This Crystalline Cocoon Was Woven with Liquid Silk

Julian Melchiorri twists and morphs light with silk proteins for his ethereal 'Cocoon' sculpture.

by Becky Chung
22 December 2014, 5:00pm

Julian Melchiorri's Coccoon. All images © 2014 Julian Melchiorri, All rights reserved. Images may Images may not be reused without the artist's consent.

Julian Melchiorri’s light sculpture, Cocoon, consisted of a single 1Watt LED in the center of an intricate web of silk protein nano-optics, all encased in a 3D-printed fractal form. “I wanted to explore ‘light transformation' inspired by nano structures and fractal patterns found in nature,” says Melchiorri, who has always been intrigued by the physicality of light and how light shapes life and visual perception. From the same research, the artist also created a synthetic biological leaf that absorbs water and light to create oxygen for interior spaces, and a biological photo reactor with enclosed living micro algae that could help absorb carbon dioxide in urban environments.

The idea for Cocoon was borne out of his investigation of silk protein properties. After crafting a protein solution from worm silk, Melchiorri added 2,700 nano-prisms per millimeter onto the solution’s surface using electron beam technology. The ray of light that passes through the bio-optic surfaces becomes diffracted, splitting into the colors of its wavelength. “I wanted to create a biological optical filter thin as bubbles in order to maximise the transparency and to give a fragile ethereal feeling to the sculptural piece,” he explained to The Creators Project. 

Melchiorri hoped that the work is a spark for deeper conversation on how we perceive light, material and shape, as well as the ways in which art and science can converge into new things. “I believe the intersection between art and science enables innovative thinking that can drive to both great scientific discoveries and exceptional art.” For the future, Melchiorri is considering constructing Cocoons of different scales to continue examining the work from new perspectives while probing how people interact with constructed spaces.

Below, examine the details and process of the creation of Cocoon:


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bio art
light installation
Julian Melchiorri
silk protein
synthetic leaf