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Fashion Ad Sets
Coccolithiphore Lights and Models
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I am smitten with coccolithiphores. Their physical form, their life cycles, their historic, evolutionary roles, their name. Coccolithiphores are microscopic phytoplankton inhabiting the upper layers of the oceans by the trillions all over the world. On an individual level, each has exquisite structure comprised of calcium carbonate carapaces (and incidentally are ripe with alliterative attributes) which stack on to each other like spoked shields enclosing the inner plankton cell to form a roughly spherical shape. The exoskeleton is called the coccosphere. This intricate, modular form is what captured my initial wonder, as it epitomizes the type of forms most present in my current artworks. What is particularly magical about these unicellular creatures is their collective beauty as seen from beyond the microscopic level. Zoom out, a bit, and "blooms" of innumerable schools adorn the ocean surfaces with dazzling swirls of aquamarine blues, cyans, turquoises, pale greens; all eddying about and visible from outer space. My plan is to make individual coccolithophore models about the size of softballs, but perhaps at three different scales, that elegantly embody the beauty of both their micro and macro properties. They would be intricate, reproducible, sculptural forms in the form of various lights, with the added option of being usable models or art objects without the bulb. The process would look like this: using existing imagery of coccolithophores, build a 3D model in a software program, such as 3D Studio Max or Maya, of individual shells/carapaces and print those. These shells will scale through a small range of size, from small to large, so that they may build on each other outwardly, and number approximately 15-20 per lamp, depending on bulb size. From there a tiny amount of clay or some filler can be used to fill in and therefore smooth out the ridges intrinsic to additive 3D printed items (unless a powder based 3D printer were used) and then a mould is cast of the object. With one range of prints, a cast can be made that has multiple pieces at a time and some color continuity. These can be used to make the master set, which will allow for more pieces to be turned out.
Once the mould is cast, the final aesthetic is achieved by pouring the appropriate colored resins in to fill the mould and create the final product. The idea here is to mimic the eddying swirls of the aerial-viewed blooms within the very composition of the individual coccolithophore models. The colored resins, perhaps three to five greens and blues, would be poured in a staggered manner, with several repeated cycles of all colors, and be allowed to intermix and flow around organically while solidifying within the mould. However, the resins will have to be largely transparent so that light may pass through. This is in accord with the actual coccoliths (the name for just the carapaces) which are translucent so as not to interfere with the inner cell’s photosynthesis. Resins and mould materials, along with expertise, could be obtained from Smooth-On, a comprehensive mould-making materials company. Douglass and Sturgess, located in the mission, could also be a source for all needed materials and sufficient expertise. I will note here that sculpting the initial models in wax or clay is an alternative option to 3D printing. I will have to do further research into the electronic aspect, i.e. researching proper bulbs, what exactly the stalk of the ceiling or desk lamp versions would look like, be made out of, etc.; as well as the connecting juncture between inner bulb and the first layer of shells.
The coccolithophore lights could hang from ceilings, be table/desk lamps, or cordless, mobile LED versions that can sit anywhere, including gardens and other outdoor settings. The lamps could be great in anyone's home or particularly appreciated in science museums, labs, (there are many scientists studying these things) or schools. In more hands-on educational settings, versions could be made without the inner light bulb and be used as models similar to a typical rendering of some organic molecule in a chemistry class. These types could be afforded the more saturated colors, and could have the capacity for disassembly (plate by plate) so that onlookers could observe individual plates in detail and see the inner organism. With this aspect in mind, the lighted versions could have a disassembly option so that customers could switch in and out plates of various colors to achieve different colored lighting.
I imagine such models embodying the juncture between art and science, and providing a unique form of tangible entry into a surprising range of dialogues. It happens that these innumerable, ocean-dwelling phytoplankton play a significant role in regulating the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; they are the exclusive constituents of the Dover Cliffs in England; they played key roles in engineering evolution. Further conversations could be opened about electron scanning microscopy and aerial photography, climate change, archaeology, anthropology. Illuminating classrooms would even be a poetic re-entry into academia for these tiny plankton, as their microfossils literally are what blackboard chalk is made out of. I picture people passing the object around and having a visceral attraction that would prime them for a unique perspective on such varied and curious narratives. For this project, I hope their compelling appearance nudges the beholder into sojourns of discovery.
Attached here are some images from google of coccolithophores: http://greatbeltresearchcruise.com/gbr11/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/coccs2.jpg
here are "blooms" as seen from space: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-xOahGYdVBds/TW11fdGoYDI/AAAAAAAACCs/vh7L7rMrQIE/s1600/Phytoplankton Barents Sea.png