My experiments with Physarum polycephalum started in 2008, following an introduction by microbiologist and slime mould enthusiast, Simon Park. I had worked creatively with biological material before (skin organisms, bacteria, seeds) and was initially interested in the idea of a single cell organism working in an organised and cooperative manner. Early experiments offered my pet Physarum different food sources and environmental conditions, and set tasks to test its ability to locate food and navigate obstacles. Pattern generation was also of interest, as they create beautiful and complex structures as they move and grow, reminiscent of the venation patterning you can see across form and scale within the natural world (river tributaries, veins and blood vessels, tree growth, etc).
Early animations were a labour of love: plates removed from the shoe box where they lived (in the damp and dark), and placed under the camera at sporadic intervals. Whilst they revealed growth, behaviour and pattern, the irregularity of the individual photographs did not do justice to the formation and swarming of cells. I have since set up a more satisfactory time lapse studio, where the process is automated. The first results show delicate patterning, navigational decision making and (some) problem solving abilities.
Slime moulds (most noteably Physarum polycephalum and Dictyostelium) have been used widely as a model organism in laboratory research, exploring cell motility, cellular differentiation, and communication networks [see: 'links and resources' forum].
I aim to continue working with my pet Physarum, setting it different tasks to perform, problems to solve, and imagery to create.