The Ergotamine Mutoscope

 

The sealed viewing portal

The sealed viewing portal

 

Ergot is the dried sclerotium of the fungus, Claviceps purpurea  and these  arise  on the grains of various  cereal plants. The sclerotium contains high concentrations of various highly toxic alkaloids which possess a range of  biological activities, including effects on circulation and neurotransmission. Consumption of flour contaminated with Ergot results in St. Anthony’s fire or Ergotism, the symptoms of which include hallucinations, sensations of severe burning and gangrene. Ergotism  resulted in the death of 40,000 people in AD 944 in Southern France. In this work the medium is ergot sclerotia and consequently  it is quite possibly one of the  most toxic forms of art ever produced.  Here  ergots, the compact dark and toxic masses, are held  in an impermeable safety cabinet and are only  visible only through a sealed  viewing portal,  so that their threat is ever present,  but in that moment  of viewing,  their highly  disruptive biochemical  potential is contained.

A Message From The Thames: a creative collaboration with a river

The full and Thames censored message

The full and Thames censored message

Part of the message

Part of the message

A close revealing the complex structure of the words

A close revealing the complex structure of the words

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A close revealing the complex structure of the words

One of my works at “Exploring The Invisible”, Trinity Buoy Wharf. A photographic process that uses the microorganisms naturally present in natural water courses to make living images. To make these, I took water taken from the Thames, and used this  to infuse a paper canvas. Next,  I  differentially exposed the medium to light, using a negative image, so that the normally invisible photosynthetic microbes naturally present in the water, would grow in the illuminated areas to form a poem,  written in a living green ink which has arisen from the river water itself. Nature is capricious though, and the Thames seems to have censored the intended message, and created its own interpretation. Here are the words of the original poem: Grey Thames at flood in balance swung, Grey gulls scared mewing overhead, The chill grey wind a requiem said, And over all the grey sky hung. Mortlake Bridge, Fred S Thacker, 1920

Many Bright Paths

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A dark patina of microbial growth on a local bottle bank. It’s tempting to speculate that it feeds on alcoholic fumes, and thus on the residue of our celebrations, intoxications, or various needs for oblivion. Snails have fed on this dark ecology, etching complex glyphs into it and bringing it to light.

Optimizing Bioluminescence: choose your strain carefully

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Here are three stains of the bioluminescent bacterium Photobacterium phosphoreum. Identical growth conditions and growth stages, striking differences in light output. BioArtists choose your strain carefully! The upper most, and brightest strain, is the one that I use in my works. Its designation is P. phosphoreum HB (hyper bright) and it has been especially selected for its high level of bioluminescence.