Saturday, August 13, 2011

underground explorers

Rosalind Williams describes the underworld as a technological achievement. In Notes on the Underground she writes that the descent below the earth's surface was a quest for scientific truth and technological power. The subterranean world of modern industry began to be built in the late 1700s in the form of canals and railroads. The second stage came in the last half of the nineteenth century with the creation of networks to support this industrial metropolis: sewers, subways and lines of communication.

"As Mumford pointed out in early drafts for Technics, in the nineteenth century city planning began to involve not only the disposition of the surface but also an 'underground system of functions [that] form as it were the physiological apparatus of the new city ... the modern city plan involves a co-ordination of the super-surface city with the sub-surface city.' As some more recent historians of technology say, the modern metropolis is a 'networked city'" (p52)
As an example, Williams writes that Paris developed "a system of multipurpose underground galleries", large enough for other networks to be suspended from the roof of the sewers such as water lines, gas lines, and of course, pneumatic tubes (p72). Tourists came to see these spaces, 'les egouts de Paris' being recommended in Baedeker. Similarly, modern day urban explorers hunt around the pneumatic networks and underground infrastructures of cities, marvelling at the technological achievements of the past and present, tourists of subterranean wonder.

Image from manu_le_manu's Flikr album.

Friday, August 5, 2011

DIY pneumatic tube system

First there was steampunk, then there was biopunk, and now there is vacuumpunk:

For the less successful skittle experiment, click here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

experiments in bacterial communication

Another post not strictly about pneumatic transportation, but on a topic that is closely (or perhaps more tangentially) related if we think of the ways in which pathological samples are networked around a hospital as a form of communication.

This is a piece of embroidery by Anna Dumitriu. Anna is interested in the borderlines between art and science, such as this example of bacterial communication, tracing the movement of bacterial cells on pieces of linen and lace. She is the director of the Institute of Unnecessary Research and is an artist in residence on the Modernising Medical Microbiology Project at Oxford University. Her exhibition of these exquisite embroideries opened on Saturday at R-Space, in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. The exhibition also includes other microbiological crafts such as:
"A large-scale collaborative crochet based on the bacteria from the artist’s own bed, an indigo blue coloured patchwork stained with MRSA bacteria grown on chromogenic agar and patterned with clinical antibiotics and other tools in the research and treatment of this disease, [and] a Whitework embroidered lab coat patterned with images of bacteria and moulds found on it"
Despite my interest in science, medicine, art and craft, I have not always been a fan of bioart, finding many works disengaging. This exhibition caught my eye however, not only for its melding of embroidery and microbiology (see my fascination with this in a previous post here and here), but also because of the beauty of each piece, and the curiosity the artist invokes in the viewer.

If you miss the exhibition you can always settle for the catalogue, available from Blurb.