Dissolving the Photographic Medium
The materiality of developed film and photographs allows us to not only hold onto people and memories, but create the material objects themselves, connecting us even closer to what is displayed before us. But what happens when the image is purposefully destroyed or altered?
South Korean artist Seung Hwan Oh develops “film matter [with] organic matter” to create “distorted, psychedelic images” which are a result of bacteria interacting with the photo surface. By ‘destroying’ the image, the artist displays a sort of vulnerability of the photographic medium and our memories; if a photograph can be destroyed so easily, does it also destroy the memory it portrayed?
Where Seung Hwan Oh meant to distort the image through biological methods, artist Jennifer Bouchard uses chemicals from Polaroids to “decompose and ‘denaturalize’” the figurative image. Bouchard takes apart the Polaroids by elements, revealing the ‘barebones’ of the chemical reactions needed to create an image. The artist then processes the result to be displayed through digital means, allowing the image to be blown up to larger proportions, as if for study.
Aesthetically, Seung Hwan Oh’s ephemeral pieces look like a combination of digital works and paintings, while Jennifer Bouchard’s work includes a layer of optical dimensions, which makes it seems like strips of fabric have been used to alter the image, rather than chemicals.
These are only a few examples of how bacteria and chemicals have become an artistic medium within contemporary art practises.
It’s been a big week for our microbiomes.
The first phase of an ambitious study to characterise all the bacteria, fungi, and other microbes that reside in our bodies has been completed, with the results published in a series of articles in Nature, PLoS One and Genome Biology.
It’s a significant undertaking as the majority of previous research has focused on only those bugs that can potentially cause disease. The current study hints at the enormous scope of a person’s microbial rainforest while highlighting emerging view that these bugs, both pathogenic and non-pathogenic, actively participate and contribute to our metabolism and are critical for our ongoing health and survival.
To give you a taste of the “complex combinations” of these microbial partners of ours, The New York Times has published this impressive ‘family tree’ illustrating their prevalence and abundance.