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Gellan, wrapped in plastic
2019 – ongoing

Serie of pictures of my ongoing research made by Myriam Ziehli.

Klima Halle 
2020, Tour de Lorrraine, Bern

One of the most pressing issues menacing our ecosystems is the extraordinary amount of plastic materials that end up in nature. It is interesting to confront our present situation, the way our societies have pushed our ressources and environnement, to their limits with the vision of Elisée Reclus, a french geographer of the 19th century (see below), who foresaw the impact of humanity on climate. The installation looks like plastic, the very waste we should be avoiding, but it is in fact made of a fully biodegradable baterian biopolymer.

The short text of Elisée Reclus was engraved on a wooden panel, that served as a mold for the biopolymer. The perishable nature of the material – it can be composted in a few weeks – offers a strong contrast to the engraved message, which, even if it is 150 years old, still remains contemporary.

Elisée Reclus
Elisée Reclus (1830-1905) was, a french geographer, teacher, writer and anarchist. 150 years ago he wrote the two volumes of “La Terre: Description des Phénomènes de la Vie du Globe”. The views he exposes in these very little known books makes him a pioneer of ecology and social geography. One of the reasons his work has been almost forgotten is his political engagement as an anarchist. He was banned from France for 10 years for having taken part in the Commune uprising in Paris in 1971. He lived for a time in Lugano and near Montreux, before settling in Belgium, where he died in 1905.

“ The issue of understanding in man’s work what embellishes or instead contributes to hurt nature can seem futile to so-called positive minds: but it is still a primordial issue to address. The development of humanity is intimately linked to the surrounding nature. A secret harmony is established between earth and the peoples she feeds, and when careless societies allow themselves to lay hands on what makes the beauty of their realm, they always eventually regret and seek repentance. Where the soil has become ugly, where poetry has disappeared from the landscape, imaginaries dwindle, minds shrink, quotidian and servitude take over the souls and bring torpor and death. Among the causes which, in the history of humanity, have already led to the disappearance of so many civilisations, one would have to take into account the brutal violence with which most of nations treated the nourishing land. They would bring down forests, dry up sources and overflow rivers, corrupt climates, surround cities with pestilential swamps; then, when nature, violated by them, had become hostile, they would start hating her, and, with no possiblity to go back like a savage to a life in the forests, they would been dazed by the despotism of priests and kings.”

“La Terre: Description des Phénomènes de la Vie du Globe, vol.2” , 1869, Paris, L. Hachette et Cie

Futur Âge de Pierre

At first glance, Future Stone Age appears as a mineral underground garden. The rocks that make it up are the work of a living organism, the bacterium Bacillus pasteurii, capable of cementing sand from a solution of urea and calcium chloride. This relatively fast process (a few days), which allows the production of monoliths in situ, offers a counterfoot to the long term geological formation. In this garden evoking a petrified forest, life seems to be absent. But it is precisely the micro-organisms that allowed the rocks to originate and defined their shape and typology.
The space is transformed by this, borrowing from the prehistoric cave its aesthetics and its role of shelter and gathering place. The installation makes it possible to redefine both the perception and the use of an a priori austere place, while sensitizing the public to the incredible dynamism of the infinitely small, thanks in particular to the presence of images in the shop window. The organisation of events around the world of micro-organisms during the exhibition illustrates the possibilities of temporary reappropriation.
The biomineralization process opens up a wide range of potential applications for researchers, architects and designers. Civil engineering offers several opportunities, such as soil stabilization. Reducing the energy impact of building materials and techniques is also an important potential advance. Others imagine the use of this process to restore or create protective layers on heavily degraded buildings, notably through air pollution.
A garden that is part of innovation - thanks to a production technique firmly rooted in the 21st century - but also part of history.

- Project realized during the event Lausanne Jardins 2019
- Awarded by the jury of Lausanne Jardins 2019 - Made with Mathieu Pochon and Florian Fischbacher

Photo credits: Stéphanie Gygax
Growing Stones
2018 – ongoing  

Recent advances in synthetic biology offer unexpected development opportunities in the field of design. Growing Stones is an ongoing research project focused on the exploration of a technique, bacterial biomineralization, paving the way to new manufacturing processes.

Some microorganisms have the ability, under certain conditions, to « produce » limestone, and thus to act as cement in a substrate. This discovery has changed the way I approach the production of objects: creating with life raises unusual questions for a designer, from a formal to an ethical point of view.

On the one hand, the formal research conducted through ceramics and plaster allows me to speculate on the language of the objects that the bacteria can produce. It is a way of materializing my ideas in order to fuel the development of production techniques. On the other hand, laboratory experimentation is essential for a better understanding of the processes specific to biology. This discipline has confronted me with new temporality and imperatives, challenging my industrial designer’s logic.

My approach, beyond the production of objects, aims to understand and think about the challenges of a technology that is democratizing and evolving exponentially. The use of synthetic biology in manufacturing processes is creating a paradigm shift that could well lead to the next industrial revolution.

- Master project at the Studio Integrative, HGK / FHNW
- Nominated for the Christa Gebert / Ambiante Designpreis in Rapperswil, 2018
- Supported by the Swiss Art Council Pro Helvetia, 2018/2019
- Supported by the Ikea Stiftung, 2018/2019

Fake it until you make it

Beside an ongoing project in the field of design using synthetic biology and living materials, I did a first experiment exploring the topic by creating my own bioplastics. The samples were obviously not perfect and I decided to emphasize the failures through a collection of macro prictures of the plastics.

HGK, Masterstudio, Integrative Grstaltung,