Oltramarino was formed as a result of a collaboration between the artist, Louise Mackenzie and the department of Marine Science and Technology at Newcastle University, UK. It is a collection of short essays from artists, scientists and philosophers on what it means to be human in a micro-biological age.
Like the ‘oltramarino’ of Rennaissance Italy, cyanobacteria possess that unattainable quality of the colour blue, of beyond the seas and beyond the skies. We are continually expanding our sphere of knowledge, but the power it brings is not a constant. Science increases knowledge in the manner of light shining into infinite darkness. Look beyond our own existence and we can see the edges of the known future: billions of bacteria of which only a miniscule percentage has been identified, evidence of water (and hence the possibility of life) on planets far beyond our reach. Science is the light that we cast, the future that we can begin to comprehend. Beauty, awe and mystery are found at the edges of the spectrum. It is this sublime that Oltramarino celebrates: the glimmers of light in the infinite darkness.
Exploring what it means to be human, Louise Mackenzie's work often crosses disciplinary boundaries in an attempt to understand why it is that we are compelled to make, discover and progress, rather than to simply exist. Often working collaboratively, her experimental, research-based practice explores human evolution, past, present and future: from the origin of the species, through social and cultural evolution in the present, to genetic manipulation, the post-human and the future unknown. Recently, Louise has collaborated with Newcastle University Music Department and the Methodist Church on the theme of digital versus physical community and her current project is a collaboration with Newcastle University School of Marine Science and Technology, revealing the sublime in cyanobacteria.