m (Sculptural aesthetics)
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== Idea ==
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== Concept ==
I plan for my interaction with Physarum polychefalum to manifest in a sculptural habitat that connects the organism's natural habitat - the woods - with the life it has been habituated to lead in sterilised, monitored and controlled human captivity. To this end, I am visually comparing the structure of tree trunks and/or branches to the human body in a 'shape/form-studie'. The sculpture should invoke a corporeal impression: In this context the human body will represent an analogy for the human-centred ontological terminology commonly used in both the media and scientific representation and study around the unicellular organism. Terminology like 'intelligence', 'memory', 'social behaviour', which we are quickly invited to use in our understanding of this other organism. I want to question such human-centred categorisation and how this (subconsciously) shapes our encounters with such species. 
 
  
To develop this sculpture I will follow two guiding questions:  
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The organic starting point of the project is the genus of the slime mold (Mycetozoa), specifically: Physarum polycephalum.
 +
The ‘Body Habitat’ project arises at the intersection of Bioart as a media-artistic-scientific examination of different forms of life and the visual arts/sculpture. The focus is on an interdisciplinary conception between media design, natural science and fine arts, in which processes of bioart, the work with living organisms and their habitat are translated into a sculpture.
 +
This hybrid sculptural habitat for a living organism, connects the slime mold‘s natural habitat - the woods - with the life it has been habituated to lead in monitored and controlled human captivity -the petri-dish- . To this end, these two ‚habitats‘ are artistically translated by visually comparing the surface structure of trees to the human body in a 'form- study’. The study of shapes and forms reveals numerous textural similarities directly connecting the two. Followingly, the final sculpture, cast from an actual tree, implies a corporeal impression, in which the human body represents an analogy for the human-centred perception of nature and questions how we encounter other species around us.
 +
In the temporarily living sculpture the slime mold acts as an agent of nature, as it grows, moves and covers the defenceless limb. What appears a body-like member, exposes our vulnerability. It hypothesises how by exceedingly cutting ourselves off from natural forms and personal interactions with other lifeforms we grow exposed and vulnerable in time.
 +
Society is increasingly replacing the relationship to other living beings and forms of life with the digital world. This is precisely why it is important to continually reflect on how we approach our natural resources, the environment, sustainable living and to lead the viewer back to the direct confrontation with nature.
 +
To do this, the overall goal of the project is to create a visceral connection between the viewer and a completely different form of life - the slime mold -, who’s habitat and abilities for survival are a central theme in order to emphasise the connection between humans and nature, as the most original source of knowledge and innovation.
 +
The creative work process is characterised by the numerous difficulties in controlling an organism according to the human will. Ultimately, the artwork is self-organising as the slime mold determines the outcome in response to the conditions of the provided habitat. This includes a possible return to a more natural unpredictability and life cycle beyond the vital, plasmodial stage of growth into the development of spores (sporangia), hibernation (dormant sclerotium) or death.
 +
In the end, the question of how living matter relates to the characteristics of form is posed: Will the slime mold Physarum polycephalum behave in a desired way in this new situation?
  
How can I shape the parameters and variables of the habitat to realise my vision, while tending to the 'needs' of a living organism? (Needs: moisture - Agar; micro-organisms - Oatflakes) (Parameters: Light, temperature, humidity, aerosole, bacteria, altitude, etc.)
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== Research questions ==
  
i.e. Which parameters need to be closer to a lab context vs. which should more closely resemble the natural environment to ensure the vital plasmodial stage of the life cycle (yellow, branching out appearance)?
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(1)
 
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Which parameters need to be closer to a lab context vs. which can more closely resemble the natural environment to tend to the ,needs’ of the living organism while realising the sculptural vision?
How does my human influence manifest on a controlled, repeatable visual level? i.e. can I control the look (structure, color, movement)?
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(2)  
 +
How does my human influence manifest on a controlled, repeatable visual level? i.e. Can I control the look (structure, color, movement)?  
  
  
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== Technical approach ==
  
== Technical description ==
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What happens in the area of tension between laboratory and nature?
  
