Chernobyl, 25 years to contemplate on

Listen to Peter Cusack “Chernobyl Dawn” & “Chernobyl Frogs”

Peter Cusack – Chernobyl Dawn "Peter Cusack – Chernobyl Dawn"
Peter Cusack – Chernobyl Frogs "Peter Cusack – Chernobyl Frogs"

Twenty five years ago today, reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, resulting in devastation still felt daily by those in the area. When it happened, I was only three years old and half the world away so I can’t speak from any firsthand experience. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t effected me. As a perpetual student of biology I’m captivated by what humans are capable of, building and destroying, and by how resilient nature can be despite our accidental efforts to wipe it out. Today, my thoughts are weighed upon heavily by all the lives forever altered by our quest for progress.

Above are field recordings by sound artist, Peter Cusak, that were captured on May 6, 2006 in Chernobyl, Ukraine. These “Chernobyl Choruses” are studies on how nature seems to be thriving in the absence of people. The photo is from mattbr’s photostream.

All I ask is that you spend a few minutes listening. Contemplating.


Immaterials: Light painting an invisible landscape

There are invisible landscapes all around us. Every day we live among them, pass through them, we utilize them, yet they remain completely undetected by our naked eye. Timo Arnall, Jørn Knutsen and Einar Sneve Martinussen have ingeniously devised a method to visualize these concealed network within physical space. They built a light stick that responds to Wi-Fi signal strength, walked it through the city revealing with time lapse photography the changes in the transparent atmosphere. I won’t go into detail on how they created the device, you can read all the specifics here. I just love how they found a simple and visually beautiful way to open our eyes to what we cannot see. Makes me wonder what other forces are fluctuating around us that we are unable to detect, and who will come along and reveal them to us.


Human Nature: Debbie Carlos captures objects of knowledge

Human Nature is a study done by Debbie Carlos, a photographer with a background in psychology. The photos were taken at Chicago’s Field Museum and if you’ve ever been there you know how fascinating and equally strange it is. Its been several years since I was last there and had forgotten about it until these images brought it all back to me. They capture beautifully what I felt while staring into carefully recreated environments for 100 year old shells that were once exotic animals, a sense that we humans in the pursuit of knowledge do some strange shit. I think thats something that Debbie Carlos realized while making these images which quite possibly was influenced by her years of studying psychology. Her words insightfully sum it up best,

The first time I took pictures of the animal displays at Chicago’s Field Museum, I did so purely out of interest in animals. Framing my photos so as to imitate nature photography seemed natural in an environment where the animals, long dead, are themselves placed and positioned in scenes that recreate their habitats. Once I developed my negatives, the significance of the human world, science, and ownership seemed all of a sudden very apparent in the life-like death of the creatures on display. The murky quality of the lighting and the dark desaturated tones of the exhibits, convey a sensuality and romanticism at odds with the sense of stagnant death that lingers in the cracked skin of 100-year-old taxidermied animals and birds strung up as though in flight with fishing line. Inside the museum, nature is labeled, classified, and static, turned into an object of knowledge. These photos attempt to capture the mystery and romance of this very pursuit—the sincerity of the scientific endeavor, the pathos of its visible failure, and the beauty of the attempt to engage with nature.

I think this is another wonderful example of one field of study influencing another, much like MORPHOLOGIC‘s meld of music and marine biology.

You can purchase some of these as prints from her Etsy shop here. Show her some love.


MORPHOLOGIC: Marine biology turned abstract, surreal art

MORPHOLOGIC is a perfect example of what can be created when two seemingly unrelated disciples come together. Marine biologist Colin Foord and musician Jared McKay are collaborating to create works of abstract, even surreal art out of materials that in the past would have become a standard marine life documentary. Their laboratory is a certified aquaculture facility which sounds quite removed from most artists studios, but for the purposes of MORPHOLOGIC, thats exactly what it is, a studio. While each study is accompanied by a detailed scientific write up, these are so artfully composed you quickly forget they were filmed in a lab. For me each piece has a meditative quality, with its ambient soundtrack interrupted ever so subtly by imagined sounds of a creatures movement, sluggish motion of gills or sped up tentacles and colors found only underwater. Watching these I seem to consistently drift off in thought, replaying the same studies over and over noticing new details each time. Faced with extreme close ups of marine life that few people actually see I can’t help but appreciate how amazingly complex and beautiful nature is, which really makes me want to start utilizing my biology degree again. I’ve included a couple of my favorites above but I highly recommend checking out all the rest of them on MORPHOLOGIC’s Vimeo page. Happy drifting.


Think or Smile | Nathaniel Whitcomb © 2010