I arrived at the RCA as a ceramicist. I had spent the previous 2 years turning solid lumps of clay into white liquid ‘slip’. I didn’t realise at the time it was the solidity of the clay I didn't like. I painted the white slip in thin layers onto cardboard boxes and fired them, almost expecting them not to survive. Sometimes they did, but not for long. If a photograph was clay, they would be clay photographs. The RCA had a hot glass furnace and I rejected the clay altogether. It wasn’t the finished glass objects that drew me in, but the overlooked journey to get to the object; the heat, the colour, the fluidity and the performance and decisions of the makers. What interested me most about my Antarctic residency was the space between the environment and the people living in it. It was difficult to exist on a mental and physical level, and I made work that reflected that. Antarctica intensified my awareness of mark making, and made me reject the notion of 'making objects' even more than before. When I returned home I created a project that was based on film and photography, but I needed to use a light that was less ‘solid’, I wanted the very source of my images to be more precarious, less controllable. Working with microbiologist Simon Park and Caterina Albano, I used bacterial bioluminescence, a living organism, to create a series of photographs, film and installations. The bacteria died over the course of my portraits, it became even harder to capture the photographs of naked skin, and that is how I wanted it to be. They nearly don’t exist.
This project is called 'Exploring the Invisible' it has been made possible by the support of the Wellcome Trust and is one of the projects included in ‘Bio Design – Nature, Science, Creativity’, Edited and text by William Myers. foreword by Paola Antonelli, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Published by Thames and Hudson.
When a human face is imaged with this light not only is it being exposed to a form of light to which it would never normally be exposed, but to a type that penetrates adornements, glamour, and the inconsequential features of a face that reveals far more about the individual behind it.