When looking at the tree-habitat of PP the three main variables: moisture, 'food' and space appear invisible to our view. In the petri-dish, these variables are the most visible and limiting. So much so that they obstruct the visibility of the natural structure, colour and movement of the organism. I want to close the distance between these different conditions and open up a third environment: My sculpture will represent a meeting point between the natural and 'human-controlled' habitat. As such I will habituate PP from the Lab-context back towards more natural conditions in a process of adapting the 'living conditions/variables' between the varying degrees of synthetic to natural.
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== Quasi-scientific, technical process ==
  
The parameters to be defined and controlled:  
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Parameters and design experiments
 +
All parameters that influence the slime mold‘s ability to sustain the plasmodial stage of growth (the needs) are pinpointed, controlled and adjusted between the natural habitat and the lab context in order to habituate the unicellular organism out of the petri-dish into a hybrid situation (the sculpture), inspired by the natural condition.
 +
The main parameters discovered and reconfigured in individual design experiments are:
  
(1) Moisture - Agar
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(1) Moisture
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(1.1) Simulating rain stored in wood
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(1.2) Carve moisture pods
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(2) ‘Food’source
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(2.1) reiterating food/oat flakes
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(2.2) no food/oat flakes
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(2.3) foreign matter
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(2.4) bacterial transfer
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(3) Space
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(3.1) open space
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(3.2) on wax
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(3.3) open airflow
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(4) temperature and light
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Observation (1)
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Observations (2)
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(5) Care
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(5.1) slime mold with oat flakes
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(5.2) fresh slime mold
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(5.3) medium fresh slime mould
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(5.4) old slime mould
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(5.5) transfer directly onto wax
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(5.6) voluntary transfer
  
The Biolab standard is a 100ml distilled water x 2g Agar solution.
 
  
The natural condition is moist tree trunks and soil (moisture naked to the human eye). 
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For individual design experiments, conduct and outcomes  please look into the pdf documentation:
 +
pdf design experiment documentation pdf
  
Approach (1) Provide moisture by simulating rain and spraying the organism with (distilled) water.  
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Sculptural aesthetics
Approach (2) Create Agar/moisture 'pods' to show PP (at least partially) unobstructed. Akin to the idea of a watering hole in the desert: PP could draw its moisture from one spot from which it would branch out further possibly connecting these different 'moisture pods'.
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The imperative was to begin as close to the natural habitat of the slime mold as possible. In a first step, I went into the woods to inspect and collect tree branches and trunks from the forest floor.
 +
The tree, in the end, serves as a figurative meeting point between the natural habitat and the human interaction, influence and perspective onto the organism. A foreign yet fami- liar form, which itself has life pulsing and oscillating through its vein-like network. In this visual construct the man-made state of captivity in a lab is represented by ‘the body’ and the untouched natural habitat is represented by ‘the tree’.  
 +
The time spent observing in the woods resulted in a study of shape and form similarities between human and tree. From these observations evolved the search for specific traits on tree trunks or branches that connect both the human and non-human. Direct visual similarities to the human body include features like creases, folds, scars, structures of muscle or bone, stretch marks ... a collarbone.. an elbow.
 +
In a further step to bring forth the body-like characteristics of these wooden features, the shape of the selected branch was taken by a silicone mould. From this mould a second branch was cast from hard wax in a faint skin-tone colour.  
  
(2) 'Food' - microorganisms, bacteria, fungi, yeast - oatflakes
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This second wax branch, an impression taken directly from nature, becomes something between tree branch and severed (corporal)limb. An oversized elbow with stretch marks that hint at muscular veins just below the surface. Stretch marks as a signifier of of both human and non-human life and growth. Scars and cuts on the outer most protective layer that hint at vulnerability underneath. A new terrain for the vein like slime mold to live on: 86cm in length with a radius of 3cm.
 +
An interplay of surface, texture, colour, structure and patterns emerges.
 +
Can Physarum polychefalum survive, live and grow on this altered habitat? Or will it quickly retreat, reproduce or hibernate?
  
The Biolab standard are oatflakes, from which the slime mold 'eats' only the bacteria on the flakes.
 
  
The natural condition are bacteria, yeasts, and fungi found on deciduous tree logs/wood drawn from the ground surface.
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*sketchs
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*process images : sculpture
  
Approach (1) Investigate the question: How long can you live without me? by retreating the human influence and no longer 'feeding' it. Simultaneously, accepting that by releasing this control over the life cycle the slime mold might develop to spores or dry out, hence the artist looses control over the appearance. 
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== ‘Body Habitat - creeping garden’ - the book ==
  
Approach (2) Subsidies the oatflakes to something actually found in nature and supply this 'food' over the ground surface i.e. Agar base. i.e. develop an Agar mix that is both providing the essential 'food' source while not obstructing the visual appearance.  
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A comprehensive reader to accompany the living sculpture, containing documentation of working artistically with living matter.  
  
