What does labor smell like? Labor is a dynamic, self-regulating art installation that re-creates the scent of people exerting themselves under stressful conditions. There are, however, no people involved in making the smell – it is created by bacteria propagating in the three glass bioreactors. Each bioreactor incubates a unique species of human skin bacteria responsible for the primary scent of sweating bodies: Staphylococcus epidermidis, Corynebacterium xerosis and Propionibacterium avidum. As these bacteria metabolize simple sugars and fats, they create the distinct smells associated with human exertion, stress and anxiety. Their scents combine in the central chamber with which a sweatshop icon, the white t-shirt, is infused as the scents are disseminated. The scent intensifies throughout the exhibition.
‘Meta_bolus’ exposes the metabolic process as an exchange of certain boluses or doses that define relationships as either beneficial or adverse. The laboratory structure in the centre of the installation embodies two connected loops of the metabolism of matter in our planet: human extraction of antibiotics from the Streptomyces rimosus bacteria and human consumption of volatile soil elements through the olfactory apparatus. The two looping processes excrete the two metabolites of the Streptomyces rimosus bacteria: the antibiotics and the geosmin aroma.
Here are 2 artificial ecosystems sharing a light source. Access to this light source is granted through a market. Each colony of photosynthetic bacterias can claim access to light thanks to credits earned for their oxygen production. The rules driving the market are optimized through a genetic algorithm. This artificial intelligence is testing different populations of financial systems on these 2 sets of Cyanobacteria. Like so, the photosynthetic cells and the computer are experimenting with different political systems granting access to this resource. The system oscillates between collaborative and competitive states. The genetic algorithm pictures the rules of these proto-societies as genes. By breeding populations of societies, new generations of markets arise. Like so, the sum of microscopic series of events determines the status of the system at a macroscopic scale.
Until I die
This installation operates on unique batteries that generate electricity using my blood. The electric current produced by the batteries powers a small electronic algorithmic synth module. This module creates generative sound composition that plays via a small speaker. The blood used in the installation was stored up gradually over 18 months. The conservation included a number of manipulations to preserve the blood’s chemical composition, color, homogeneity and sterility to avoid bacterial contamination. The total amount of blood conserved was around 4.5 liters; it was then diluted to yield 7 liters, the amount required for the installation. The blood was diluted with distilled water and preservatives such as sodium citrate, antibiotics, antifungal agents, glucose, glycerol etc. The last portion of blood (200ml) was drawn from my arm during the performance presentation, shortly before the launch of the installation.
Internet of Everything: All Connections
‘Internet of Everything: All Connections’ is a piece of work that connects human, animals, plants, bacteria, environment, compound and equipment using the Internet. It consists of seven parts. One part affects the other by sequence. It doesn’t have a starting point or an ending point in this connection – because they are an interlocking loop structure. The weak bio-electricity of the human body is passed to the bacteria, Proteus. The bacteria starts to vibrate due to the electrical stimulation. Its motion is captured by the microscope and input to Max in real time. Data arising from the change in value in the bacteria movement controls the next part.
Teresa van Dongen
Teresa van Dongen explores the specific bacteria as a means to generate electricity for domestic use. Electric Life is the latest translation in Dongen’s ongoing exploration for alternative and natural sources of energy and light. The light installation is entirely powered by micro-organisms that have electrons as a waste product.
“I considered the first life forms on Earth and how we came to be as a way to refer to the Natural Sciences. I looked at fossil records of the first multi cellular organisms of the Ediacaran Period, 555 million years ago for inspiration. I was struck by the theory of symbiosis in evolution; our DNA ancestors are the resultant fusion of single cellular organisms and bacteria. The millions of bacteria in our bodies are our foremothers. EON is a speculative fiction, a depiction of early life forms underwater. The Universe was formed 13.7 billion years ago. The Earth is 4.543 billion years old. Cyanobacteria or blue-green algae were the first microbes to create oxygen on Earth via photosynthesis 3.5 billion years ago. First humans 200,000-300,000 years ago.” Jennifer Steinkamp
“Ludy’s toxic cloud shapes are featured more predominantly in this room, morphing into figures that look bacterial. They are both meditative and threatening as they swell and heave with no identifiable pattern. Ludy’s works are also surrounded by digital frames adding a classical sophistication to her contemporary digital pictures.” Shauna Jean Doherty
The individual Roombots are about the size of fat grapefruits, but one day they could be much smaller. Vespignani and his fellow researchers are investigating ways for the bots to communicate among themselves, like bacteria. In a hundred years, maybe the individual units will be so small as to be microscopic–and instead of summoning 10 friendly robots from different corners of the room, a person could summon something as nebulous and numerous as an army of technological spores.
