Humanity is exalted not because we are so far above other living creatures, but because knowing them well elevates the very concept of life. E.O. Wilson, 1984

21 Feb 2012


Sometimes, it takes time to see the world for what it is. And for some such as Momoko Seto, speeding up time taken can reveal even more. The use of time-lapse footage, whilst originally adopted by the scientific community to illuminate processes slow relative to human understanding, has become an artists tool to distort our perception of reality. From the clinical development of a human foetus,  the sensual blossoming of a rose, to the creation of an eerie alien planet composed fungi and rotting fruit, time lapse widens the eyes and fuels our imagination.

14 Feb 2012

The Art of an Entomologist: Carsten Höller

Carsten Höller's foundations as a trained scientist have deeply influenced his art. Whilst originally a researcher in the olfactory communication of insects, he now constructs experiments more akin to instillation pieces in art galleries. In particular, he examines how natural stimuli influence human perceptions of the world around us. The hallucinogenic properties of mushrooms have been central to his latest pieces; giant reconstructions of Amanita muscaria toadstools elicit the shamanic tribal rituals of Siberian indigenous populations. A previous instillation, entitled Solandra Greenhouse consisted of a tunnel of vines which produces chemical compounds said to illicit amorous sensations, which when coupled with strobe lights completes the disorientating feeling of falling in love. By exploring the influence of Nature on Human perception, Höller highlights a deeper meaning to the relationship between man and the diversity of life.

8 Feb 2012

Bjork's Biophilia

Well this is post #50, one year on from the start of the blog, and over 1000 views later. Throughout all this time, I have neglected to mention one particular artist who has long been inspired by natural forces. But last year, in my hometown of Manchester, Björk unveiled her latest venture parallelling my very own: Biophilia.

Thanks David, my perpetual inspiration and collaborator. Nature, Music and Technology then, are the focus of the Icelandic sirens particular project. And as per usual she takes it to another level, creating a wholly new concept of an Ipad app based album, where tactile imagery simulations match her 10 tracks, inspired by lunar cycles and gravity, viruses and DNA, the crash of lighting and the slow juddering of tectonic plates. I recently snuck into an Apple store to have a play around with the app on one of their display units (no ipad for me sadly readers). Whilst initially intriguing, I imagine that these software simulations ultimately distract from the real success of the project, the songs themselves.

The electro/drum and base rhythms work effectively to capture the physical process of nature, whilst the celestial choirs and sweeping orchestral strings used in previous albums such as Vespertine continue to tap into the romanticised vision of Icelandic landscapes. A combination of technologies were used to capture the gravitational pull of the moon or movements of the planet in order to calculate a musical time signature most suited to the natural mood. The resulting 'Solstice' and 'Moon' really do sway and undulate like a rising and falling tide.

Björk will be touring the concept later this year (please come to Paris!), in addition to premiering further multimedia installations inspired by her very own Biophilia.

1 Feb 2012

Nature's place in a Nuclear Space

A Critically endangered Prezrwalski Horse inside the Zone of Alienation (Photo from BBC)

The spread of humanity across the planet is relentless, and seemingly unaffected by natures barriers. But in 1986, a now infamous nuclear meltdown at the Chernobyl plant resulted in the withdrawal of man. The eternal conqueror, pushed back not by the forces of nature, but by his own malfunction. A 30km "Zone of Alienation" was put in place by the Ukrainian administration, and all 120,000 human inhabitants were evacuated. Left to its own devices, nature has reclaimed her dominion, with wolves, badgers, wild boar, deer, lynx and bears flourishing. In particular, bird species were quick to colonise the zone with white-tailed eagles and black stork using the abandoned concrete structures as nesting sites.

Realising the value of the zone as a nature reserve, the Askania Nova Biosphere Reserve launched a programme in 1998 to utilise the zone as a shelter for 31 Critically Endangered Prezrwalski's Horse. An enigmatic paradox appears, a never domesticated species of horse in an area seemingly tarred by the brush of humanity. Given that at one point the global population stood at 31 individuals, it is encouraging that this founding population at Chernobyl has almost quadrupled in number.

The enclave of course, can never be free of human influence. Underlying radioactivity has been shown to exist within sampled birds and mice but not at dangerous levels. Meanwhile, certain areas of "red" forest are still at levels too high for pine trees to recolonise. Instead, the real concern is the return of man into the zone, with poaching on the rise. A twenty year period of respite allowed populations to flourish; will a fall in radiation result in the fall of nature?