nov. 23, at 7 p.m. to Nov. 24, at 7 p.m.

On the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, Singing Darwin will culminate in a 24-hour, live performance art and new media event in the gallery. The piece will begin at 7 p.m. Nov. 23 and end at 7 p.m. on Nov. 24.

With a diverse group of participants and artists, Singing Darwin will combine experimental electro/acoustic sound, vocal improvisation, visual imagery, theater, reading, and dance. During the 24-hour piece, the entire 1859 edition of On the Origin of Species will be read and sung, using an improvisational approach to music, movement, text, and visual imagery developed for the project. The 24-hour event will be open to the public and web-streamed from the Armory Gallery through the Singing Darwin website.

Singing Darwin is a collaborative project conceived and directed by Carol Burch-Brown, professor of art and humanities, School of Visual Arts, College of Architecture and Urban Studies, with participating artists, musicians, scholars, scientists, and students from Virginia Tech and elsewhere.

Elise Witt, musician and recording artist; Celeste Miller, movement artist; and Virginia Schenck, musician, are featured guest performers from Atlanta, Ga. Composers from Virginia Tech are Ico Bukvic, assistant professor of music; and Paul Schreiner of Lynchburg, Va., a theatre arts graduate student. Visual artists, performers and readers from Virginia Tech include Dane Webster, assistant professor of art; Whitney Waller, Blacksburg artist; Tadd Sipes, assistant professor of music; Paola Zellner, adjunct faculty in architecture; Simone Paterson, assistant professor of art; Steve Harrison, research scientist in computer science; David Crane, professor of art; Janet Niewald, instructor of art; and Eric Standley, assistant professor of art.

“The imagery and sound for Singing Darwin draws from an enormous range of source materials observed, heard or collected directly by the participants, who bring these into an experimental and rich technological framework,” says Carol Burch-Brown. “Singing Darwin explores the processes of observation and listening within an interdisciplinary framework inspired by the pliable and imaginative questions Darwin asked in his science and in his life.” The Singing Darwin exhibition and 24-hour event extends the artistic collaboration from Living Darwin an original theatre piece, which premiered at Virginia Tech in October and was co-directed by Ann Kilkelly, professor of theatre and cinema; Burch-Brown; and Bob Leonard, professor of theatre arts.

Singing Darwin is sponsored by the School of Visual Arts; the College of Architecture and Urban Studies; Institute for Society, Culture, and the Environment; the Darwin Celebration Committee; and Alternate ROOTS (Atlanta). Paul Stewart, author of Galapagos: The Islands that Changed the World, has generously provided 19th century historical scientific imagery related to Darwin that is not often accessible to the public.

Other connected events include the “Celebration of Darwin” conference on Nov. 4 and the Choices and Challenges Forum on Nov. 5 on “The Inner Life of Animals.”

Armory Gallery Hours, 203 Draper Road, Blacksburg, VA 24061:

  • Tuesday: noon-4 p.m.
  • Wednesday: noon-6 p.m.
  • Thursday: noon-4 p.m.
  • Friday: noon-4 p.m.
  • Saturday: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

With a visitor’s pass, free parking for the Armory is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Squires Lot on Otey Street. A visitor’s pass may be obtained Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Visitor’s Information Center, located on Southgate Drive. After 5 p.m., free parking is available in the Squires Lot on Otey Street, no pass is needed. Find more parking information online or call (540) 231-3200.

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