Liquid Emulsion on stone

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'Excavating images', Carolyn Lefley, 2014
Slides to illustrate a paper presented at the RAI Anthropology and Photography conference, British Museum. May 2014



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A lichen is a composite organism that algae or (and) cyanobacteria living together in fungus. algae or (and) cyanobacteria produce food for fungus by photosynthesis. And fungus protect algae or (and) cyanobacteria from the environment, fungus gather also moisture and nutrition from the environment. They have a good symbiotic relationship.

Lichens occur from sea level to high alpine elevations, in a very wide range of environmental conditions, and can grow on almost any surface. Different kinds of lichens have adapted to survive in some of the most extreme environments on Earth: arctic tundra, hot dry deserts, rocky coasts, and toxic slag heaps. They can even live inside solid rock, growing between the grains. Some lichens do not grow on anything, living out their lives blowing about the environment. It is estimated that 6% of Earth's land surface is covered by lichen.

distinguish points of Lichen

1. Lichen can live a vary wide range of environmental conditions. They can grow on almost any surface. Different kinds of lichen have adapted to survive in the most extreme ecological conditions. Even they can survive in space station outside of earth.

2. Lichen takes up a huge amount of carbon dioxide from the air which is released by the burning of forests and other biomass. Max Planck institute of Chemistry discovers that lichens, mosses and algae take up approximately 14 billion tons of carbon dioxide and fix approximately 50 million tons of Nitrogen per year. The especially huge amount of Nitrogen fixed by them and nitrogen is often limiting nutrients all around world especially dry regions. Thus Nitrogen is one of the important nutrient for the ecosystem. [1]

3. Lichen often has extremely slow growth rate of less than a millimeter per year. Different lichen species have been measured to grow as slowly as 0.5 mm per year and as fast as 50 centimeters per year [2]

4. Distinct physical mechanisms by which lichens break down the raw stone, recent studies indicate lichens attack stone chemically, entering newly chelated minerals into the ecology. [3]


[1] Max-Planck-Gesellschaft,
[2] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[3] Chen, Jie; Blume, Hans-Peter; Beyer, Lothar (1 September 1999). "Weathering of rocks induced by lichen colonization
- a review" (PDF). Catena - An Interdisciplinary Journal of Soil Science (Elsevier) (Catena 39 2000 121–146): 124. Retrieved 21 March 2015.



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  • Crustose lichen - Caloplaca and Caloplaca marina
  • Lobate lichen - Lecanora dispersa
  • Endophloelic - Amandinea punctata
  • Chrysotrix candelaris or chlorina (green yellow)


Keeping lichen in the shade, 24h air circulation, water supplying 2-3 time in a day (Rice water supplying 2 times in a week)

  • Lichen on the stone

An idea about how it looks a stone with lichen.


Method1 : Liquid emulsion

With a liquid silver emulsion applications can be made to a variety of surfaces such as tile, glass, pottery, wood, canvas, stainless steel and coated metals. Brushing, dipping, and spraying are among the techniques employed for applying the emulsion to three-dimensional surfaces.


Method2 : Transfer gel medium

The Acrylic Gel Lift/Transfer is a process with many stages, ultimately enabling the artist to apply their photographic work to a wide variety of surfaces. The process entails the creation of a positive print, applying acrylic gel to the print, curing the gel, soaking the gel coated print, removing the paper backing, then applying the final suspended ink to a new surface. This exercise will illustrate the non-traditional acrylic side down version of the process that has been developed as a way to further control and manipulate the photograph. It celebrates the old transfer aesthetic of being a reverse of the original capture and allows more manipulation of the ink side before it is sealed. Although it may require more work, patience and care than other transfer processes, it is a wonderful variation and has its own unique aesthetic quality.


How to make it?

Here is a breakdown of how I transferred the images.

   1. Clean the rock
   2. Gesso is not necessary for the transfer here, it just adds tooth and depth. 
      You can use watered down white paint. Let it dry.
   3. Use a Transfer gel or "Splendid Blender" pen by Charpak.
      Other blender pens don't have the same chemical composition, and won't work. 
      Check out "Splendid Transfer" on my sidebar for more info on the pen.
   4. Make a laser, toner based copy of the image you want to use. Ink jet copies don't work.
   5. Place the copy face down on the rock.
   6. Rub the Transfer gel or pen over the image, while keeping the paper stable.
      If it slides around, you'll get a blurry image. Press hard till the image transfers.
   7. Make sure you have lots of ventilation when using the Transfer gel or pen.


Method3 : 배접 (褙接) Bae-jeop

Traditional korean technic for conservation
Material : 풀 (糊) Pull / Rice paste, Material

Rice paste is used as a important glue to prevent a paper from tear and torn in northeast countries. However it often give a damage to paper,so studying rice paste regard as important project for long time.

If rice paste is not enough good, it cause reduction in life expectancy of painting. In worst case it destroy the painting. Therefore fundamental principle using rice paste for “Bae-jeop” should be ferment for a while.

There are reason to use the fermented rice paste. The first reason is to preserve the painting. If rice paste is not enough fermented, it makes painting unexpected separation from Bae-jeop paper or sometimes it will rot by moulder.The second reason is keep flexibility of painting and give easy separation with painting and Bae-jeop paper, in case of doing again Bae-jeop.

  • How to make it?
         1. Make a dough with flour. put the dough to stocking and squeeze in water. (1:7 proportion)
         2. When the water become gloopy, it is possible to use.
         3. Take away the flour grounds inside of a stocking.
         4. Keep the water for a while, take away upper water, put new water.
         5. Mixing with small amount of rice. (Should use cold water, A proportion of mixing is important. Experience is useful)



Transfer image experiments

  • Wood
  • Surface on wood
  • Flat stone
  • Making smooth flat stone
  • Curve stone

test images from last work

process of test

Installation plan

sketches : a plan to install

3D render

This installation work consists of two parts.

The first part is lichen with transferred photography on the stone. Images show a human’s body and fragile emotion. When lichen grows up many years, they might grow above, break images. Yes, it is a long term work, when viewers see it happen. But in daily life, viewers notice that human share with lichen or other organisms certain time but the different scale of time.

The second part is the vibrated water that under the stone. Water is vibrated by the sound wave which comes from the speaker under the water bowl. The sound is affected by data which recorded outside of environment or particular data in human society. (working with Minsoo Hwang) This vibration of water also provides good environmental conditions (humidity and air circulation) to help to grow lichen.

Very slow lichen's growth is a big problem to make an interactive installation.
However paradoxically speaking, it is an interesting aspect to understanding, how we are different but also we live together certain time and spaces. In human's perspective, lichen grows up too slow, but in their perspective, we are too fast to live and die.