Skip to Content

McKissick Museum

  • Anna Davidson, Untitled 2, 2022, digital photograph.

The Lost City: Between Art and Science

February 1 - May 12, 2023

The Lost City: Between Art and Science presents work by artist/scientist Dr. Anna Davidson, research posters by USC students working under Dr. Susan Q. Lang’s direction in 2018 when she was School of the Earth, Ocean, and Environment faculty, and rock specimens from the Lost City and other hydrothermal vent systems. Together, they offer different perspectives on and interpretations of the Lost City, a unique hydrothermal vent site located on the Atlantis Massif, an underwater mountain on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Discovered in 2000, the Lost City hosts a vent field of white chimneys up to 60 meters tall and 750-900 meters below sea level. Home to chemical
reactions that generate the hydrocarbon that living organisms need to survive, it is a place that offers important clues to the origins of life on Earth or elsewhere in our solar system.

This exhibit showcases the results of one interdisciplinary research experiment while participating in a larger trend within academia to champion interdisciplinary research as key to addressing large, complex problems related to public health, food systems, and climate change. As an artist-at-sea on a research expedition to the Lost City, Davidson created art that draws our attention to images of the stunning chimney towers and single-celled life forms found at hydrothermal vent sites. The work incorporates white and black chimney rock samples, as well as nodules containing metals that nations worldwide are increasingly interested in mining the seabed to support green technologies. With these images and objects, Davidson brings us close to the wonder of how life may have begun and raises our awareness of the threat that deep-sea mining poses to ongoing research at these sites.

The research posters offer a window onto how scientific data gathered on this Lost City research expedition evolved from specific research questions derived from earlier findings at the site. They outline the methods undertaken to answer those questions, and offer new research findings. The images and charts featured in the posters also help us visualize what’s  happening at the Lost City site. In this experiment in interdisciplinary research, do the artist’s and the scientists’ visual and written representations of the Lost City strengthen and enrich each other? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

Related Programs

Register and learn more about the events associated with The Lost City: Between Art and Science below.

Banner image: Anna Davidson, Untitled 2, 2022, digital photograph.

Map: © OpenGeology -

Photograph of the Atlantis: © Nsandel at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.