When Los Angeles-based Poetic Kinetics founder Patrick Shearn mentions that the sight of thousands of starlings swooping and swirling in unison in giant waves across the sky is one of his inspirations, it is apparent that this artist uses his profound technical skills to create reminders of nature’s awesome power. Murmuration, a deliciously alliterative word, is the perfect metaphor for Shearn’s site-specific work like Liquid Shard (2016) and Silver Current (2019), a billowing network of shimmering silvery filaments that floated on the wind over historic Custom House Square in New Bedford, Massachusetts in the summer of 2019.
This immersive installation was the keystone element in the kickoff of Summer Winds, a season-long series of exhibitions and programming under the auspices of the newly formed Massachusetts Design Art and Technology Institute (DATMA), a non-collecting museum bringing international artists and performers creating wind-related work throughout the public parks and along the waterfront of downtown New Bedford.
During the 19th century, this city, perched on the south coast of Massachusetts, was one of the most important whaling ports in the world. Still known for its fishing fleet and seafood production-based economy, the city has suffered along with the embattled local fishing industry as it responds to the pressures of an eroding environment, government regulation, and international competition. As a coastal city, it must confront the effects of climate change and come up with solutions or consign itself to eventual extinction. Forward-thinking local advocates believe that investing in new technologies, like wind turbines, may offer a solution. In fact, Massachusetts leads the way in its commitment to the development of renewable offshore wind energy: the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal is the first hub in the country designed for the deployment of offshore wind farms.