The Stars Beneath Our Feet
Site-sensitive audio-visual installation, 7:07 (loop)
Commissioned for Lumiere Durham 2015, a four-day international light festival produced by Artichoke in the UK, The Stars Beneath Our Feet is an audio-visual installation set against the background of a temple folly that uses light-absorbing micro-algae to play with our sense of perception.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet has been presented at:
The Beauty of Early Life, ZKM, Germany, 2022
Lumiere Durham 10th Anniversary, 2019
Paradigm Electronic Arts, Edinburgh, 2016
Basement 6 Collective, Shanghai, 2016
Lumiere Durham, 2015
Publication Microbial Sensing: Constructing Perception Through Technological Layers, Leonardo Music Journal, MIT Press
Advanced microscopy techniques, which use lasers and computers instead of optics alter our sense of perception and might be considered as ‘looking without seeing’ and ‘listening without hearing'. For The Stars Beneath Our Feet, their technology is appropriated to create an ambiguous perception of micro-algae: ancient photosynthetic organisms that absorb light and convert it into oxygen. These microscopic organisms helped to create the conditions that enabled all life on earth and have the uncanny quality of resembling a sky filled with stars when viewed at scale.
Using Atomic Force Microscopy, disturbances created by the micro-algae in the path of the microscope's laser beam were captured as data, analysed and translated using both sonification and audification techniques into sound files that were used to form the audio component of The Stars Beneath Our Feet. The video component of the installation was made using a combination of TIRF (total internal reflection fluorescence) microscopy, dark field microscopy and a DSLR camera to produce moving images that focus on a perspective of micro-organisms that is other to that commonly used within scientific research.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet was developed with the support of Dr Richard Thompson, Department of Chemistry, Durham University, Dr Paul Vickers, Department of Computer Science & Digital Technologies, Northumbria University, the Department of Marine Science and Technology, Newcastle University and the Bioimaging Unit, Newcastle University.