Caddisflies are a group of insects that have aquatic larvae and flying terrestrial adults. The aquatic larvae can be found in a wide variety of habitats such as lakes, ponds, streams and rivers. The larvae of many species use silk to make protective outer cases, and these are often strengthened with material from their immediate environment like gravel, sand, twigs, pieces of plants, or other debris. Most adults have short lives during which they do not feed.
This ongoing project, seeks to highlight the problem of plastic pollution. Moreover, it seeks to emphasize the human impact of runaway plastic pollution and how this anthropogenic material is insidiously incorporated into natural ecosystems and also individual animals. It takes inspiration from Hubert Duprat’s work and is a new collaboration and project with Caddisfly larvae. To make the works, Caddisfly larvae were placed into a habitat that contained small fragments of plastic that had been collected from rivers, lakes and ponds. The larvae then quickly used these anthropogenic fragments, combined with their own secreted silk, to create there own gaudy sculptures.
In his 1958 painting “The Exemplary Life of the Soil (Texturology LXIII)” Jean Dubuffet invented a technique to portray soil by adapting the ‘Tyrolean’ technique, used by stone masons to texturise newly plastered walls. Consequently, and in this way, Dubuffet shook a paint brush over his painting, laid-out out on the floor, in order to scatter tiny droplets of paint across its surface. His intention was to give an ‘impression of teeming matter, alive and sparkling, which I could use to represent soil, but which could also evoke all kinds of indeterminate textures, and even galaxies and nebulae’.
As a microbiologist, I am very taken by this work and took inspiration form Dubuffet’s description of “teeming matter, alive and beautiful”, and imagined this as a description of the teeming, yet usually invisible, microbial life and activity that are vital for all of the more visible other life that soil supports The videos above and below are thus made from small soil samples taken from my own garden imaged in situ using a portable Newton NM1 microscope, and via a process, that uniquely reveals the activity of its vital cryptozoa and microbes (at 200x magnification). I’m struck by the serendipity at play here and how the videos could be interpreted as an animated interpretation of Dubuffet’s remarkable work.
In February I underwent major open heart surgery to replace a leaky aortic valve so have been recovering slowly at home. I also suffer from a Mixed Anxiety and Depressive Disorder, which periodically triggers episodes of severe depression. I use the work and processes described in my blog here to help with my recovery. Recently, my heart surgery triggered an episode of cardiac depression, and so I’m using the processes here to reveal thriving and fantastical ecologies that exist beyond the resolution of the human eye, to seek a deep connection with nature in order to help my recovery.
Nature Cure. Pond Life and four ways of seeing
The work here explores, and images in various ways, the microscopic life in my rather unremarkable garden pond. Using the unique Newton Nm2 portable microscope, The process allows the microbial life to be Imaged in situ, and next to the pond , and so it brings about an immediate and deep connection with a vital part of the natural environment that we usually can’t see.
The first way of seeing. The pond as seen by the human eye (below)
This first process explores the microorganisms in the pond- water sample by recording their activity tracks as they move purposefully under the microscope. Biological wavelengths and frequencies. No one activity glyph is ever the same as another, but each one defines a different watery niche (below). This first process explores the microorganisms in the pond- water sample by recording their activity tracks as they move purposefully under the microscope. Biological wavelengths and frequencies. No one activity glyph is ever the same as another, but each one defines a different watery niche (below)
Taken with NightCap. Light Trails mode, 35.51 second exposure, 1/2s shutter speed.
Taken with NightCap. Light Trails mode, 27.42 second exposure, 1/2s shutter speed.
Taken with NightCap. Light Trails mode, 47.29 second exposure, 1/2s shutter speed.
Taken with NightCap. Light Trails mode, 72.38 second exposure, 1/2s shutter speed.
Taken with NightCap. Light Trails mode, 148.12 second exposure, 1/2s shutter speed.
The two microvideos here (below) show the microscopic life in my pond at 200x magnification imaged in real-time.
The following microvideo is a time-lapse of 4 minutes of the same pond microbial activity compressed into 16 seconds (below).
In February I underwent major open heart surgery to replace a leaky aortic valve so have been recovering slowly at home. I also suffer from a Mixed Anxiety and Depressive Disorder, which periodically triggers episodes of severe depression and I use the work and processes described in my blog here to help with my recovery. My heart surgery triggered and episode of cardiac depression, and I’m using the process here to help my recovery from this. This and the process are reflected in the title of the work.
Recovering The Rare Earth: iPad Sulphates
The Rare Earth elements are a group of 17 metallic elements that underpin the unrelenting global demand for new technological products. Materials derived from them have unique properties that are essential for the function of the high-tech consumer products that are now part of our everyday lives such as computers, smart phones, hybrid cars, smartphones, and televisions. The minerals containing the Rare Earth elements are extracted through opencast mining and via chemical processes that have a high and long lasting ecological cost.
In this work, an iPad has been immersed in a solution of concentrated and highly reactive sulphuric acid. Over a period, greater than a year, the acid has reacted with the components of the iPad, including the Rare Earths, to convert them into salts and new minerals of sulphate. In this process, the once thin iPad has expanded due to crystal formation, to thickness of a paperback book, and in which new geological strata to have developed, and so the elements appear to have returned once more to the earth.
The mineral rich solution of acid and Rare Earth salts have also infiltrated cracks in the screen of the device, forming mineral rich seems, in a mechanism that parallels the natural and geological formation of quartz and metal rich seams, that might be mined and exploited to recover valuable elements.