Electrons bouncing off a palladium-coated sample produce a startling image on the monitor. The new operator of the scanning electron microscope navigates the sample through keyboard and mouse: keying in the magnification, focussing to capture a monochrome micrograph and then moving on to a new, uncharted area of the sample to repeat the process. The miniscule has become gigantic: an unseen landscape to be explored; a detailed terrain to be negotiated and mapped.
In On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, Susan Stewart describes Robert Hooke’s 1665 Micrographia as ‘a display of a world not necessarily known through the senses, or lived experiences.'1 Micro-Inhabitation is an interactive work that enables its audience to enter into and experience the microscopic realm.
Gaston Bachelard wrote in The Poetics of Space that the magnifying glass ‘conditions entry to a new world’.2 The scanning electron micrograph displayed on the monitor reveals imagery ordinarily examined only by scientists. Micro-Inhabitation translates both this astonishing imagery and the microscopic user-experience through interactive exhibition.
Micro-Inhabitation is a virtual, three-dimensional environment derived from microscopic form and surface, which is projected to fill the field of vision. The landscape, generated using modelling and animation software and further processed using gaming software and technology, is responsive to movement of the viewer. The user surveys the terrain from above before entering the space at ‘ground level’, navigating and becoming immersed in the stylised microscopic terrain. What has primarily been the preserve of the scientist through microscope, keyboard and mouse is now anthropocentric through digital manipulation of form, scale and perspective.
In collaboration with Stauart Foster, with thanks to Oliver Blair.
1Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection Durham: Duke University Press, 1993 p.44
2Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space Boston: Beacon Press, 1994 p.155