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Thursday
Jan072010

Glass Microbiology by Luke Jerram

These transparent glass sculptures were created to contemplate the global impact of each disease and to consider how the artificial colouring of scientific imagery affects our understanding of phenomena. Jerram is exploring the tension between the artworks' beauty and what they represent, their impact on humanity.

The question of pseudo-colouring in biomedicine and its use for science communicative purposes, is a vast and complex subject. If some images are coloured for scientific purposes, and others altered simply for aesthetic reasons, how can a viewer tell the difference? How many people believe viruses are brightly coloured? Are there any colour conventions and what kind of ‘presence’ do pseudocoloured images have that ‘naturally’ coloured specimens don’t? See these examples of HIV imagery. How does the choice of different colours affect their reception?

In response to these questions, Jerram has created a series of transparent, three dimensional sculptures. Photographs of these artworks will be distributed to act as alternative representations of each virus. Sayer won an award from the Institute of Medical Imaging 2007.

The sculptures were designed in consultation with virologists from the University of Bristol using a combination of different scientific photographs and models. They were made in collaboration with glassblowers Kim George, Brian Jones and Norman Veitch.

Jerram said,
"It's great to be exploring the edges of scientific understanding and visualisation of a virus. Scientists aren't able to answer many of the questions I ask them, such as how the RNA is exactly fitted within the Capsid? At the moment, camera technology can't answer these questions either. I'm also pushing the boundaries of glassblowing. Some of my designs simply can't be created in glass. Some are simply too fragile and gravity would cause them to collapse under their own weight. So there's a very careful balancing act that needs to take place, between exploring current scientific knowledge and the limitations of glassblowing techniques." 

Source: lukejerram.com

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