Approach (3) Test the hypothesis that microorganisms and bacteria might transfer to an object (sculpture) when placed in the wooded environment.
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A collaboration with a unicellular organism.
 +
A situation for an organism to behave in a desired way.
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* entire book pdf.
  
It is important to note that all decisions on technical parameter are made primarily on a visual aesthetics basis. This means that my aim is to create the most unobstructed presentation of the slime mold as possible within my sculptural vision.
 
 
(3) Space + Surface
 
 
When looking at the tree-habitat the first thing that strikes me is the surface. The surface is an obstacle course over which the organism sustains its life. This vital parameter is all but omitted in the lab context, where is sterilised, small and made conform for  scientific observation. This parameter - Space + Surface - is the core of my work. 
 
 
Approach (1) Source/collect tree trunks that have a visual semblance to the human body. Develop this found artefact further into a sculptural object through casting techniques (possibly with wax). In a second step: test PP's survival capacities on sculptural surface.
 
 
In parallel: Approach (1.1) Condition PP to live in a larger space (67x37x25 glass box), lifting the restrictive spatial boundaries and allowing for more natural movement patterns to emerge.
 
 
 
(4) Additional parameter through human interaction: Care
 
 
The method of inoculation can influence the appearance of Physarum polychefalum:
 
 
Approach (1) Inoculate 'fresh' PP with a chunk of the oat flakes.
 
 
Approach (2) Inoculate 'fresh' PP by scraping from the top of Physarum growing on oats.
 
 
Approach (3) Inoculate 'medium fresh' PP by scraping the veins that are reaching towards the outer walls of the petri dish
 
 
Approach (4) Inoculate 'old' PP by using the orange-y parts that have grown out of the dish.
 
 
Via recreating the same conditions several times and continued observation of these different methods of inoculation my understanding and control over the possible visual structures and colourations of the organism grows.
 
 
This investigates the question to which degree my human influence can manifest on a repeatable visual level within the petri-dish environment. In a second step the control over the appearance will need to be transplanted to the sculpture.
 
 
== Sculptural aesthetics ==
 
 
The sculpture will be between 1m - 1.5 m in length, a preferred radius might be 10cm.
 
In a first step, I will collect thick tree branches from the woods or tree fellings (as already decaying wood gives a different impression from freshly cut wood of still vital and growing trees). A tree structures suitability is based on whether there are visual similarities to the human body, features like creases, folds, scars, impressions of muscle or bone, an elbow, a collarbone etc. 
 
From these structures I will create molds and cast the objects in wax. The final impression should invoke a corporal association, which is disfigured by letting Physarum polychefalum crawl, spread and live or 'die' on top of it.
 
  
 
<gallery>
 
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Revision as of 21:28, 28 October 2020

Concept

The organic starting point of the project is the genus of the slime mold (Mycetozoa), specifically: Physarum polycephalum. The ‘Body Habitat’ project arises at the intersection of Bioart as a media-artistic-scientific examination of different forms of life and the visual arts/sculpture. The focus is on an interdisciplinary conception between media design, natural science and fine arts, in which processes of bioart, the work with living organisms and their habitat are translated into a sculpture. This hybrid sculptural habitat for a living organism, connects the slime mold‘s natural habitat - the woods - with the life it has been habituated to lead in monitored and controlled human captivity -the petri-dish- . To this end, these two ‚habitats‘ are artistically translated by visually comparing the surface structure of trees to the human body in a 'form- study’. The study of shapes and forms reveals numerous textural similarities directly connecting the two. Followingly, the final sculpture, cast from an actual tree, implies a corporeal impression, in which the human body represents an analogy for the human-centred perception of nature and questions how we encounter other species around us. In the temporarily living sculpture the slime mold acts as an agent of nature, as it grows, moves and covers the defenceless limb. What appears a body-like member, exposes our vulnerability. It hypothesises how by exceedingly cutting ourselves off from natural forms and personal interactions with other lifeforms we grow exposed and vulnerable in time. Society is increasingly replacing the relationship to other living beings and forms of life with the digital world. This is precisely why it is important to continually reflect on how we approach our natural resources, the environment, sustainable living and to lead the viewer back to the direct confrontation with nature. To do this, the overall goal of the project is to create a visceral connection between the viewer and a completely different form of life - the slime mold -, who’s habitat and abilities for survival are a central theme in order to emphasise the connection between humans and nature, as the most original source of knowledge and innovation. The creative work process is characterised by the numerous difficulties in controlling an organism according to the human will. Ultimately, the artwork is self-organising as the slime mold determines the outcome in response to the conditions of the provided habitat. This includes a possible return to a more natural unpredictability and life cycle beyond the vital, plasmodial stage of growth into the development of spores (sporangia), hibernation (dormant sclerotium) or death. In the end, the question of how living matter relates to the characteristics of form is posed: Will the slime mold Physarum polycephalum behave in a desired way in this new situation?

