Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Glass sculpture by Luke Jerram

How many times do you think you've seen this before? Never? What is it? A Jellyfish? I've never seen a jellyfish.

It doesn't matter. It's not a jellyfish.

You've probably seen a picture of the same thing this sculpture is depicting at least once or twice before, more if you've ever studied biology, and about a thousand times if you're a virologist. It might help if you imagine it in green, purple or red, or some other kind of 'dangerous' colours of the dangerous dinosaur variety.

It's actually a sculpture of a HIV virus, designed using scientific photographs and models, made in response to the inaccurate colourful way viruses are depicted by the media and books (just type 'HIV virus' into google images and take a look).

The reality is that a virus is too small to have a colour. This is because they're too small to reflect light; the same reason why we can't see them through a normal microscope.

What's therefore unusual about this piece of art is that its meaning is not all about what you can observe, but about what is missing: colour.

Luke Jerram appears to have a talent for creating huge microscopic critters. You can see more of his glassy friends on his website and the above sculpture can be seen in reality at The Wellcome Collection in London.

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