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design domain: Exodus

17: This is what the Lord says: By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood.

18: The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.'"

19: The Lord said to Moses, "Tell Aaron, `Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt--over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs'--and they will turn to blood. Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in the wooden buckets and stone jars."

20: Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood.

21: The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.

excerpt from the Bible, Exodus 7 (lines 17-21)

I am far, very very far from being religious, but i do believe that some of the happenings from the Bible are related to some events that would occur in a real life scenario. Having been raised in a quite religious Catholic family (religiousness that was emphasized by my mothers Brazilian ethnicity) I still can remember these parts very well. In fact, I think the Exodus is by far my favourite part of it all, because that's when God shows their magic powers to scare off us, the humans, into doing good things (summarised very well).

In particular, I always found fascinating the existence of such cruel punishments: a river full of frogs? I love frogs! A river full of blood? I think that's metal as f! And i remember seeing cartoons depicting the events in such a dramatic fashion that made me love that part of the whole story in particular, it was real drama (shoutout to "The Prince of Egypt" from 1998, that animation movie is actually a masterpiece). 

I went off on a tangent. I mentioned before that I believe that some of the happenings in the Bible (and to be fair other sacred books) are encapsulating real life scenarios that were impossible to explain at the time, attributing the main cause to Godly powers. For example, the locusts: we now know how these insects' migratory patterns can affect entire regions, but in the Bible the locusts are one of the iconic punishments, ravaging cultivated crops with their absurd numbers. Now we are aware of how these organisms behave, and the divine light shining on them is mitigated by science and technologies aimed at protecting our wheat fields. There are many schools of thoughts in regards to describing the real-life scenarios that occurred in the Exodus' book. Some, for example, will argue that a volcanic eruption disrupted the ecosystem, leading to the series of plagues. Some others will focus on the "river of blood", attributing the plagues to a bloom of red algae. The toxic algae would have killed the fish in bodies of water in Egypt, leading frogs to abandon such bodies of water and insects' larvae to thrive. 

I'm in no position to judge whether any of these theories are right or wrong, but I will name my project Exodus because I do want to work with these red algae in order to make a comment about them and, ultimately, climate change. I also think that the name Exodus is quite apt because it means "A large number of subjects moving from one place to another", and for reasons that i'll elaborate on later, the concept of scale, movement and consequences of such paradigms is quite fundamental. So let's talk about Dinoflagellates.


To put it simply, dinoflagellates are to be considered aquatic protists. They are unicellular organisms which can assume the form of plankton in marine habitat but that can also live in freshwater: they are quite a ubiquitous type of group, because they can include algae that photosynthesise, they can be predators of protozoa, some are parasitic, and some are even both photosynthetic and phagotrophic (meaning they ingest prey whole, such dichotomy is called mixotrophy). It is quite important to recognise that there are different types of these protists and that they have different method of feeding themselves because Dinoflagellates, alongside with other protist groups, fungi and bacteria, produce most of the oxygen in our planet! 

It is an incredibly large group, with over 2000 species and more being discovered each year, and they all present a characteristic in common called flagella, a pair of whip-like tail which is used for motion (the name literally means "whipping tail"). All of the dinoflagellates are unicellular and eukaryote, meaning that a membrane protects the internal parts - though differently from other unicellular eukaryotes they have a more complex cover called amphiesma. Some of them present an extra layer of cellulose, an "armour" made of plates referred to as "theca". 

With all this said, I'm not going to talk about dinoflagellates in general anymore because I might easily need 40 other websites (and years of research) to do that. These organisms are becoming more and more important in research for bio-feedback applications - because they present a circadian clock and high levels of reactivity - so new very interesting papers about them emerge every month. But these are some of the papers I've read on the topic so far:





Of course some of these papers are very complex and I couldn't understand all of it, but i think the first link is comprehensible enough. What i'm mostly interested in are the bio-feedback applications, which in most cases goes hand-to-hand with their bioluminescence - but not all Dinoflagellates present such bioluminescence, not all of them are easily sourced or easy to maintain, and most importantly, not all Dinoflagellates are safe for humans to handle. After some research i eventually found my favoured protagonist, and their name is Lingulodinium Polyedra.