Research questions

(1) Which parameters need to be closer to a lab context vs. which can more closely resemble the natural environment to tend to the ,needs’ of the living organism while realising the sculptural vision? (2) How does my human influence manifest on a controlled, repeatable visual level? i.e. Can I control the look (structure, color, movement)?


Technical approach

What happens in the area of tension between laboratory and nature?

Quasi-scientific, technical process

Parameters and design experiments All parameters that influence the slime mold‘s ability to sustain the plasmodial stage of growth (the needs) are pinpointed, controlled and adjusted between the natural habitat and the lab context in order to habituate the unicellular organism out of the petri-dish into a hybrid situation (the sculpture), inspired by the natural condition. The main parameters discovered and reconfigured in individual design experiments are:

(1) Moisture (1.1) Simulating rain stored in wood (1.2) Carve moisture pods (2) ‘Food’source (2.1) reiterating food/oat flakes (2.2) no food/oat flakes (2.3) foreign matter (2.4) bacterial transfer (3) Space (3.1) open space (3.2) on wax (3.3) open airflow (4) temperature and light Observation (1) Observations (2) (5) Care (5.1) slime mold with oat flakes (5.2) fresh slime mold (5.3) medium fresh slime mould (5.4) old slime mould (5.5) transfer directly onto wax (5.6) voluntary transfer


For individual design experiments, conduct and outcomes please look into the pdf documentation: pdf design experiment documentation pdf

Sculptural aesthetics The imperative was to begin as close to the natural habitat of the slime mold as possible. In a first step, I went into the woods to inspect and collect tree branches and trunks from the forest floor. The tree, in the end, serves as a figurative meeting point between the natural habitat and the human interaction, influence and perspective onto the organism. A foreign yet fami- liar form, which itself has life pulsing and oscillating through its vein-like network. In this visual construct the man-made state of captivity in a lab is represented by ‘the body’ and the untouched natural habitat is represented by ‘the tree’. The time spent observing in the woods resulted in a study of shape and form similarities between human and tree. From these observations evolved the search for specific traits on tree trunks or branches that connect both the human and non-human. Direct visual similarities to the human body include features like creases, folds, scars, structures of muscle or bone, stretch marks ... a collarbone.. an elbow. In a further step to bring forth the body-like characteristics of these wooden features, the shape of the selected branch was taken by a silicone mould. From this mould a second branch was cast from hard wax in a faint skin-tone colour.

This second wax branch, an impression taken directly from nature, becomes something between tree branch and severed (corporal)limb. An oversized elbow with stretch marks that hint at muscular veins just below the surface. Stretch marks as a signifier of of both human and non-human life and growth. Scars and cuts on the outer most protective layer that hint at vulnerability underneath. A new terrain for the vein like slime mold to live on: 86cm in length with a radius of 3cm. An interplay of surface, texture, colour, structure and patterns emerges. Can Physarum polychefalum survive, live and grow on this altered habitat? Or will it quickly retreat, reproduce or hibernate?


  • sketchs
  • process images : sculpture

‘Body Habitat - creeping garden’ - the book

A comprehensive reader to accompany the living sculpture, containing documentation of working artistically with living matter.

A collaboration with a unicellular organism. A situation for an organism to behave in a desired way.

  • entire book pdf.



Living in captivity picture dairy

Living in captivity summarised reflections dairy