Photography with Scanning Electron Microscope
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.