Diffraction; thinking with materials

This residency has been about thinking with models and materials to engage with larger questions of scientific practice, art practice and the environmental humanities.

Problems are thought through with materials as we handle them; become familiar with them and their potential properties; go about performative actions; think about developing certain qualities; carefully observe chemical reactions; change material properties for specific purposes.

1 Diffraction is a conceptual and material-semeiotic device that responds to the dilemma of how we think about complex matters in material ways; how we approach artistic and designer work so that it is not reduced to representational schemas or public communication of scientific facts; and how we can not merely reflect theories but participate in their production and transformative potential. 2 Diffractive models are real-world agents that are “interfering, bluring, bending and transforming the content under study”.

1 Parikka J, A recursice Web of Models: Studio Tomas Saraceno’s Working Objects 2020

2 Miyazaki S, How to talk about serious matters of complexity with models as agents: A speculative essay on artistic and design-based research, 2015

Designing stretchy alginate polymer

 

Plastics: Material Agents of Our Own Creation

Shimmying between forgotten debris and vibrant matter, the material assemblage made contact with Bennet and momentarily commanded her interest. (Otigen.N, p.285-286, 2020)

 

“With its interest in material stratification and the vicious haunting of things…Anthropocene literature provides a particularly rich site for studying material encounter as an everyday phenomenon…Following the understanding that this anthropogenic crisis has forced much of humankind to recognise we are now “being acted upon” by material agents of our own creation, things have come to matter in important ways…Amitav Ghosh* argues, that “inanimate things coming suddenly alive” is one of the uncanniest effects of the Anthropocene, this renewed awareness of the elements of agency and consciousness that humans share with other beings, and even perhaps the planet itself ”

Although found retrospectively to my work, Plastics Memento Mori, this paragraph from Nathaniel Otjen’s When things Hail: The Material Encounter In Anthropocene Literature,  supports the notion that we are subject to the agency of materials of our own creation.

Contrary to my use of the human figure to heighten attention to the agency of plastic waste (see earlier post), Otjen stresses that a phenomenological attentiveness on the behalf of humans as prerequisite for the encounter is believed by materialist thinkers to “obscure the agency of things and risk reinstalling the human figure as exceptional.”

This view could critique my Plastics Memento Mori work; implying that it requires correction. However, it is my view that within this work, the human figure is evidence of and critiques long-standing human hubris.

Nathaniel Otjen, Configurations, A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology, When things Hail: The Material Encounter In Anthropocene Literature, Volume 28, Number 3, summer 2020.

*Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016

Guest speakers: Barry Murphy Seminar Series.

Ass Professor Julian Chalker speaking about sulfur polymers

During Lab meeting, we have been honored to receive Flinders University guest lecturers as part of the Barry Murphy Seminar Series. These guests have spoken about themes which pertain to our work with biopolymers.

Barry Murhpy Seminar Series.

Professor Youhong Tang, material scientist, lectured about;

  • His work with polymeric materials and nanocomposites especially on rubber and epoxy based resins.
  • Biosensors incorporating novel aggregation-induced emission materials (photoluminescent materials/SEM) to understand the stress evolution in polymer films. (Light emitting molecules reveal the mechanics of films under tensile stress)

Associate Professor Justin Chalker, lectured about the use of Sulfur in polymers.

Two different themes in sulfur chemistry.

  • Making probes to trap cysteine sulfenic acid (biomarker for oxidative stress and associated disease) on proteins and live cells: thus mapping cysteine sulfenic acid inside cell. Proteonomics analysis  has revealed 148 proteins previously unknown to produce oxidative stress.
  • Synthesis and applications of polymers made from 50% – 80% sulfur by mass; inspired by Jeff Pyun’s concept of “inverse vulcanisation”. These polymers can be designed toward; desired mechanical, thermal and optical properties; new concepts in repair and recycling of polymer materials. Applications for these polymers include environmental remediation (oil spill), controlled release fertilisers and mercury/cyanide free gold mining.