Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya is a neuroscientist-turned-artist who’s made a career out of interactive installations, murals, augmented reality and biodesign to bring science and society closer together. Her latest exhibition, Connective Tissue, is her first large collection of work shown together, including 10 pieces that have never been seen before. Before Phingbodhipakkiya went to graduate school to learn about design and to become an artist, she studied neuroscience at Columbia University and worked in an Alzheimer’s research lab. Her knowledge of human behavior helped her create visuals that capture the mind’s attention, and some of her installations are interactive.
The need for interactivity comes from her philosophy of designing her work to be an exploration rather than an explanation. “I call it an exploration because with an explanation it’s like a chart, a figure and a description,” said Phingbodhipakkiya. “This work is more about how do you connect your humanity to science.”
The artist, who lives in New York, said the concepts in her work are quite broad. There’s no single idea that she’s trying to get a viewer to take away from a piece, but rather, she wants people to ponder several ideas. Within Connective Tissue, there are pieces meant to start conversations about bioethics in the future. Phingbodhipakkiya said it’s about getting people to think about what the future will look like for everyone and understanding the powers at play that will control the future of humanity. “In the future, we can genetically alter children to be smarter, but maybe that puts them at risk for Alzheimer’s later in their life,” said Phingbodhipakkiya. “You know, that’s an ethical conundrum.”
In the gallery there are different scenarios, like the debate about genetically altering children, and visitors can interact with the art by choosing a response and voting on how they feel about particular situations. Other pieces depict scientific phenomena that occur on micro and macro levels to enthrall the viewer. Phingbodhipakkiya designed a sculpture of a photon passing through two electrons and increased the scale from something that can’t be seen with the naked eye to a 30-foot-long sculpture. “It’s a moment that’s so fleeting that it’s even difficult for scientists to observe,” she said. Yet, phenomena like this impact humanity every single day. That’s where the concept of Connective Tissue came from. It’s the subatomic particles interacting with each other every day that connects humans. And it’s the humans connecting with each other that forms a society and the decisions made in a society.
Besides making a career of helping audiences explore scientific concepts, Phingbodhipakkiya said it has been very rewarding receiving messages from students about how she’s changed their future careers. She preaches bringing your whole self to your work. It about not having to choose just one field or one area of study, but rather bringing all of your passions to the table to create something amazing—like she has with neuroscience and visual art.
Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya‘s Connective Tissue is on exhibit at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas through Feb. 22, 2020. The museum hosts a free, bilingual tour of the exhibition on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 2 p.m.
Cover photo by Mikayla Whitmore, courtesy of the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art.