Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 7 - Science Fact and Fiction
Log 7 - Science Fact and Fiction

Joyce Campbell's 'Logic of Behaviour'
Julainne Sumich


JC works with residues of scientific reality-stuff occurring naturally in the world. This residual science forms the matrix for a circuitry of behaviours, bringing to light an ugly beauty.

Here touching this thing.

In the tracks of an earlier series which foregrounded the rust-bruised pathology of everyday debilities, Campbell over recent years has gone home to the kitchen concocting no end of strange matter to store inside the fridge. Cooking up an alchemy of potato dextrose she provides the nutrients for the growth of a fungicidal culture. This cool stuff in petri dishes when exposed to light and warmth becomes a series of Fairy Rings [Fiat Lux 1997]. Works of exquisite delicacy, intriguing in their morphology and delightful in their seeming innocence-such that the hand mechanically reaches to examine and question as in childhood.

Around the same time parallel colonies appeared at the windows of Lopdell House in the exhibition Touch Lightly, doubleglazed to the outside panes. The double of glass acts as an insulator for these fullbloom chromatic inoculations.

The impression made by the convergence of permeating light and transparent plane logically suggests itself as the stuff of photography. Contact printing; direct imagery; a residual review of how the image comes into being without imposing on the surface-as far removed from the contamination of human intervention as is possible in the making of art. This sounds like "pure" art but is the sort of purity belonging to a colony where from the colour of their skin to the duration of their wander-rate, Campbell has the rights-to -ife over these organisms.

Spoors of Spores
Taken in at the breast and confirmed at the knee of her mother, Mary, scientist, Joyce's knowledge of photosynthesis by the age of seven was sufficient to educate those years older. This synthesis seems incipient in her initial approach to photography during adolescence with light, xrays and chemicals used in merging layers of the already-has-been with the direct image.

Integrally photosynthesised then, Campbell's processes can be said to `come naturally' to her. Finding no need for the death of photography [that-which-will-have-been prerecorded] she has begun to capitalise on the life and death of the organism through direct contact. The raw materials for tracking its development are already here in the specificity of her situated knowledge.

Location: Biolab.

  1. A rectangular glass plate is placed in a germicidal hood and flooded with U.V. light for 30 minutes sterilizing it and the surrounding air. Contaminants are excluded by this pressurised environment.
  2. Liquid sterile seaweed agar is poured into the plate and left to gelatinise.
  3. Gloved hands are sterilized. Tools-scalpel and wire loop-are sterilized.
  4. Gloved hands open a petri dish and pass the wire loop over a chosen colony of bacteria or fungi.
  5. Touch the wire loop to the agar in the plate-I inoculate.[1]
  6. If I want a single colony I use a scalpel-and prick the surface.
    If I want growth from the edges I stroke the surface there.
    If I want a `random' plague of growth I wave the spore-covered tool over the field of agar[2]

    - a sporing free-for-all.

In time these growths reach various stages of fullbloom depending on their DNA and available food. They wander randomly until running out of nutrients they spoor and then they die-just ripe for photography's cliché verre processing technique.[3]

Cliché verre
A Time Image
Engaging art practice with processes like this depends upon attention to detail, waiting, and hard work. The surface of any art production "is virtually invested entirely by all sorts of clichés from which one must break away". [4] Time images suffer from the debilitation of overexposure, and none more so than photographs. Campbell knowingly takes on the stereotype of photography's `truth to reality'. She breaks with the cliché that "indicates both a stereotyped thinking and a snapshot (the link being that both are born out of an instantaneous act that requires little effort and that results in a freezing of reality into a reified image). The photograph is a particularly dangerous form of short-circuited thinking and representation, since its chemically based realism gives it an air of authenticity, of innocent directness, that anchors and supports all its stereotyping."[5] Campbell's cliché is a surface where a fundamental image of time is incisively prepared for inoculation. Her photography is both cliché verre and not at all a cliché in that it demands long periods of gestation, thought, and physical engagement. Her works are abstractions of invisible reality born of a light box; images of life and death they preserve the behaviour of the organism's struggle against all pressures. It is death by design, unbeatable in its intensities, that renders visible the invisible.

Campbell's series Hostings, a multiplicity of largescale Ilfachromes [Sydney Biennale 1998, The Everyday;] are sensational. Scrolling bacillus subtilis. They constitute a response to the logic of sensation developed in Deleuze's approach to the paintings by Francis Bacon. In contrast to the single figure works where he discerns vibration, and in the diptychs resonance, in Bacon's triptychs "rhythm takes on an extraordinary amplitude, in a forced movement that gives it autonomy and gives us the impression of Time. The limits of sensation are overflown, exceeded in all directions." [6]

This is the logic of art's behaviour.

This is the force that overwhelms, that has its own autonomy in relation to the organism and the work of art. It is the inbetweenness of its rhythms and its components and its very facticity that brings the art to appear as if wireframed before the work.

Isn't sensation the stuff of the combinatory effect of neural and chemical signals between body and brain which gives character to behaviour?[7]

It's the combination of colour, tonality, line, the point, the problem, the accidental transgression of spatial limit brought forth in the chemical substrate that forces the movement in Hostings beyond the sum of the constituent elements.

Campbell's forthcoming project Microcosm for Artspace Auckland is a virtual universe, a screensaver, transparent in its purity; designed to be downloaded as freeware. Its environment is the screen of the user. Organisms live within it, but are not it. Here organisms compete, their various behaviours defined by binary programming code, as microbes are by DNA code. Pixels on the screen are converted into a virtual field within which tone equates to nutrient value, e.g. text has no nutrient value other than the white around it.

Any text that the screensaver hits is just going to die - Campbell

All other priorities rescinded

You still don't understand what you're dealing with... a perfect organism its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.

I admire its purity... a survivor
unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.
"I can't lie to you about your chances."

(Ash the robot unplugged in Alien, directed by Ridley Scott in 1979)

I can't cut down the wander rate...Campbell

1. inoculatevb to introduce [the causative agent of a disease] into the body of [a person or animal] in order to induce immunity; to introduce [microorganisms esp. bacteria] into [a culture medium]; to cause to be influenced or imbued, as with ideas or opinions. Lat. inoculare to implant, bud.

2. Notes on procedure: Joyce Campbell.

3. cliché verre: The first procedure for executing pictures on glass plates was effected by covering a glass plate with a smoked etching ground, the drawing then scratched through and the glass used as a contact negative for photographic printing "which the sun may be said to print".This technique was practised as the cliché verre by Corot and the painters of the Barbizon and by Dela croix. Aaron Scharf. Art and Photography Penguin 1979 pp 32-33. [clicherFr. to stereotype.]

4. Deleuze quoted in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation by Dan Polan in Gilles Deleuze and the Theater of Philosophy eds. Constatin V. Boundas & Dorothea Olkowski. Routledge 1994 p236

5. Ibid. Dolan p245

ibid. Deleuze cited in Dolan p244

7. see Antonio R.Damasio. Descartes'Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. Avon 1994 pp143-14


Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room