A parallel Worlds

Monday September 15 2014 / Science & Technology - Art & Design

His tools are scalpels and petri dishes, his inspiration… microbes. By cutting and slicing paper into delicate yet strange bacteria-shaped sculptures, Anglo-Irish artist Rogan Brown, has figured out a way to fuse art with science in his latest series entitled “Outbreak”.

Through careful observation of nature and drawing on inspiration from scientist-artists like Ernst Haeckel, scientific renderings and model making, the 42-year-old has re-imagined the natural state of microbes, cells, pathogens and neurons into palm-sized paper sculptures.

Brown says: “My objective was to create a piece that showcases the beauty of the bacterial world in order to modify our negative perception of bacteria, as the overwhelming majority of the microbes that inhabit us are beneficial.”

The catalyst for his collection of eight petri dishes housing paper “microbes” was a seminar Brown attended concerning bacterial building blocks of the human body – the Human Biome project. The bacterial theme was so infectious (pun intended) that this teacher/designer/artist decided to observe nature on a more miniscule level.

In the wild forests of southern France, a place he now calls home, Brown collected leaves and feathers from underfoot and placed them under a microscope. 

What he found, were moving images of things “sublimely beautiful but quite frightening”.

With these images in mind, Brown then etched detailed “scientific” preparatory drawings that served as a guide when he began the painstaking process of hand cutting every minute detail and curve of each unique sculpture from his preferred medium: paper.

“I have chosen paper as a medium because it captures perfectly that mixture of delicacy and durability that for me characterizes the natural world,” he says.

“Outbreak” was not Brown’s first foray into the world of precision paper cutting, however. His art from under the microscope had previously yielded intricately cut spores, seedpods and the process of growth.

With “Outbreak”, this jack-of-all-trades hoped to render “an imagined representation of the human body at its smallest scale” with each piece representing a unique pattern or motif found in nature.

“I want to communicate my fascination with the immense complexity and intricacy of natural forms,” he says. “Everything has to be refracted through the prism of the imagination, estranged and in some way transformed.”

The result is “Outbreak”, a still life of microbe-like forms spilling out of their petri dishes and outreaching their tentacled arms to infect their neighbours.

Their path is indiscernible: nothing and no one are safe, not even the artist.

Yet, in the fear that underlies any outbreak hysteria, Brown discovered an extravagant sort of beauty, rendering this paper plague a little less malignant.

For more information on Rogan Brown and “Outbreak”, please visit: http://roganbrown.com/home.html

Suggested by
Juliette Duru

Monday September 8 2014 / Science & Technology - Art & Design

The worker ant leaves her nest. Her job today, like everyday, is to find food, but she is not alone. She marches on her quest, along with thousands of others, following a scented trail left by her predecessors, all with the same purpose: keep the colony alive.

Ants, along with bees, wasps and termites exhibit this collective behaviour and are known as “social insects”, or insects for whom the whole is greater than the sum of their parts.

Disney Research Zurich – a branch of the greater Disney Corporation – has tapped into this social insect behaviour not for another film (at least not yet) but to develop new animation technology called swarm robotics.

Monday September 1 2014 / Science & Technology

Drones get plenty of bad press. Their deployment as aerial assassins by the military has been heavily criticised. The use of drones as spying tools by the paparazzi hasn’t gone down well either.

And even personal drones piloted by amateurs to capture cool footage have the potential to do more harm than good due to the fact that there is often a novice at the controls.

But beyond the destructive effects that drones can have and the dubious roles to which they can be assigned, there are also plenty of positive stories emerging about unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Monday August 25 2014 / Art & Design

Iceland. Home to geysers, hot springs, thick wool sweaters, Björk and a language with more than a hundred names for horse hide patterns.

Beyond the stereotypes, Icelandic TV presenter and journalist Magnus Magnusson made this pithy observation about the Land of Fire and Ice: “When you live in a country which moves under your feet every five years with an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, like the saga heroes of old, you face a choice: Either to flee the country and all its hazards, or to stay and brave them out. For more than 1,100 years, the people of Iceland have chosen to stay and brave them out.”  

It’s not just the locals who have defied the hazards. Iceland has also become a hit destination for photographers willing to tempt their fate on this unstable, volcanic land to shoot some of the most unique and extraordinary geography in the world. 

Monday August 18 2014 / Science & Technology - Art & Design

"Spring is like a perhaps hand,” wrote the American poet E. E. Cummings: “carefully / moving a perhaps / fraction of flower here placing / an inch of air there... / without breaking anything.” 

With the hand of nature trained on a beaker of chemical fluid, the most delicate flower structures have been formed in a science laboratory – and not at the scale of centimetres or even millimetres, but microns.

These minuscule sculptures – curved and delicate and the diameter of a human hair – don't look like the cubic or jagged forms normally associated with crystals, but that's exactly what they are. Rather, fields of carnations and marigolds seem to bloom from the surface of a submerged glass slide, assembling themselves one molecule at a time.

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