Exhibition open to the public until 3rd May 2019

Embrittled | Resilient is a collaborative science, art and conservation exhibition inspired by the majestic Oregon Maples of Trinity College Dublin. Spread over three venues on the main campus it opened to the public on the 28th of March 2019 with a series of talks by David Hackett, David Taylor, Tim Hone and Olivia Hassett outlining the background to their respective areas of research. Olivia Hassett also created a solo performance piece with the Oregon Maple in the Parsons Building.

Solo Performance with Oregon Maple on first floor of the Parson’s Building

See the map and three downloadable information pdf’s below, which highlight the three exhibition venues on campus and give you a bit of information behind the works in each venue.

Map showing the three exhibition venues

The work will be available to view during normal business hours up until the 3rd of May 2019.

To whet your appetite I have created a short slideshow of a few images from the various works sited across the three venues on the main Trinity College Campus. See below.

In the coming days I will highlight individual pieces, give some background information and will post more images. The best way to see the work is of course to come in and see the exhibitions!

Behind the performance

Sculptural installation in the Oregon Maple in Library Square, 2017

During the 2017 exhibition Olivia Hassett created a tendon-like sculptural installation in one of the large Oregon Maples, which collapsed last June. These yellow lycra fabric pieces mirrored the lines of the cable bracing wire system that helped support some of the heavier branches of the tree. Imagery from SEM images taken by Clodagh Dooley of the internal cellular structure of the tree was printed by the artist onto the lycra fabric before it was stretched between the branches.

2017 solo performance Olivia Hassett, lycra sculptural tendon and Oregon Maple

For the 2019 exhibition Olivia decided to re engage with the ‘lycra tendon sculptures’ in another solo performance this time with the Oregon Maple embedded in the Parson’s building. Hassett used two of the tendon-like pieces during the solo performance work that formed part of the Trinity College Trees Exhibition launch event.

Hassett began the performance draped in the fabric works from 2017. The performance took place in the external first floor part of the Parson’s building extension.

An important part of the performance included the attaching and stretching of the fabric pieces from the podium of the building to and around the trunk of the Oregon Maple tree that is embedded and surrounded by the building itself. The connection between the building and the tree and the support provided by the stretched fabric was only possible during the performance and for a short period after.

The main focus of this performative work was Hassett’s continued engagement with water retaining gel as a material. As we know water and the lack of it was highlighted as being one of the key concerns for the trees of TCD. In actual fact David Hackett mentioned that adding water retaining gel to the soil of some of the trees showing signs of dehydration was one of the options open to the grounds staff to help keep the trees healthy. Having used this material before in previous performances Hassett was used to working with and was quite familiar with it’s transformative properties. When fully engorged with water the crystals weigh up to 100 times more than in their original crystalline form. The process of fast hydration and the slow return of the water to the soil is one that can occur numerous times over the life of the material, which is estimated to be about three years.

When Hassett began to workshop and think about what elements she wanted to engage with performatively during this exhibition water retaining gel was the obvious place to start. At the beginning of the performance last week she lifted in and placed two soft plastic buckets half filled with the gel beside the tree on the first floor. She then proceeded to slowly drop, squeeze and deposit the gel onto the grating that surrounds, protects and allows rain to percolate through to the roots of the Oregon Maple tree on the ground floor. Over a period of ten minutes or so Hassett continued to drop and walk on the mounds of water retaining gel forcing the material to seep and fall through the grating onto and into the installation of tube sculptures, which enabled the gel to funnel down to the roots below.

Over the course of the exhibition this gel will continue to hydrate and dehydrate in response to the weather weakening and altering the installation of paper tubes surrounding the Oregon Maple. This transformation of material is of particular interest to the artist and is also replicated in the her choice of paper as a material for the installation of tubes. She does not know how the paper sculptures will fare during the course of the four week exhibition, maybe they will delaminate, buckle and fail as a result of repeated rain showers or maybe they will survive in some shape or other. This element of working with and adapting to the unknown in nature is therefore mirrored in a small way through the choice of her materials. More images to follow from the installation…

In addition to the paper tube installation already in place on the ground floor, Hassett has also added one of the fabric tendon-like yellow lycra pieces from the 2017 exhibition. For this installation she has stretched it from the floor up through the grating on the first floor and ending up enveloping the tree trunk above. More images to follow…..

