Tracey Hill, Dr Donna Franklin and
Dr Sarah Robinson
Three creative practice-led researchers, Dr Donna Franklin (AU), Tracy Hill MA (UK), Dr Sarah Robinson (AU) bring a unique creative perspective to monitor data that aﬀords innovative ways of witnessing climate change. Franklin is a bio-artist, curator and academic. Her practice questions the politics and ethics of manipulating the life sciences, while generating spaces for real-time interactions with the nonhuman. Hill is a trans-disciplinary artist and research associate whose practice interrogates the co-existence of traditional processes and digital technologies. Robinson currently works as an independent artist- researcher, having founded the NeoEvolution Print Space to develop her research curiosity that asks complex questions to challenge our ways of seeing in an overly digital world.
CARBON SYNTHESIS : Archive of Species
Our proposed project, Carbon Synthesis: Archive of Species, is a practice-led trans-disciplinary collaboration, which examines deep time and its human/non-human connection through carbon. Καιρός (Kairos) is a Greek word meaning Time (Ancient Greek) and Weather (Modern Greek) speciﬁc to surroundings and yet revealed in ﬂeeting experiences. As global climatic systems reach tipping points, how much can the chemistry in the air and below the surface tell us about climate conditions? Conversational exchanges inform each artist’s creative response, inviting encounters to reimagine and challenge existing notions of climate change.
1. HOW TO HOLD A CLOUD IN YOUR HAND
Revealing invisible, ﬂeeting moments in our everyday landscapes is at the centre of Hill’s research. Through ﬁeld drawing and print, Hill responds to καιρός – the conditions needed for certain climate changes to occur.She is interested in the tipping points of our environments, what is happening between humans and nonhumans in aperformative exchange.
Recent research and climate models have shown an uncertain behaviour of clouds. (ref:1,2,3,4) In some climate models, clouds strongly amplify warming. In others they have a neutral eﬀect or dampen warming slightly. To avoid exceeding a certain level of global warming, the world needs to limit how much carbon is emitted.
Clouds can act as parasol, cooling the earth by reﬂecting sunlight back into space. But they can also act like ablanket, warming the earth by preventing heat from escaping into space.
Global warming is expected to cause changes in the amount of cloud cover, the height and thickness of the clouds, shifting the balance between the eﬀectiveness of the cloud feedback.
Aerosol particles are critical for cloud formation, and diﬀerent types aﬀect how the clouds will behave. For example, when CO2 levels rise, some low-lying clouds become unstable and break up. When these clouds break up, they no longer shade the Earth’s surface, triggering accelerated global warming. In response to this research Hill began a cloud archive, collected over the period of a year, her clouds are drawn at a scale relative to what she sees when walking and can imagine holding in her hand (Figure 2). The measurement reﬂecting the presence of her own body as it moves through the landscape.
These hand-held clouds are drawn using ink created using carbon powder; the carbon is mixed with water and applied to a ﬁlm surface. The suspended carbon acts as a seed to create the liquid cloud. As the water evaporates the carbon is laid down as a trace of its suspended state. If the day is warm, the evaporation is swift and the drawing is gestural and dark, if the day is cooler the suspended carbon has time to settle in gentle reticulations, aﬀected by subtle wind and movements in the atmosphere.
Figure 1. Photograph of cloud formation over Little Woolden Moss. Greater Manchester, U.K.
Figure 2. How to Hold a Cloud in your Hand: Archive of Species Carbon Drawing, Tracy Hill, 2021
The clouds become a trace of the day’s environmental conditions, as well as a record of the time taken to seed the imaginary clouds themselves. Aesthetics, material interactions and καιρός intertwine with current thinking around geo-engineering, imagination, and scientiﬁc manipulation of atmospheric rhythms, to create this durational series of works. Hill’s resulting archive of drawn vapors is a provocation to consider a future re-imagining of our skies without clouds, a planet devoid of a protective membrane.
2. MEMBRANES AND BORDERS DISSOLVE AND MERGE
To generate intimate connections between human-nonhuman, Franklin introduces microbiological skin
(Figure 3). All living matter uses and contains carbon. Carbon dioxide is released from the animal body as it exhales or dies. In this project a membrane is grown by microbes (ref:5 Acetobacter Bacteria Spinning Celulose video courtesy R. Malcolm Brown, Jr. University of Texas at Austin).
Figure 3. Microbiological Skin, Donna Franklin, 2021.
Figure 4. Atmosphere becomes Earth: Cirrocumulus Clouds: high level, small-rippled elements; ice crystals. No precipitation. Adelaide to Perth,
Donna Franklin, 2017.
