first contact

first contact is a BioArt audiovisual installation.

Microscopic textures of slime mould Physarum polycephalum are projected on to four large floating screens in darkness.


Floating screens in darkness

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Axel Cuevas Santamaría and Ph.D. Jose Orlando Combita-Heredia analyzing microscopic particles of Physarum polycephalum. Acarology laboratory of the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at The Ohio State University.

We recorded protoplasmic particles flowing through the veins of Physarum during its plasmodium stage.

This flow of particles, similar to the flow of nutrients in our own blood stream, reflected each other in complex and yet very simple levels of biological existence.

The basis of this project is the immersive contact with the image and sound of microscopic particles found analyzing this living organism.

I wanted to share my empathy with this non-human form of life and my fascination with microscopic imagery taking it to a different scale.

The “other-worldy” landscapes and planetary textures that we obtained with the microscope at the Acarology laboratory of the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at The Ohio State University, were asking to be scaled up in size and somehow translated into sound.

So I translated the microscopic imagery to a sound atmosphere and created large digital projections.

We analyzed the size, number, and behavior of the pulsating microscopic particles using a custom made blob detection patch of Max/MSP and Jitter software.

The numerical values we obtained using blob detection were passed through virtual synthesizers VCTs creating the sound composition for the installation.

A visual narrative of my interaction with Physarum mixed with the recorded microscopic images is projected on to four floating screens in darkness. The floating screens show the relation between the microscopic and macroscopic dimensions.

The video projections show the different levels of approximation I experienced with this living organism during our first contact in the laboratory.

Also, the project gives voice and audiovisual presence to this non-human form of emerging intelligence that is neither a plant, an animal or a fungi, but rather something in between.

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Axel Cuevas Santamaría, during first_contact show
at BioPresence exhibition, Columbus, OH USA



Publications of first contact :


Click Here to Download article
The New York Arts Magazine – Review by Ph.D. Annie Jacobson, December 2015


Qué Pasa? The Ohio State University Magazine – first contact: Empathy for Another Legal Alien – Victoria Muñoz, Spring 2016 issue







BioPresence exhibition, Hopkins Hall Gallery Columbus OH



Does This Work For Everyone? Exhibition, Hopkins Hall Gallery, Columbus OH

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Visitors to first_contact at Does This Work For Everyone? Exhibition, Hopkins Hall Gallery, Columbus OH

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Axel Cuevas Santamaría installing the four projection screens

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Axel Cuevas Santamaría growing slime mould Physarum polycephalum


An inverted look of the installation

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Axel Cuevas Santamaría gazing at the floating screen in darkness

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Axel Cuevas Santamaría at Does this work for everyone? Exhibition Columbus, OH


an inverted look of the installation

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Axel Cuevas Santamaría holds a magnifying glass over a Petri dish with
slime mould Physarum polycephalum
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Axel Cuevas Santamaría at Does this work for everyone? Exhibition Columbus OH

I want to dedicate this project to the inspiring artists and scientists who shared their time and knowledge during the process of this exploration:

– Ken Rinaldo
– Amy Youngs
– Trademark Gunderson
– Federico Cuatlacuatl
– Theresa Schubert
– Jason C. Slot
– Phd Jose Orlando Combita-Heredia
– Dr.Cynthia Dassler
– Katherine Beigel
– Alana Yon

first contact installation is a work by Axel Cuevas Santamaría


Listen to first contact sound composition:


Inspirations for this work:

0 respuestas a “first contact”

  1. […] first_contact performance is an AV exploration of imaginary worlds and dimensions between microscopic and planetary systems.  I perform footage sonification of microscopic particles and video projections of my interactions with slime mould Physarum Polycephalum.  A VR headset represents the virtual/physical relation between the body and space.  The flow of particles used for the sonification process, similar to the flow of nutrients on my blood stream, reminds me that all forms of biological life reflect each other on very complex and also very simple levels of existence.  – VJ axx […]

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