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Plankton Art

Microscopic plankton cells have fascinated scientists including Ernst Haeckel (Künstformen der Natur 1899-1904) and artists such as Wasilly Kandinsky (1866 –1944), ever since they were first discovered. The appeal of these architecturally interesting and aesthetically beautiful organisms to a large extent stems from their symmetrical design. When we humans can reduce a complex pattern to a repetition of some elementary design, this brings with it simplification and visual harmony. Repetitive patterns have been common through the ages and in many cultures, in textile design, decoration and architecture (e.g. in the contemporary western design of the geodesic dome). The fabric that microscopic plankton shells are made of is thus both deeply simple and richly strange in its kaleidoscopic diversity and combination of a few basic elements.

In recent times scientists have been increasingly pressured to successfully communicate their results to the general public. Capitalising on the artistic appeal of plankton cells has
generated a flurry of paintings, sculpture, jewellery, tapestry designs, and even theatre plays, poetry and crime fiction stories. Numerous plankton scientists all over the world have successfully worked with artists-in-residence.

This website provides examples of their works, and links to relevant websites. Readers are encouraged to contribute and build up this archive. Please contact Anke Kremp if you would like to make contributions.

Gustaaf Hallegraeff


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