A Richer Dust Concealed

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“There shall be in that rich dust a richer dust concealed”

 Where it is left to settle and left undisturbed, dust will form an informative yet fragile grey stratum.  If they avoid the gaze of the avid cleaner, these deposits can be ancient and being made mostly of shed human skin, animal dander, and fabric fibres, a  layer of dust, like sedimentary rock, can hold a fragile record of  life,  passage and occupation. Here I have collected dust samples from neglected and overlooked corners and crannies from ancient buildings. For example from Winchester Cathedral  and Hampton Court,  and examined these under a microscope so that each sample came to  reveal its own unique story. I like to think of these as microscopic sagas that settled directly from the air itself,  long after their participants had left the scene,  and in the ensuing silence, the  room’s atmosphere  had stilled to allow this to happen

Amber from the Anthropocene: a test and dreams of a necklace

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Amber is fossilized tree resin, which can sometimes contain animals or insects that became caught in the resin after it was secreted.  In this respect, it has unique preservational properties, and can preserve otherwise labile parts, and can be used for the reconstruction of  organisms  and  remarkably even the ecosystems  that they once occupied.  Insects, and notably bacteria and amoebae, have been recovered from ambers dating to a least 130 million years ago.

It is a reflection of the human condition, that for many of us this remarkable material is prized, not so much for its remarkable biological properties, but for its colour and natural beauty and it has been much valued from antiquity to the present as a gemstone.

This is developmental phase of a new project to make a beautiful necklace made from amber  containing embedded insects, not from 130 million years ago though, but with endangered  insects (like bees) from the present,  that is from the  Anthropocene .  It plays upon the possibility that insects that may soon become extinct may one day be revived from the necklace against the backdrop of our vanity, and also questions how we often misappropriate real  value.

This is a first attempt to transform tree resin into amber. You might just be able to see the embedded insect.

Some Observations on the Metamorphosis of Wolf’s Milk

 

The fruiting body of the slime mould Lycogala epidendrum

The fruiting body of the slime mould Lycogala epidendrum

The fruiting body of the slime mould Lycogala epidendrum

The fruiting body of the slime mould Lycogala epidendrum

The fruiting body of the slime mould Lycogala epidendrum

The fruiting body of the slime mould Lycogala epidendrum

Possibly the plasmodial stage of the slime mould Lycogala epidendrum

Possibly the plasmodial stage of the slime mould Lycogala epidendrum

I came across these in the New Forest on Sunday. These pink domes are the spore containing stage, or fruiting body, of Lycogala epidendrum, the Wolf’s Milk Slime Mould.  If punctured, they ooze a pink toothpaste-like material.

Usually this organism exists as red coloured and microscopic amoeba-like cells  which move around on a substrate, such as a rotting log, and  feed on  bacteria.  If conditions are appropriate, these unicellular organisms will start to mate, to eventually form a large multinucleated monocellular organism known as a plasmodium, which can grow into mat up to a metre in diameter. I’m not certain, but the yellow plasmodial form of a slime pictured here, and also found at the same location, might be that of Lycogala epidendrum. In any case, the plasmodium is also mobile and can move towards food and also away from harm. Eventually, if environmental factors change for the worse, the plasmodium may  transform into the spore containing and pink fruiting bodies also seen here.

Methanogenic Menses

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There is an obvious visual metaphor here reflected in th title. These are examples though  of “Wet Wood”, a colouless slime that exudes from cracks in a tree’s bark and which blackens  upon contact with air. This phenomenon is caused by a type of microbe called a methanogen, that grows in the absence of air and which produces amongst other things methane. If the internal pressure of the gas is high enough, it can be ignited to produce a jet of flame. Another signature of a sublime and invisible world.

The Physical Impossibility of Ice in the Mind of Someone Living in Summer

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Inspired by Ballard’s “The Crystal World”, Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle”  and Hiorn’s “Seizure” this is a developmental stage  of a new  project to make a form of “ice” that doesn’t melt,  so that I might  juxtapose or blend the seasons. This is a small frozen woodland pool,  that someone might  simply stumble upon, and which  has a summer flower apparently trapped in thick and  dense ice.  The temperature is 20 C and thus, to the observer,  the ice is a beguiling  and crystaline paradox.

C-MOULD: Co-Curator Opportunity

The jewel-like Vogesella indigofera. Isolated from a pond that had been used as a  dump for highly  toxic waste

The jewel-like Vogesella indigofera. Isolated from a pond that had been used as a dump for highly toxic waste

Serratia marcescens (Red) and Bacillus mycoides (White) interacting. Serratia appears to produce an anitibiotic that protects it from the invading Bacillus strain

Serratia marcescens (Red) and Bacillus mycoides (White) interacting. Serratia appears to produce an anitibiotic that protects it from the invading Bacillus strain

Serratia marcescens, close-up

Serratia marcescens, close-up

The plastic/kitsch properties of Rhodococcus

The plastic/kitsch properties of Rhodococcus

Chromobacterium violaceum

Chromobacterium violaceum

The black hole at the centre is MRSA

The black hole at the centre is MRSA

Bacillus mycoides, a common soil bacterium

Bacillus mycoides, a common soil bacterium

The almost cosmic form of Pseudomonas aeruginosa

The almost cosmic form of Pseudomonas aeruginosa

I’ve just set up C-MOULD,  a unique collection and knowledge base, for microorganisms that have application within the arts. All of the microorganism featured in this blog, and many others are part of the collection. C-MOULD is now seeking an enthusiastic and committed co-curator.  Unfortunately we cannot pay you at the moment but you will be encouraged to seek funding for projects that use this unique collection, you will receive training, and will have complete access to this truly unique strain collection. Please apply or express an interest by commenting on this post.

The images above are of just some of the strains in the collection.