What's going on Cladonia Rangiferina? [lichen microscopy]


Photography with Scanning Electron Microscope

FOR / AT :

Aalto Medialab, Parsons School of Design



The lichen Cladonia Rangiferina, changes its ontology across realities. It exists as myth, in the minds of humans as the beard of a mighty forest spirit. It exists as food, for reindeer. It also exists as a detector of radiation since it doesn’t have any roots and absorbs all its nutrition from air, making it a ‘radioactive sponge’. After the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, Cladonia Rangiferina was used to measure the radiation levels in surrounding areas. In fact, Chernobyl’s far-reaching effects all the way in the Nordic countries were understood through testing the lichen. SEM is a type of electron microscope that produces images of a sample by scanning the surface with a focused beam of electrons. The electrons interact with the atoms in the sample, creating signals that describe the topography and create the image down to the resolution of a single nanometer. As part of my artistic research with Reindeer Lichen, I made a series of microscopic scans using the Scanning Electron Microscope.

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