The Individual

With this work I challenge others to think about what keeps the individual going and how they fit into an indifferent Universe. Does its emptiness provide a canvas where change is possible, or are we in perfect equilibrium? By hand-painting a human figure on a rice grain, the viewer is confronted by the limits of their own scale to see the image and by the scale at which they themselves are represented in the larger Universe. Even though the figure is small and alone in a featureless space, their mere existence makes them capable of standing out and creating visible change.

Using a brush made from carbon fiber thread and a microscope, I can paint at a scale limited only by the precision of my hand movement. The rice as a seed is a canvas and an element capable of profound impact in large quantities. With a few simple strokes, the figures are recognizably human and share a common pose, one of forward motion. Beyond external incentives, beyond even hope, there is a simple curiosity to learn what the future holds for us; one step at a time is the best we can do when faced with the chaos, calamity, and vastness of an indifferent universe. What better place for this work than to float freely in space? One of these rice grains, no.7, was flown aboard a resupply mission to the international space station, where it spent over a year in constant freefall. Tumbling for 10,000 hours straight, the figure has since returned to Earth and continues forward upon the rice seed.

To move forward in the face of all possible odds makes us uniquely human. To look at all the facts and imagine something impossible is what took us to the Moon and what will take us even further. This feeling of minuscule scale and the question of genuine impact represent a connection between astronomy and philosophy that I visualize through art as a way of reminding us of this dissonance and eventually coming to terms with it. From my time as an astrophysicist, I have experienced firsthand the Sisyphean absurdity of trying to comprehend the vastness of our universe. Accepting the small magnitude of our existence is essential in forming a more comfortable relationship with scale and the cosmos.