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Dario Robleto’s Unknown and Solitary Seas Opens at Radcliffe Institute on November 4

Based on extensive archival research, Dario Robleto’s multimedia installation Unknown and Solitary Seas: Dreams and Emotions of the 19th Century examines the origins of the pulse wave as a graphic expression of internal life.

Author By Radcliffe Communications Published 10.24.2019 Share this page on Facebook Share this page on Twitter Share this page on LinkedIn Copy Link

Based on extensive archival research, Dario Robleto’s multimedia installation Unknown and Solitary Seas: Dreams and Emotions of the 19th Century examines the origins of the pulse wave as a graphic expression of internal life.

The exhibition, set to open on November 4 at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, will transport viewers to the moment when emotional and sensory experiences first became visible as data. The artist uses steel, brass, print, video, and engineered sound to elevate the intimacy, beauty, and emotional complexity of the first waveforms drawn from and by the heart.

“We have become accustomed to waveforms as they march across medical charts and hospital monitors; we take for granted their diagnostic significance, and their visual language has become thoroughly familiar,” says Jennifer L. Roberts, exhibition curator and Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the Arts at the Radcliffe Institute. “In returning to the 19th-century origins of these forms, Robleto hopes to reclaim their provocativeness and uncertainty.”

Those provocations, Roberts notes, invite the viewer to consider “a host of ongoing debates and questions: What kind of language does the body write, and in whose interest might it speak? What is the relationship between artistic and scientific representation of emotional experience? Can (and should) the shape of consciousness be captured and communicated?”

For the past several years, Robleto has been investigating the cultural and technological history of the quest to record the living human heart. Unknown and Solitary Seas is a natural outgrowth of his lifelong interest in the practice and philosophy of recording: all his work is marked by the influence of DJ culture, sound studies, and music fandom. Another perpetual theme in Robleto’s creations has been the validation of emotional knowledge, particularly through the promotion and testing of empathy as the fundamental function of art.

“In turning his attention to records of the heartbeat, Robleto does more than simply extend this strategy to a new topic,” says Roberts. “He also approaches the highly sensitive cultural site where the meaning of recording in the West has historically converged with the meaning of the heart.”

Robleto’s work is held in such prominent collections as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Menil Collection, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In his 20-year career as an artist, he has been a research fellow or artist in residence at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, the SETI Institute, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and a wide variety of other cultural and academic institutions. He lives and works in Houston.

About the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study is a unique space within Harvard—a school dedicated to creating and sharing transformative ideas across all disciplines. Each year, the Institute hosts 50 leading scholars, scientists, and artists from around the world in its renowned residential fellowship program. Radcliffe fosters innovative research collaborations and offers hundreds of public lectures, exhibitions, performances, conferences, and other events annually. The Institute is home to the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library, the nation’s foremost archive on the history of women, gender, and sexuality.

The Radcliffe Institute promotes visual art as a form of advanced study and provides a unique space for artistic experimentation and dialogue on the Harvard campus. Exhibitions feature contemporary art that advances interdisciplinary conversation across the vibrant intellectual communities at the institute, Harvard, and beyond.

Exhibitions at the Radcliffe Institute are free and open to the public.
For more information about the people and programs of the Radcliffe Institute, visit

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