Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Art Project V

you will need:

salt
food coloring
8-oz. drinking glasses (number subject to personal discretion)
a two-gallon or smaller desktop aquarium with top-down illumination
a bucket or plastic wastebasket
small syringe (preferable) or turkey baster
(preferably viral:) sinusitis with pronounced post-nasal drip, bronchitis1, or tonsillitis2

1 If you have asthma, COPD, emphysema, or other condition in which bronchitis would be more than usually life-threatening, I must have a note from your parent(s) or guardian(s) giving permission for you to go ahead with bronchitis. Students unable to get permission are encouraged to get a sinus infection instead.
2 You will not be able to get tonsillitis if you have had your tonsils out already.

WARNING: Students with elevated blood pressure, or who are on sodium-restricted diets, may skip this project with the written permission of their doctor.


1. Wait for peak mucus production from your respiratory infection of choice. Post-nasal drip is highly desirable.
2. Disconnect and discard aeration equipment, if any, from the aquarium.
3. Remove top (including light) from aquarium and fill with clean, lukewarm tap water.
4. Place salt in each of the drinking glasses, and fill to 8-ounce mark with warm water. Amount of salt should vary between glasses from half a teaspoon to four teaspoons. Stir water until salt is dissolved.
5. Add food coloring to the salt water in the drinking glasses. No two glasses should have exactly the same color composition. Keep in mind that the colors will be diluted considerably by the time they appear in the work.
6. Gargle with the colored salt-water mixture for as long as possible and spit it out into the wastebasket or bucket.
7. You should now have some highly-colored, very salty, mucus left in your mouth. Carefully spit it into the aquarium. If all has gone according to plan, and the sinus infection, salt level, coloration, and etc., are at appropriate levels, you should now have a string or blob of colored mucus in the aquarium. If it is highly saturated in salt, it will be at the bottom; if your mucus is of inconsistent quality, or you had to spit it out with force, it may be stringy. Low-salt or low-viscosity mucus may spread out at the top of the aquarium; if this is not a desirable effect for you, remove it by sucking it out with the syringe, or skim the top with a glass.
8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 as many times as desired for each of your color selections. You may need to take a break or two in the process of building up your mucus sculpture, to give your body a chance to produce more mucus. Rinse with water twice between each color switch; otherwise, some of the preceding color may taint the working color.
9. When you have finished, replace the aquarium top, and turn on the overhead light and assess your construction. Are the colors pleasing? Are the mucus blobs and strings relating to one another harmoniously ? If there are any air bubbles in the piece, do they enhance it?
10. Use the syringe to remove undesired elements, nudge mucus globs into alternate positions, remove or add small air bubbles, etc.
11. As your construction would be destroyed by even minor jostling from transportation, your grade will be assessed on the basis of photographs or sketches of the work. For photographs, get as close as possible while still keeping the picture in focus: detail is critical! Experimenting with lighting of different intensities, or at different angles, may be helpful. Sketches are likely to be of better image quality but are more time-consuming, and the mucus may dissolve during the production of the sketch. Keeping the work cool may slightly delay disintegration.
12. Students who are unable to achieve satisfactory results with photography or sketches may bring their apparatus to school with them and construct their pieces on-site. Principal Brown may or may not view the pieces as well, and may or may not know the method for their construction when he views them.

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