Who’s in Charge?
I have learnt that working with scientists is unpredictable – I like this – it’s what we research together that stimulates my curiosity, sustains my wonder at the world and therefore acts as inspiration for my art practice. If I knew where I was going why make the journey?
The Immortal Worlds? collaboration with microbiologist Dr Simon Park from University of Surrey, has slowly evolved. It’s a tiny embryo of an idea worthy of some attention and initial experimenting to see if it would mature into a fully-fledged project ripe for appeals for funding.
Immortal Worlds? Our Focus
Our habit is to gaze in our frontal plane, turning occasionally left and right, above and below – but what of the world below the below – the disconnected landscape of Archaea? Archaea are microorganisms with an ancient evolutionary lineage that traces back to the very origins of life on Earth, and yet which will still play a vital role in our future.
The focus of the Immortal Worlds? project is on mapping this unseen world of methanogens and how climate change will impact on these major producers of methane. This gas is a significant greenhouse gas, far more so per unit than carbon dioxide, and the Archaea form a domain of single-celled microorganisms that is responsible for 70% of methane in the atmosphere, thereby making them a potent force on the Earth.
Immortal Worlds? aims to create provocative and innovative collaborative studies, that will not only experimentally and critically engage art and science, but will also spark debate about our rapidly changing world.
What will happen to this parallel world, hidden from our view, as the planet warms up?
What impact will this change have on the Earth and on us?
Detail of mud sample in sealed column on 27 January 2014
In December Simon and I met on a site of saltwater wetland on the North Norfolk coast to extract some mud samples containing methanogens. The four columns of mud collected had to be kept airtight and left to establish ecosystems – about seven weeks. Simon placed the sealed glass receptacles in the university’s heat cabinets where they are now being monitored under laboratory-controlled conditions. The aim is to study the nature of the changes when the methanogens are subjected to a sustained rise in temperature of 20 degrees and 30 degrees centigrade.
After seven weeks there was little progress, Simon discovered that light is important, so the samples are now illuminated – this helped enormously but even after nine weeks it was too early. We also decided to expand the research and extract some mud from different types of sites to create a larger body of methanogens to monitor and study.
So who’s in charge? Nature of course – she won’t be rushed and the outcome of this collaboration in mid February is still uncertain. Both Simon and I will have to wait to ascertain the results to see if the project is worthy of more research and applying for project funding.
If you’re interested to find out more please regularly visit this blog or my website http://www.jacscott.com/