The Templeman Library’s first art commission

An interdisciplinary projection installation

We have commissioned an exciting, interdisciplinary projection installation, which will become one of the inaugural artworks to be displayed in the new Templeman Library wing, from September.

Library books are handled by thousands of people, all leaving their microflora mark. As time passes, books become centres of microbial data and data transfer.

The artwork will explore the potential of demonstrating an object actively growing and revealing its microflora, with the hope to reveal the ‘unseen’ to the library audience and make people aware of their own personal interactions with the objects they use.

The artist, Sarah Craske, describes the work as having “a reinterpretation of information and knowledge exchange, whilst questioning digital and physical relationships and reflecting on their tensions.”

Image shown above: ‘Metamorphoses’ by Sarah Craske

Four books have been shortlisted:

Top left, Mundus Subterraneus 1665. Top right, Metamorphoses 1640. Bottom left, The Cyclopedia of Art and Sciences 1728. Bottom right, Emblems of Mortality [date unknown].
Top left, Mundus Subterraneus 1665. Top right, Metamorphoses 1640. Bottom left, The Cyclopedia of Art and Sciences 1728. Bottom right, Emblems of Mortality [date unknown].
Sarah will choose which book will form the basis of the installation.

Students and staff will be invited to contribute to this piece of work through an event where they can volunteer anonymously a fingerprint on a bed of agar in a petri dish. Working with the School of Biosciences, these samples will be collected and cultivated.

After a few days they will have grown to reveal the anonymous microflora collected, which can then be displayed in the Library and directly demonstrates the unseen world they contribute to.

The process

Two different scientific approaches can be applied when working with the books. The leaves can be carefully swabbed using forensic techniques and cultures created separately therefore not damaging the books, or the leaves themselves can be submerged in agar and filmed whilst revealing their microbial world.

Using microscopes and time lapse photography, the cultured microflora’s growth will be documented and then layered over an image of the book, creating a film which will reveal the beauty of the unseen microbiological world of archival material. A film projection within one of the Templeman Library’s new exhibition spaces, will run from September.

The artist

Through mixed media and performance, Sarah Craske creates work that reflects on the cultural relationship between art and science. She lives and works between London, Canterbury and Ramsgate, UK and exhibits globally. She is currently based as a postgraduate student at Central St Martins at the University of the Arts London and as an Honorary Research Fellow and Research Associate here in the Centre for the History of the Sciences at the University of Kent.

Her research activity – working with Dr. Charlotte Sleigh, of the University’s School of History, and Dr Simon Park from the University of Surrey – has recently been awarded an AHRC Innovation Award, in recognition of their innovative contribution to collaborative inter-relationships between the sciences, arts and humanities.

Metamorphoses: Gaming Art and Science with Ovid’ specifically examines art and science relationships and methodologies. Working towards an exhibition of hybrid arts and science knowledge and starting from core research questions, which include reflection upon disease history, social history, and material data. A 300-year-old English copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses is being analysed, ‘read’ and reinterpreted through a biological lens.

For further information on the project please follow @UKCLibraryIT on Twitter.

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