Before going on to describe this beautiful yet worrying organism, it makes sense for me to first explain what I was looking for exactly in the context of this year's Design Domain project, so I'll have to go off on a bit of a philosophical tangent now.

about process

This year's Design Domain theme is "process". We couldn't be more open-ended than that I think. And this theme is something i hold quite close to my heart because, well, i tend to enjoy the process a bit too much and forget to compile my learning journal every. single. time. 

But what exactly is process? Latin etymology will define it as "progress, advancement" - a chain of events and actions that presents contextual unity and a common goal - it is a quite "mono-directional" word in this sense. Process seems to go forward. 

The book "Process and Reality - an Essay in Cosmology" (Gifford lectures; 1927-28) by mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) gives an interesting view of nature as a plethora of processes that are interconnected for a common specific goal. He calls these processes "actual occasions" or "actual entities", and states that they are the building blocks of reality. Such entities themselves present both the complexity of a individual aim and of a common, greater aim: the "harmony of the whole", which is not to be confounded with a sort of ultimate end, but more as a sort of state of things as they become, because "The actual world is the becoming of actual occasions." In a way - and this is why Whitehead's philosophy is also called process philosophy - the world is then an agglomerate of processes that aim, through feedback within each other, at continuity, in a cosmological narration of reality as ongoing transformation. In this sense, the concept of process described in this book-lecture (which was given in Edinburgh!) is purely non-linear, in contrast with the more conventional meaning i described earlier. 


Because of the interconnectedness of such actual occasions we can view the process as sort of multidimensional and quite more organic. We could see these actual occasions as smaller modules - they are events that encapsulate their own bit of reality, with their own aim, characteristics, and purposes - but it's the complex interplay of all of these smaller modules that eventually leads to the harmony of the whole.
Another interesting point in Whitehead's philosophy is the concept of creative force as a necessary adjustment to change: in a way creativity is both the inherent force that drives the change and the force that leads the singular modules to adjust to such continuous change.

As an aspiring artist, making a work about process might sound like dancing about dance. Process is what makes the work itself, so anything can kind of represent process, literally anything. There isn't even really a starting point of the process if we think about it - it is all a long chain of events that leads to some works that feed back into the persona in order to then get re-digested and re-processed into other work, and so on. And I think that fundamentally this is "it". Or is it? Throughout history there have been works about "things" like love, or like community, or about climate, or you name it, but sometimes there have been works about the work itself. Outer Space (1999) by Peter Tscherkassky is a clear example of that (in my opinion the whole avant garde scene is about exploring the medium of cinema itself BEFORE providing a narrative, so there can be plenty of names, he's just my favourite). The Austrian filmmaker (or film-breaker haha) sources original reels of popular modern movies and watches them around 250-300 times, until he starts 'seeing things'. He then takes a 1m long wooden plank to represent one second of time, and by laying the film onto it he starts working on de-constructing the movie. He cuts, glues back, glues over, re-frames, paints over, inserts new images and sounds by messing around with the audio wave printed on the reel. In other words he is aggressively re-arranging the film according to his new perception of it, but the rearrangement is not the final goal. The narrative is not the most important thing: the film becomes disfigured, the narrative of The Entity (1981) is manufactured into a new Tscherkassky's Outer Space narrative which is loud, abstract, even more terrifying than the original because of its visceral nature. What's most important is that the film is present and fully tangible - so much so that the director's hands appear too (Dream Work, 2001), working on the film while you're watching it, collecting pins that are used to lock the reel onto the wooden plank for editing. It's a narrative of the narrative, a cinema about the act of doing cinema. 


Following the words of A. N. Whitehead, I want to make a work that is about processes, which encapsulates how the single variables (hence processes) lead to a harmonious whole. In other words i want the act of processing to be the centerpiece of the work, and with "act of processing" I mean "growth". So let's get back to my algae.

the Red Tide

This is a specimen of Lingulodinium Polyedra

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