Bitesize Lecture with Catherine Watling and Angelo Vermeulen

Our two guests in the last bitesize lecture for 2005 are experts in artistically-grown ecologies and ecologically-inspired arts. They talked to us about what happens when you depend on living (or recently living) organisms to become cooperative partners in your artistic process…

Angelo Vermeulen, a visual artist and biologist, will present both a recent and an upcoming project, dealing with art and ecology. Blue Shift [LOG. 1] is a Darwinian art project that was conceived for the exhibition Hot ReStrike earlier this year in De Warande in Turnhout. The project was realised together with biologist Luc De Meester from the University of Leuven and engineers from Philips. Blue Shift [LOG. 1] is an interactive installation with a living model ecosystem at its core. Using single-cell algae, water fleas, fish and water snails, a compact biological community is set up in the exhibition space. The whole system is designed in such a way that the visitor automatically induces a gradual microevolution of the light-responsive behaviour of the water fleas. Video footage, photos and biological data were used to demonstrate the working process of the project.

The concept and first preparations of a new project for the upcoming exhibition Bruegel Revisited in 2006 were also presented. Bruegel Revisited is a site-specific installation and video project conceived for the Belgian National Botanical Garden in Meise. The project aims to link historical notions of overconsumption, decadence and diversity to a contemporary ecological and artistic context.

Interdisciplinary artist Catherine Watling is working in collaboration with Professor Paul Pearson, Head of the Palaeoclimatology Group at the University of Cardiff Department of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences where she is Artist in Residence. Together they have been working on the development of a series of 3D movies imaged using the environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM), a microscope that allows you to view objects as small as one millionth of a millimetre.

They have been exploring the possibility of using microscopic foraminifera, imaged using the ESEM, to explore themes of environmental change and evolution in a series of artworks. These artworks have so far taken the form of 2D stop-frame animations and very short 3D films, some of which were showcased at FoAM in December 2003.

Catherine will be presenting their collaborative work to date and discussing their wish to allow people to experience the wonder of scientific discovery. The work attempts to re-create the hyper-real moment when you view, for the first time, an object that is incomprehensibly small and breathtakingly beautiful under the eye of an electron microscope, and is also an exploration of the use of the environmental scanning electron microscope as an artistic tool.