BRILLIANT Projection

The Stars Beneath our Feet

Louise Mackenzie (UK)


 An audio-visual installation that used light-absorbing micro-algae to play with our sense of perception.

Comparing advanced microscopy techniques, which use lasers and computers instead of optics, to ‘looking without seeing’ and ‘listening without hearing’, Mackenzie adopted their use to create an ambiguous perception of micro-algae: ancient photosynthetic organisms that absorb light and convert it into oxygen.  These microscopic organisms helped to create the conditions that enabled all life on earth and have the uncanny quality of resembling a sky filled with stars when viewed at scale against the backdrop of a temple folly.

Based in the North East, Mackenzie makes sculptures and installations and more recently has begun working with microbiology and other forms of living media. She worked with scientists at Durham and Northumbria Universities to develop a micro-algae based audio work exploring the concept of ‘listening without hearing’. Using Atomic Force Microscopy, data was taken from vibrations made when the micro-algae moved and were analysed and transformed into this piece for Lumiere, Durham.

Mackenzie worked on her installation with Dr Richard Thompson, Department of Chemistry, Durham University, Dr Paul Vickers, Department of Computer Science & Digital Technologies, Northumbria University, the Department of Marine Science and Technology, Newcastle University and the Bioimaging Unit, Newcastle University.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet was originally commissioned as part of the Lumiere Durham 2015 BRILLIANT competition for anyone based in or originally from the North East  with a bright idea for an installation.


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