Michael Frank - Form Follows Function

(an art project in the realm of science)

In 2013 I was commissioned by the Royal College of Veterinary (RVC) in London to photograph selected animal specimens from the Lanyon Museum. The recordings should serve as a didactic aid for the RVC’s e-learning platform and should be as simple and visually clear as possible.Considered that the RVC is working on very strict ethical principles and takes animal welfare very seriously, I had no moral concerns to do the work.

Nevertheless, I did not know exactly what to expect, since never before I came into contact with animal preparations. Like a scientist on a time journey, I was totally fascinated from the first sight - the “Cabinet of Curiosities” of the late Renaissance and Baroque was back. My fascination, through the eyes of a layman, was not the study of scientific aspects but the artistic perspective of nature. The fascination of the invisible, the creation of God and the unknown were revealed in all their beauty. Through careful lighting and subsequent digital processing, the specimens were raised from their original state, as didactic objects, into an artistic concept.

Emphasis lies, similar to the book “Art Forms of Nature (Kunstformen der Natur)” published in 1904 by the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel, on the inherent beauty of the specimens and their connection to abstract art. Paintings by Jackson Pollock and Giacomo Balla or sculptures by Henry Moore, to name a few, come to mind. Inspired by the American architect Louis Sullivan, I titled the project “Form Follows Function”.

Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling work- horse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is the law.

Sullivans Louis „The tall office building artistically considered“, 1896

Over the next three years this body of work has been extended to the collections of the Royal College of
Surgeons in London, the Pathology Museum of the UCL and the Charite Museum in Berlin. In the years 2015 and 2016 three photographs from the RVC series were awarded the Wellcome Image Award.