Skip to Content Skip to Search Go to Top Navigation Go to Side Menu

"radiolarians" Tag

Ecosophical Roadmap

Friday, August 30, 2013



“The drawings in Kunstformen Der Natur express Haeckel’s fascination and devotion to the study of nature. Haeckel himself described his fascination for the world he was investigating, mostly referring to his main discovery, the Radiolarius [x], a single cell organism discovered in the depth of the ocean.
“It’s hard to believe that these creatures are single cells, some are like grids, broken nets or stems, others like tiny balls, helmets or bells when others appear to us like tender houses, windmills, fantastic towers.”

These words reflect on how much the artistic impulse of Haeckel seemed to have taken over his wish to be perfectly accurate and neutral as a scientist. His drawings are projections of real observations but they are as much projections of the inner interpretation of the artist’s vision of reality. Kunstformen der Natur was a way for him to unite these two projections in a single work. He by doing so “began to see not only the outer forms but also the inner content, the nature and the history of things”. He’s been trying to see nature as a “single unfolded work of art” by trying to understand the sequences allowing the Radiolarius to be present in such a multitude of forms. By doing so he achieved an astonishing body of work that can be seen as a suspended moment in time, a witness of this wish to leave space enough for observations and fantasy in a single picture. Following Goethe’s attempt to present nature in its diversity and trying to find unity in it at the same time, Ernst Haeckel created hybrid specimens that reflected on his subjective way to create the marvelous and the poetic in order to try to decode the genesis and the evolutionary systems of nature. That lead him to coin the word “ecology” itself.”

Excerpt from “The Curious, the Marvelous and the Particular”
(thesis by Rudy Guedj can be downloaded as pdf at the end of the article)



By exploring the potentialities of ecological worldviews, old and new, through theory and art, WHERE ARE WE GOING, WALT WHITMAN? seeked, to accelerate, accumulate, animate and activate our poetical and political understanding of the world. (Introduction of the Studium Generale 2012-2013 “Where are we going, Walt Whitman? An ecosophical roadmap for artists and other futurists”)

The visual campaign for the Studium Generale — designed in collaboration with Sophie Rogg, Olya Troitskaya and Martin Huger –all graduates from the Graphic Design department in 2013— revealed itself progressively. It was trying to both map knowledge acquired during the past lectures, and project on a fictional level thanks to a visual pollution which was growing exponentially on all the mediums we used.


The first layer of the campaign, the map, was created before the Conference-Festival as a simple topology arranging references into a single spacial representation. Day after day, the basic map, as all the different supports we used to communicate with, was taken over by a visual infection.


The creation of each of the collages has been realized as a reaction to the existing publication Kunstformen der Natur (Ernst Haeckel, 1899-1904). These bold interventions on top of the existing drawings shaped a fictional journey throughout the campaign and provided endless interpretations of the very broad topic of ecology today.

Collage_Orchidae calabi-yau-2 poster_3 Haeckel_Kunstformen_Page_065_2
< illustrations Rudy Guedj, Sophie Rogg, Olya Troitskaya and Martin Huger >

“A welcome pendant to the overload of terms and theory is the online Ecosophical Roadmap: an ongoing encyclopedic exercise accumulating (visual) footage that inspired the speakers. (Ecosophical Roadmap) I dare say this experiment is the only contribution to the Studium Generale that practices what it preaches: it actually embodies our way of interacting with the material world, mediated through technology and immaterial digits.”
From : Metropolis M (online reviews)

DSC_0110 DSC_0127
< Studium Generale poster, physical translation Roadmap >

The online roadmap was a way for us to respond to the immediate and ephemeral format of the lecture by gathering notes and other references mentioned during the discussions. It functions today as a remaining archive, an attempt to visualize the many connections that were progressively built up and to emphasize on the important role that plays serendipity in our daily use of technological medias.

text by Rudy Guedj [graduate student department of Graphic Design]



Pdf-icon Download my thesis: ”The Curious, the Marvelous and the Particular“


Further understanding of ”Beauty in science”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In the ocean, small creatures are swimming around, a form of zooplankton they are, called radiolarians. The name zooplankton is derived from the Greek word ”zoon”, which means animal, and ”planktos”, which means ”wanderer” or ”drifter”, a drifting animal. Individual radiolarians are normally smaller than a hundredth of a millimeter, but some reach the size of a full millimeter or even more which makes it possible to see them with the naked eye. Some species are holding onto each other in a group and may reach a total size of a centimeter and even meter scale all together. The remains of the radiolarian skeleton cover large parts of the ocean bottom and works as radiolarian ooze. The shells of the radiolarians when they die, sinks to the bottom of the ocean, and over time, if enough shells sink together, their skeletal remains become sedimentary rock.

These drifting animals have been a great inspiration in creative fields. They look almost non earthly, both peculiar and beautiful and works as sorts of readymades from nature. An important person in the mapping of the radiolarians is a german biologist called Ernst Haeckel. He named around 150 species during his lifetime. More than a biologist he was also a philosopher, physician and an artist. I find this combination of working fields interesting and the story of Haeckel links to the beauty in science exhibition that is running at the museum Boymans van Beuningen this year. In year 1904 Heackel published a volume called Kunstformen der Natur, which consists of his 100 best prints of organisms from the sea, many of them first described by Heackel himself. Heackels work is a proof for that science and art can operate side by side and that they inevitable borrow from each others world.

It is not only Heackel that has been inspired by radiolarians. There are music pieces composed, architectural work and there is even a whole art genre named radiolarian art.

It is indeed something special about the planktons. Their structure is a living proof for that the more even a geometrical structure is, the more solid a construction will be. The shell which is made out of silica, also used when making glass, is inspiring for material oriented people. Radiolarians pattern have been casted and used over and over again and my conclusion is that reality and what reality offers is a fascinating subject and a good design and art recipe.

Radiolarians looks as if they were born out of pure imagination and they make me think of cells from a body, about the depth of the see and of universe in its whole. I get the same feeling as I got at the Boymans-exhibition when looking at a picture of the universe. It made me think how very surreal it is that we live inside that picture, now I think how very surreal it is that us living things, built out of small details, living in that big picture. The picture of the universe made me think about how we so badly want to understand why and about our need of decoding our reality and I suggested that religion, science and art works with the same questions but with different approaches, and now I think it is fascinating that when zooming out and when zooming in, the same magic occurs.

And then I wonder. Why did the picture of the universe got my attention in first place. And why do I react the same way on radiolarians? Not many other creatures inspire in the same way, i haven’t heard about rabbit art for example, or shark art. And why is that? My conclusion is because of the esthetics and because we are forced to leave our everyday proportions. It is actually purely the look of the radiolarian that was interesting to start with, I assume it was the beauty that made Haeckel treat radiolarians in artistic ways. The beauty, not the function they have, or history or further anecdote. It makes me think how important esthetic actually is? Is the magic I try to describe beauty? And is actually the good art and design recipe beauty? Would the radiolarians be interesting if looking like potatoes? I don’t think so. And what would happen if not needing to zoom in and switch from everyday proportions? Would radiolarians be as interesting if they were in human size laying around on every street?

It is somehow comforting that radiolarians swim in the sea and that stars shines from universe. And in whatever field we are working with, we are striving to find our place somewhere in between. And some make buildings and jewelry and other radiolarian art.

Log in