Launch 28th March

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Following on from the success of the collaborative art installation in eight trees on the TCD campus in 2017 the Trinity College Trees Team* are delighted to announce the opening of their newest collaborative exhibition embrittled | resilient

Open to the public during normal business hours April 1st – May 3rd 2019 this exhibition will launch with a series of events on Thursday 28th March.

  • 17.30 pm meet in the Museum Building (follow signs as the front door may be closed) to view the exhibition. David Taylor, David Hackett and Tim Hone will give a short introduction to some of the scientific and conservation information on display.
  • 18.00 pm meet in the Parsons Building to view the exhibition.
  • 18.15 pm solo art performance by Olivia Hassett beside the Oregon Maple outside the Parsons Building
  • 18.30 pm refreshments will be available in foyer area of the Parsons building.

Initially the the two 170 year old majestic Oregon Maples in Library Square were the focus of this exhibition until one fell and the other had to be cut down. One of the two remaining Oregon Maples, descendant from the fallen trees and also sited on campus, became the new focus for the project.

Embrittled | resilient will focus on factors which affect the strength and conservation of the trees, including water, wind and age. Located in both the Museum and Parsons buildings the exhibition will comprise of a mixture of art works, scientific research and information about the conservation of the Maples.

For more information on the 2017 and 2019 projects and exhibitions please visit trinitycollegetrees.wordpress.com Contact email: oliviahassett@gmail.com.

*Trinity College Trees Team: David Hackett, Olivia Hassett, David Taylor.

Consultants: Conor Buckley, Colin Reid and Tim Hone.

This project and exhibition was funded by the Trinity College Performing Arts Grant.

TCD Trees 2019 Press Release

Bioplastic test: Day 3


On the third day of testing I decided to embed various types of fabrics into further test using the 2ml glycerol agar recipe.

To date I had been using the green coloured agarose so I decided to see what the material would work by using the clear agarose. It would also give me an opportunity to add some yellow food colouring to the mix. I decided that because the 4ml was interesting but too sticky I would also try to do a selection of samples using a 3ml glycerol agar recipe.

Again I added and stretched different types of fabric to the petri dishes.  See images below of the different tests undertaken.  Image directly below tests using the 2ml glycerol recipe. Image below that using the 3ml glycerol recipe. 

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20180524_103342Image above of clear bioplastic with embedded fabric samples.

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Above image of clear (left dish) and yellow food dyed (right dish) bioplastic.

Image above 2ml glycerol bioplastic sample brushed onto cotton netting.

Image above 2ml glycerol bioplastic sample  brushed onto cotton netting.  Artist stretching fabric to check capacity to stretch.  2ml glycerol sample quite brittle.  

Samples above 3ml glycerol sample, which was much more robust.  

Bioplastic testing: Day 2

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After drying the bioplastic tests overnight it was clear that the starch based one was really interesting and much more transparent than I was able to create on my own at home during last year’s experiments. I still felt though that I would have a problem trying to get in onto my fabrics in a controlled way. (see image above – starch bioplastic is the clear/ white material in the lower petri dish.  The top dish contains the (green coloured) agar bioplastic.)

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So we decided that we should focus our attention solely on the algae based bioplastics. The samples that we had created the day before had a lovely translucency; like looking through the see through coloured plastic sweet wrappers (see image above). Unfortunately the agarose mix without the glycerol was very fine and delicate after drying out. It was brittle, prone to tearing easily and very hard to scrape off the bottom of the Petri dish. So our final experiment yesterday was to test what would happen if we added glycerol to the algarose mix. To heighten the effect Conor decided to add 4ml of glycerol to the mix.

After drying in the oven at 65degrees from 12 until 6pm and being left on the bench overnight both algae samples were dry. However as earlier stated the algarose without the glycerol was deemed unsuitable as a material for this project. The sample with added glycerol was much more interesting and when pulled slightly had a little give or stretch in the material. It was however a little sticky to the touch though.

