An artwork in the form of a transdiscipline, by Craske in collaboration with Dr Charlotte Sleigh, Dr Simon Park & Chethams’ Library.

“Biological Hermeneutics is a transdiscipline exploring the translation of texts through scientific and artistic enquiry. It is one of the first transdisciplines to emerge from the concept of transdisciplinarity.”

Over the last decade, libraries and archives have been through a huge process of change. As technology develops at an increasing speed, so does our relationship with knowledge. Knowledge itself is continually being redefined and accessed more immediately, whilst acquisition and storage of knowledge is moving from the real to the virtual world.

As interdisciplinary research centres, libraries act as both an archive of knowledge-based objects and as a porthole to a digital highway of information. These two knowledge-transfer pathways are each expanding whilst also being slowly merged, as archival material is digitised. The expansion of digital material prompts the questions: what will be our eventual relationship with the physical archive? Will it hold any value?

There are also on-going concerns with digital archiving. Unlike physical artefacts that can survive for centuries, digital data can corrupt and is facing the constant challenge of quickly developing technologies. Digital data formats are soon outdated, and through fast-paced consumerism, equipment to access data created a decade ago, is rarefied.

A dystopian prophet could predict a digital world where physical objects are no longer conserved and safely stored, but are discarded and scattered across a landscape. Their perceived value having been lost after being digitally appropriated, whether through 3D scanning or controversial projects like the Google Books Library.

Biological Hermeneutics questions these digital and physical relationships and reflects on their tensions by re-presenting the information contained by the physical texts. The premise of Biological Hermeneutics is that the physical archive is not merely written or printed text upon surfaces, but that whilst these archived objects hold data within the text, they also contain knowledges and data embedded within their physical forms.

It develops the concept of books as centres of microbial data and data transfer. Through social and scientific enquiry, it asks whether we move from the traditional practice of collection and taxonomy of the physical archive, to a newly proposed system of knowledge and understanding, which can possibly be stored virtually or in ways we cannot conceive at present.

At the same time, Biological Hermeneutics acknowledges society’s imperative need to move from an object based, commercial and material use culture to a sustainable, ecologically concerned, object-less culture. It reflects on the ‘death of the object’ in art history, museology and quite literally the actual process of physical and digital object decay.


Prof. Charlotte Sleigh
Dr. Michael Powell
Sue McLoughlin
Sue Jones
Dr Simon Park
Arts & Humanities Research Council (UK)
University of Kent | School of History | Centre for the History of the Sciences
Chethams’ Library
Whitstable Biennale
University of Surrey