A Brittle Metallic Vellum

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Here, on the surface of humically darkened and acidic  pools in a rare and  ancient marshland, Thursely Common, the microbiological world reveals itself.

On the surfaces of such  undisturbed and natural ponds, a fragile and iridescent film will form. Often dismissed as just pollution, these brittle layers are in fact entirely natural, and are formed by the activity of resident iron and manganese oxidising bacteria. The films are so thin, that they are able diffract light, so that they become visible, and so shimmer with the colours of the spectrum,  and indirectly display their own inherent beauty.

mCODED Attire: towards an aesthetic of the microbiome

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The API system (above) is a miniaturised series of bacteriological tests that can be used to rapidly identify bacteria. It comprises a series of tests that give rise to a unique colour code that is unique to each bacterial species, and which can be used for rapid identification when it is compared to a database of known codes.

Here I am exploring a new concept, of transferring the API test reactions (containing the test result [colour], and the living bacteria, to generate textile designs. Each array of colour in the designs will be a unique and identifying  colour signature for the many  bacteria that I isolate from my microbiome.

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In the image above, the test reactions from the API system have been transferred to silk and cotton. Silk seems to work best in terms of limiting diffusion and colour retention

 

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The final dried designs. Again silk much better than cotton.

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The reactions drying on silk

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Silk close up, liquid still absorbing into the fabric

Helion 14: Remarkable Self-Repairing Properties

Helion, is a living textile made from just sunlight and air. Its basis is a type of photosynthetic bacterium called cyanobacterium, the filaments of which have a unique and “intelligent” self-weaving activity.

Here is an experiment that I’ve just conducted to confirm the ability of this textile repair/reform itself following extensive damage. This time, I gave the Helion 14 mat a really good shake to generate a fragmented green soup. Within 30 minutes it had completely reformed itself! Remarkable!

Not art, not quite science, but from that wonderful space somewhere in between

Helion 14: self-repairing properties

Helion, is a living textile made from just sunlight and air. Its basis is a type of photosynthetic bacterium called cyanobacterium, the filaments of which have a unique and “intelligent” self-weaving activity.

Here is an experiment that I’ve just conducted to confirm the ability of this textile repair/reform itself following extensive damage. This is a timelapse series taken over a period of 30 minutes and after vigorous shaking had dispersed the Helion 14 mat.

The bacterium has a unique type of self-organising multicellular behaviour that is able to repair/reform itself after major destruction, and seems pre-progammed to form biofilms and mats.

Not art, not quite science, but from that wonderful space somewhere in between

Helion: self repairing abilities

I’m testing different batches of Helion, a living textile made from just sunlight and air. Its basis is a type of photosynthetic bacterium called cyanobacterium, the filaments  of which  have a unique and “intelligent” self-weaving activity.

Helion 14 under the microscope. Demonstrating the “intelligent” and self-weaving properties of its filaments. 

I was working with it the other today, growing it in small vats, when I accidentally knocked a bottle onto the floor. I was pretty pissed off by this as the mat of Helion, that had taken a few weeks to grow, had fragmented into bits forming a green and filamentous soup. However, when I returned to the lab about 40 minutes later, the mat had some how and almost miraculously reformed itself, as if it had never been disturbed.  Here is a quick experiment that I conducted afterwards to confirm this observation and it really does repair itself. Below are images of Helion 14 before shaking and then after.

The bacterium has a unique type of self-organising multicellular behaviour that is able to repair itself after major destruction, and seems pre-progammed to form biofilms and mats.

 

 

Prokaryia (plural of a Prokaryium: a bacterial city)

A Prokaryium is a complex  bacterial city, designed and built solely by microscopic bacterial cells. Each has a population of a few billion. The many different designs are autogenic and develop from a single seed cell. Some even have what appear to be irrigation tubes. The capacity for such complex architecture is embedded into the genome of every cell that makes up these cities. Would love to see architects take inspiration from these optimised bacterial forms .

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This Ancient Prokaryium is from a project with Sarah Craske

 

 

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Persistence of Vision: crystallography

 

X-ray crystallography and incredibly powerful scientific tool used to identify the atomic and molecular structure of crystals. When matter is converted into this organised crystalline state and then exposed to a beam of incident X-rays, these diffract along many different, but specific paths. After measuring the angles and intensities of these diffracted X-rays, a three-dimensional picture of the density of electrons within the crystal can be generated. This electron density map can then be used to determine the positions of the atoms in the crystal, their arrangement, and their linking chemical bonds.

Proteins and nucleic acids can be coaxed into forming crystals, and thus X-ray crystallography has been used to determine the structure of these important biological molecules. Using the process, John Kendrew in 1958 unveiled the first protein structure ever to be seen by humankind, that of the protein Myoglobin, and then later in 1959 Max Perutz employed the same method to determine the molecular structure of Haemoglobin. Since these landmark achievements the structures of DNA, RNA, and over 90,000 proteins have been determined using X-ray crystallography, providing incredible insights into the molecular workings of life.

In this context of the above, I’ve had an obsession with the process of crystallisation ever since I read JG Ballard’s The Crystal World as a teenager. Here, I’m exploring this same crystallisation process and biology at a microscopic scale, and so I’ve mixed a culture of my own epithelial cells with a solution of urea. At first the molecules of urea move around my cells in a frenzied and random dance, but soon they start to slow down, and thus begin to recognise each other, and as they join together, this initiates an almost explosive crystallization event that rapidly consumes these minute parts of me. As they would be prior to analysis by X-ray crystallography, the protein and nucleic acids in my cells have been converted into crystals, yet they and their information is still preserved in persistent and recognisable islands, in a micrometre thin continuum of chemistry and life.

The Waves: microcosm/macrocosm

 

The chemical properties of pure water are universal, and unchanging, and what gives seas and oceans their unique identities, are the chemicals and minerals that exist within the water matrix, and between the spaces of its polar molecules. To make this work, the water was removed from samples of Atlantic seawater, in a manner that reveals the defining, but usually invisible, elemental signature of each. These images were taken using a Differential Interference Contrast microscope at 100-times magnification. It’s remarkable how the microscopic landscapes revealed by this process resemble so closely the ocean from which they came, as it might be seen from many thousands of metres above. The molecules have spontaneously arranged themselves into themselves into representations of waves and spume, and in a manner not unlike Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa and so in a minute spot, fractions of a centimetre in diameter, microcosm and macrocosm meet.

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