Using one of the most unusual materials you could imagine, artist Anna Dumitriu transforms superbugs into unique items of clothing. The artist sterilizes strains of deadly bugs that kill tens of thousands of people across the US each year. She then uses the strains to embroider into dresses and quilts. Her work has a fascinating concept behind it, exploring the complex relationship between humans and bacteria.
The marble sculpture PROMETHEUS DELIVERED – a replica of Prometheus Bound by Nicolas Sébastien Adam (1762) – is slowly decomposed by chemolithoautotrophic bacteria. The acidic process water from the bioreactor KAZBEK penetrates the body of the sculpture via tubes and runs off the surface of the stone. The limestone turns into gypsum while the sculpture slowly dissolves. The biomass of the bacteria is the energy source for human liver cells from which the organic sculpture OCTOPLASMA grows. Inorganic stone turns into organic meat. PROMETHEUS DELIVERED is a play on words, referring to birth in the sense of “delivery”, and to the central importance of the liver in myth.
‘Crocheted Membrane’ experiments with creating a momentary fiction through fashion artifacts. Starting with the physical needs of one individual human body in an outdoor temperature of 10 degrees Celsius, seven hand-crocheted body forms were produced. The clothing’s texture got thinner or opened up completely on areas of the body that needed less warmth and were thicker where warmth was lacking. In this way, a fundamental change in the aesthetic and function of clothes was displayed. Fixed forms, such as trousers, were recreated into new, unique body forms. Instead of one uniform surface, the textures became alive and inimitable. “Her concept of clothing does not derive in the same way as most fashion design, from shape or historically patterned form with embedded social hierarchy and material richness, but is instead determined by the needs and sensations of the human body – performing in the same way that bacteria populations individually respond.” (Villeré 2014) The resulting fictional artifacts illustrate how we could use knowledge about our unique bacteria population to create a novel layer.
Madrid-based 3D artist Lee Griggs created some fascinating topographical illustrations using 3D animation and rendering software Maya Xgen and Arnold. Each piece is comprised of countless spheres, cylinders, or cubes that have been extruded and colored to create images reminiscent of ocean floors, bacterial growth, or even weather patterns.
Olle Cornéer and Martin Lübcke
Public Epidemic Nº 1 (Bacterial Orchestra)
Олле и Любке
“Bacterial Orchestra” (2006), a self-organizing evolutionary musical organism where each cell lives on an Apple iPhone (it can be ported to any mobile phone, but the iPhone was chosen because it’s popular and the centralized App Store makes it easy for the epidemic to spread). That way, hundreds of people can gather with their mobiles and together create a musical organism. It will evolve organically in the same way as “Bacterial Orchestra”, but it will also be much more infectious. The installation and the ideas behind it can be traced from different areas such as chaos theory, self-organizing systems and neural networks. The goal? A world wide sound pandemic, of course.
In the earliest stages of my work, I was intrigued by normal flora bacteria, the ubiquitous bacteria that live on us, in us, and around us. At the time this area was described as being of no commercial or medical interest – an ideal area for artistic research some might say! It threw into question for me the ways in which our scientific understanding of the world is limited by mundane things like finance, and how the limits of our understanding are drawn by factors other than curiosity.
Vegetation and microorganisms live in symbiosis inside the body of the Nomadic Plants robot. Whenever its bacteria require nourishment, the self-sufficient robot will move towards a contaminated river and ‘drink’ water from it. Through a process of microbial fuel cell, the elements contained in the water are decomposed and turned into energy that can feed the brain circuits of the robot. The surplus is then used to create life, enabling plants to complete their own life cycle. As Gilberto wrote in our email conversation, “The nomadic plant is a portray of our own species. It also deals with the alienated transformation of this new hybrid species that fights for its survival in a deteriorated environment.”