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So on day two of our sampling programe Conor decided to work with the algarose recipe and by adding 1, 2 and 4ml of glycerol test to see which if any had more workable properties.

So we made up 3 sample batches. Before I poured the solubulised liquid into the Petri dishes I added small strips of different types of fabric to the bottom of the Petri dish. The fabric samples were a nylon fixed gauze used in screen printing, a nylon lycra.  (see image below – left hand petri dish)

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It was decided before continuing any further testing of the bioplastic with the various sculptural fabrics that it was best to see which if the recipes would work best.

Two other tests were undertaken as well on this day.

To simulate the way the fabric would be working in a sculpture lycra mesh netting was stretched over the petri dish and held in place by an elastic band. The warm (4ml glycerol) liquid painted onto the stretched fabric and set pretty quickly. As I was hoping to eventually layer up the material onto the fabric we decided to test this out by painting a second layer on top of the first. (see image above – right hand petri dish)

Finally as we had talked about the lack of flexibility with the normal algarose mix Conor suggested that if we could add bubbles to the liquid mix before it set the bubbles would create a cushion and matrix inside the material that could allow it to flex better. He suggested working with Alka selzer could give us the effect we were looking for.

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So Conor crushed some of the tablet and put it on the Petri dish and pouring the slightly cooled down liquid algarose without the glycerol onto the powder. See image for result. He did something similar when he carefully added the remaining crushed tablet to the beaker of plain algarose over the sink. As he expected it bubbled and frothed up. Both samples were put into the oven to dry.

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Results from bioplastic testing: day 2:

Tests with basic agar bioplastic recipe with 1ml glycerol – too brittle and inflexible

Tests with agar bioplastic recipe with 2ml glycerol – a little bit of give

Tests with agar biopastic recipe with 4ml glycerol – stretchy but a bit sticky

Bioplastic testing – Day one

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Conor Buckley started our bioplastic journey to develop an art material for use in the Trinity Trees Project by explaining about the cellular make up of the different base materials we would be using. This was a great help for me to understand how the material would act and react depending on what you added to it.

We stared by talking about how one would make a starch based bioplastic.

Starch bioplastic: the recipe:

9.95grams of corn starch

60ml distilled water

5ml Acetic acid (vinegar) 5% solution

5ml glycerol (a light sensitive animal fat)

Cornstarch is a complex carbohydrate called a polysaccharide. It has a polymer chain with branches. When we add vinegar to the starch and water solution it cleaves the branches from the polymer chain separating them into whats called an amalose mix i.e. the starch and vinegar solubalise in water. When you add glycerol (the plasticiser), which is like an oil, it allows the chains to slide over each other. The stiffness or flexibility of the final product depends on the amount of glycerol we add to it. The more glycerol the more plasticised it becomes.

Starch bioplastic: the method:

Add water and corn starch to a graduated beaker. Add vinegar to create amalose. Add glycerol to plasticise. Put the beaker with all the ingredients over the heat and gradually increase the temperature from 100 to 140 and up to 160 degrees over about 10-15 minutes all the time stirring the mixture.

When the mixture changes from opaque to clear it is the time to scoop it out and spread it out on the chosen dish to dry. In our case we used petri dishes. Then the dish was placed in an oven set at 65 degrees to dry. For this starch how you dry it is important. If you leave it on bench to dry over a long period of time the top layer will dry faster and form a skin. Drying in the oven in @65 would allow for the material to dry more evenly.

Conor and I were delighted with the result, which was much more opaque than the samples I had created the year before. As most of last years samples ended up white in colour when I tried to add colour I ended up with varying shades of pastel colours. I had also tried many different ways of adding colour to this bioplastic. But now thanks to Conor’s knowledge I realise that what I thought was a good idea, adding acrylic (plastic based) paint to the mix, was in fact reacting with the cellular chains and making the material more brittle.

