Rob Kesseler

Meaningful Microcosms

In her essay Picturing Ambiguity, the art historian Barbara Maria Stafford writes,

Magnification drives to the centre of a major aesthetic problem faced by all natural history description. What do you do with beings that are neither one thing nor the other?1

Well, what you do is spend a lifetime exploring the plant world through not only the lens of microscopy but also aesthetics, politics, ecology, indigenous cultures, art and science, and then wrap it up within a website that is not only a feast for the eyes but presents us with the many complexities of considering our vital relationship to plants.

Microcosms and Steven White’s thoughtful and challenging essay, Microcosmic Phytoformalism is an inspirational resource to be welcomed in providing a bridge that addresses Stafford’s aesthetic problem by reawakening our notions of “rapture” within the context of the Anthropocene and our impact on climate change.

As an artist working at the interface between art and science, using microscopy as a creative tool, I am acutely aware of the need for more critical writing around this exciting territory and welcome this comprehensive addition.

My belief in the creative use of micro-imaging in reaching new audiences was reaffirmed recently when I was awarded first prize by a jury of scientists, artists and humanists for my images of seeds of plants adapted to climate change, produced for a feature for the BBC.2 The images were shown in an exhibition as part of – Our Bio-Tech Planet. Future of Plants and Humans, held in the Botanic Gardens in Rome.3 

Rob Kesseler, visual artist, University of the Arts London Chair in Arts, Design & Sciences, author of Pollen: The Hidden Sexuality of Flowers and Seeds: Time Capsules of Life.

1 Barbara Maria Stafford, Good Looking, Essays on the Virtue of Images. MIT Press 1996.

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