Vanessa Lorenzo (ES/CH) Camera obscura and the artefacts of the invisible

installation, 2016

Environmental changes are very often invisible. Some catastrophes attract widespread interest all over the world in the shape of images that circulate on news broadcasts, or social media. Others are trapped in complex datasheets within scientific reports or communicated below the radar. The unknown, the unseen.

Considering environmental events Camera Obscura and the Artefacts of the Invisible focuses on the unnatural and invisible presence of mercury along one of the major rivers of Europe, the Rhône. Different concentrations of pollution are black-boxed inside the Camera Obscura. Five samples of contaminated water were collected from the area of the case study (the Rhône Valley in Switzerland). Each vial contains different concentrations of pollution corresponding to five different periods since industrial activity started in Visp.

Those vials contain genetically modified Escherichia coli bacteria with the fluorescent protein eGFP that acts as an indicator of mercury. The more contamination in water, the more it will glow. Inside the vial, the pollutant mercury agent and the genetically modified Escherichia coli clash. The fluorescent reaction goes through a mixed ecology of cybernetic arrays and scientific protocols leading to future narratives among species to sense the invisible traces of human anxiety at progress. All is black-boxed in a modified camera obscura.

The camera captures and displays the level of contamination and translates it into black drops that fall into the water reservoir bringing visible the hidden pollution issues in this region. The more people come and activate the camera, the more visible it becomes.

Camera Obscura et les artefacts de l’invisible (Camera Obscura & the artefacts of the invisible) is a Master Diploma Project developed @HEAD - Genève Master in Media Design by Vanessa Lorenzo, who graduated with an honourable mention in June 2016.
tutors: Daniel Sciboz & Dr. Sachiko Hirosue
collaborators: Biodesign for the Real World (Dr. Sachiko Hirosue, Robin Scheibler), Hackuarium bio-hackerspace

Vanessa Lorenzo (ES/CH)

Vanessa Lorenzo is a designer and artist based in Lausanne, Switzerland. She researches into the potential contribution of living organisms (biomedia) to ordinary objects and mixes electronic media, microbiology and living organisms to create media installations using techniques such as visualization, data mapping and sonification leading to new perceptions of the environment.

Lorenzo holds an engineering degree in industrial design (Mondragón, Spain, 2008 and Barcelona, Spain, 2010) and has an MA in media design (HEAD-Geneva, Switzerland, 2016). Currently, she is an independent researcher and artist in Hybridoa, co-president of Hackuarium (Renens, Switzerland), part of the international network of collaborative art and biohacking Hackteria and collaborates with the Open Science School (CRI, Paris, France).