How Does One See Art Made From Unicellular Algae?
Klaus Kemp’s invisible universes, made with diatomaceous algae, are the perfect temporary refuge.
Among the eccentric practices the Victorian age bequeathed to us, one stands out for beauty both tiny and dignified. Geometric mosaics, parts within a kaleidoscopic art now almost forgotten, are made from a raw material of algae, called diatoms. Though the profession is nearly entirely abandoned today, there’s still one man who practices it obsessively. The results are wonderful …
During the Victorian era, a curious practice consisted in the assembly of diatom algae used for cosmetic purposes. These unicellular beings, imperceptible to the naked eye, create colonies in the forms of fans, zigzags, stripes or stars, and with transparent cell walls and sometimes symmetrical orientations. With the aid of a microscope and a human hair mounted on a thin wooden handle, the diatoms could be placed with millimetric precision in the forms of patterns and geometric designs as beautiful as they were strange. The tiny assemblages were sold as eccentric miniatures to naturalists and lovers of curiosities.
Fortunately, an artist working with diatoms still exists in this world: Klaus Kemp, the self-taught guardian of an almost extinct tradition. He works by collecting algae from puddles, ponds, and tanks, then by cleaning them, accommodating them and transforming them into spectacular and tiny universes. An arrangement of 100 diatoms fits within the space that occupies the period at the end of any normal-sized text.
Kemp spent eight years developing a formula for making these eccentric arrangements. He even developed his own formula for glue. Current technology allows for his creations to be even more vibrant and colorful than their Victorian predecessors. And Kemp has already discovered several new species of diatoms (of which, at present, about 100,000 species are known). His passion is the genus Mastogloia.
In 2014, filmmaker Matthew Killip, fascinated by Victorian diatom arrangements, made a small documentary, with a score by Ryuichi Sakamoto, about the work of Klaus Kemp: an inspiring tribute to this spectacular madman.
The unparalleled beauty of Kemp’s diatomaceous arrangements lies not only in their special aesthetic, but it also emanates from the implications of creating imperceptible, minute universes, and the strenuous manipulation of this unique expression of nature. An invisible art, it’s born of a most precious discretion.
The Diatomist from Matthew Killip on Vimeo.
Pictorial spiritism (a woman's drawings guided by a spirit)
There are numerous examples in the history of self-taught artists which suggest an interrogation of that which we take for granted within the universe of art. Such was the case with figures like
Astounding fairytale illustrations from Japan
Fairy tales tribal stories— are more than childish tales. Such fictions, the characters of which inhabit our earliest memories, aren’t just literary works with an aesthetic and pleasant purpose. They
A cinematic poem and an ode to water: its rhythms, shapes and textures
Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water. - John Keats Without water the equation of life, at least life as we know it, would be impossible. A growing hypothesis holds that water, including the
Watch beauty unfold through science in this "ode to a flower" (video)
The study of the microscopic is one of the richest, most aesthetic methods of understanding the world. Lucky is the scientist who, upon seeing something beautiful, is able to see all of the tiny
To invent those we love or to see them as they are? Love in two of the movies' favorite scenes
So much has been said already, of “love” that it’s difficult to add anything, much less something new. It’s possible, though, perhaps because even if you try to pass through the sieve of all our
This app allows you to find and preserve ancient typographies
Most people, even those who are far removed from the world of design, are familiar with some type of typography and its ability to transform any text, help out dyslexics or stretch an eight page paper
The secrets of the mind-body connection
For decades medical research has recognized the existence of the placebo effect — in which the assumption that a medication will help produces actual physical improvements. In addition to this, a
The sea as infinite laboratory
Much of our thinking on the shape of the world and the universe derives from the way scientists and artists have approached these topics over time. Our fascination with the mysteries of the
Sharing and collaborating - natural movements of the creative being
We might sometimes think that artistic or creative activity is, in essence, individualistic. The Genesis of Judeo-Christian tradition portrays a God whose decision to create the world is as vehement
John Malkovich becomes David Lynch (and other characters)
John Malkovich and David Lynch are, respectively, the actor and film director who’ve implicitly or explicitly addressed the issues of identity and its porous barriers through numerous projects. Now