A.xylinum 1 Silver gelatin photogram, 20”x 16”, 2011.
Photograms are created by placing an object on light-sensitive paper and then turning the lights on. Place the paper in developing solution, and an inverse record of the object emerges. Like a fingerprint and fingertip, a photogram has an indexical relationship to the object it pictures. The simplicity of these relationships give these modes of picturing an air of credulity.
I’ve chosen to document the cellulose skins I grow in the Arkin Lab, with photograms because the photogram bears a kinship to methods of data-collection I use in the lab. For example, I use a spectrometer to shine light through solutions to see their chemical signatures. In the case of the organism that produced these sheets of cellulose, I had its DNA sequenced to verify that it was indeed the bacteria I intended to culture, A.xylinum.
Yet something shifts when I take these fleshy cellulose samples from the lab and into the darkroom for our fingerprinting sessions. The part of me that measured this organism’s food to the milligram and its pH to the second decimal place takes a breather while I play with shadows and sleights of hand.