On the down side this and last years cornstarch bioplastics were very thick, lumpy and hard to spread evenly. If I were to use it to cover elements of my sculptures we would have to spread it when it was at its most liquid form when it was really hot and sticky As it looses heat quite quickly cools and becomes more unworkable it would be a tall order to use it as a material. A really fantastic matieral but unfortunately not one that I could use.

Two handy pieces of information that Conor imparted to me that I thought useful to share are:

1. When you are trying to optimise the mechanical properties of a material change one thing at a time. You don’t change the base amount of starch, water and vinegar components only the glycerol.

2. If you want to colour a bioplastic materials it is best to use three drops of food colouring and only after all the ingredients have been solubalised. If you add the colour earlier you might not be able to see the point at which the material changes from opaque to clear indicating that it is ready to use.

The second type of bioplastic we said we would explore was an Agar based one. 

Agar is a generic term for seaweed and alginate is a made by processing a type of seaweed. The algae base material that we are using is called agarose. This is a thermoreversable material i.e. it melts in water when you heat it up, sets when cool and can be reheated to liquid form again. It is important to note that the more times one heats and cools the material the weaker the material becomes. Conor explained what happens when the agarose is heated up in water. As it is made of nano scale helical shaped chains, they unravel when heated and straighten out and then return to the helical shape when they cool down.

In our initial experiment we just used the pure agarose.

Agar bioplastic: recipe 1:

agarose

1.5 grams agar

50 ml of water

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Agar bioplastic: recipe 2: agarose and glycerol version

1.5 grams agar

50ml of distilled water

4ml of glycerol

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Agar bioplastic: the method:

Measure out the 1.5 grams of agarose. Boil distilled water. Add agarose. Stir continuously over heat for 10-15 minutes until all the agarose strands have disappeared. Pour solubalised agrose into petri dish and leave to set. If glycerol is to be added do this after the agar has solubalised and before pouring into the petri dish.

Interestingly after describing what I was looking for from a bioplastic Conor suggested that by using a paint brush when this material was hot we could paint the bioplastic onto the fabric, which would then set and dry over time.

I also wondered if this material would be flexible enough to be able to move with the fabrics i use or would it be too brittle and tear. Conor decided to try and add some gylcerol to the mixture to act like a plastisier. He decided to start off with 2ml of glycerol, which we added to the solubalised mix. We planned to leave it over night to dry to see how that would look and work.

Another really interesting idea that Conor suggested on this first day is that he wanted to try adding bubbles to the mix. By adding bubbles to the recipe without glycerol he hoped to add an extra element of flexibility. So I was asked to bring in some alka selser for our next batch of experiments.

Bioplastics with Conor Buckley; an Introduction

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On embarking on the 2018 Trinity Trees project I knew I wanted to explore in detail more about bioplastics.  I was and still am really interested to see if a specific version can be used successfully as an art material in the upcoming 2018 Trinity College Trees Exhibition. Having spent a few frustrating weeks compiling lots of samples and not quite understanding what and how much of each ingredient to add into the mix I decide to enlist the help of Conor Buckley of TCD. Conor very kindly agreed to guide me in the development of a bioplastic material for the 2018 Exhibition.

Prof. Conor Buckley

During May 2018 we met in the biochemistry lab in the Parsons building as it had all the equipment we would need to experiment and make the bioplastic material. On this first day on our journey of bioplastic experimentation Conor and I talked a lot about these exciting materials called bioplastics.

Bioplastic is a layman’s’ term for using natural materials to make plastic. Bioplastics can be starch, algae or gelatin based to name the most common forms. In science terms the final bioplastic material is called a hydrogel.

Conor’s told me a little about his area of expertise, which is in making hydrogels into specific shapes and then implanting cells into these shape. The cells grow in this medium and form a matrix within the shape creating new living tissue. This is commonly know as cell tissue engineering.

Conor is not new to working with artists on unusual projects. He was involved in the Science Gallery’s exhibition called Victimless Leather in 2008 and 2011. Victimless Leather created by artist Oran Catts was a prototype of a stitch-less jacket, grown from cell cultures into a layer of tissue supported by a coat shaped polymer layer.  See image below.  

In the next blog on Bioplastics I will outline some of the tests Conor and I undertook in May 2018.

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