Microbes ﬂoat on a liquid and create a cellulose skin, a raft that grows as they breathe in oxygen and multiply. The ﬂeshy surface has agency in its continual process of ingestion, reproduction, and decay. Bacteria from deep time is responsible for the oxygen we breathe, the climate we have known, our very existence (Figure 3). Franklin nurtures these biological entities to produce a membrane-like skin (Figures 4+5). This skin, which is alive up to the point of drying, the life then in stasis, will be utilised by Robinson and Hill, transiting between the UK and AU.
Figure 5. Microbiological Skin, Donna Franklin, 2021.
Figure 6. Regeneration: Lichen on Solar Panel, Donna Franklin, 2020
3. MURMURINGS AND AEROSOLS
During a recent walk on the shore of the Creery Wetlands (Mandurah, Western Australia), the landscape revealed to Robinson a Water Cloud through the trees (ref 6). This nonhuman low-level ﬂickering yet digital-like cloud creates a human encroachment on wetland edgings. The land-locked apparition marks a border between a human community and a breathing green nonhuman alga bloom covering depressions in the wetlands.
As a result of the chemical runoﬀ eﬀects of human pollution, these Algae have taken over parts of this Peel-Yalgorup Ramsar listed site (Figure 7). The Creery Wetland borders Mandurah’s suburbia, Western Australia. Algae uses photosynthesis to break down sugar into carbon. Algae demonstrate cellular and microscopic respiration in living things. A vivid environmental green follows my thoughts towards contemplating the darkness of carbon black.
In Robinson’s creative practice, darkness equates to experimenting with carbon’s role in visible degradation. She creates unstable imagines incorporated with carbon by smoking traditional steel etching plates or combining smoked laden paper with digital images. Indeed, an intriguing insight in to black carbon particles revealed that carbon aerosols line up vertically in the air (Figure 8) that as heavy metals are transported downwind and fall in the Arctic, it turns the snow black.
Figure 7. Algae’s Mark, Creery Wetlands, WA. Photographer:
Figure 8. Sketchbook Notes. Sarah Robinson, 2020.
Such thoughts led her rhizomatic way of thinking to consider how particles of combustion aerosols carbon from fossil fuels are distributed over the climatic systems by the wind. Indeed, for centuries since the industrial revolution, combustion-generated aerosols have aﬀected breathing in Humans (Figure 8). Or potentially the respiration processes in nonhuman environments. In addition, considering Hills’ drawings of ‘How to hold a cloud in your hand’, Robinson attunes to this notion of particles seeded in the air. (Figure 9)
Apatite means to deceive or be misleading. How can our proposed collaborative contemporary artwork become incorporated into this premise? Incidentally, Apatite is one of a few minerals produced and used by biological micro-environmental systems. The idea of holding a cloud in your hand is in itself misleading. Hill’s archive is only a record of a memory rather than an archive of objects. Environmental conditions on that day led to Hill’s drawn non-sensical archive of species, here species is understood as the term used to describe shape and structure. Is it an impossible proposition to suggest that you can capture and hold a cloud in your hand?
Figure 9. Particle Respirator, Experimental Ash Print, 3D resin copy of anaesthetic dental mask, paper grown by Donna Franklin. Photographer: Sarah Robinson 2020
This collaborative project spans across international and localised environmental borders, captures ﬂeeting moments from the water’s edge (WA) to the atmosphere (UK). Subsequently, echoing intimate relations within the closed system of the Earth, deep time, and global tipping points. Our voices are our clouds that are seeded and imaged from the sky above the UK wetlands. These clouds will be grown and replicated, embracing multiplicity linked to the history of print. Images transferred via carbon printing using a colloid, a mixture of tiny particles of one substance scattered through another, onto a once-living paper grown in WA.
Finally, our collaborative aim lies in recreating a mischievous comment on carbon synthesis through our creative trans-disciplinary practice. This result, to record climate change as the artists’ work moves beyond instrumental possibilities.
- Acetobacter Bacteria Spinning Cellulose video courtesy of R. Malcolm Brown, Jr. University of Texas at Austin (0-34/1.29:16-1:34:24). https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/631589489 / Password for Vimeo is carbon1
Retrieved from: link
5. Soares, J., Geels, C., Langner, J., Tsyro, S., Kurganskiy, A., Strom, J., ... Soﬁev, M. (2018). Assessment of Black Carbon in Arctic: Current Status and Potential Improvements. In C. Mensink, & G. Kallos (Eds.), AIR POLLUTIONMODELING AND ITS APPLICATION XXV (pp. 83-87). (Springer Proceedings in Complexity). Springer-Verlag.https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57645-9_13