The Microbiomal Technicolour Dreamcoat

Before incubation

Before incubation

Before incubation

Before incubation

Before incubation

Before incubation

After incubation

After incubation

After incubation

After incubation

After incubation

After incubation

The dyes on these textile samples have been generated by the activity of the bacteria from my own microbiome. The process involves the use of chromogens which are commonly used in bacteriology for the convenient identification of bacteria. Essentially, chromogens are colourless compounds which become brightly coloured (here, blue, pink, black and purple) when certain types of bacteria interact with them.

The idea behind this project is to highlight the importance of the human microbiome, a massively complex microbial ecosystem of some 100 trillion or so microorganisms that live on the body and which has recently been shown to have profound influence on our health and even mental well-being. These are test swatches and the final outcome will be a brightly coloured and wearable garment in which the colours and designs are a result of the activities of my own microbiome.

I like the fact that I only have limited control over the final design,  as the bacteria used impart their own and usually hidden narrative to the work, as they move through the fabric and interact with it, and each other.

Three Colonizations

IMG_3884 IMG_3885 IMG_3886

These are by Poulomi Desai and are from Anna Dumitriu’s BioArt workshop taking place at Watermans Art Centre as as part of The Romantic Disease events.

Poulomi printed out these images placed them onto a microbiological kitchen agar that I developed a while ago (a medium that allows the growth of many microorganisms and which can be prepared simply from ingredients purchased at many supermarkets.

The images have been transformed, and colonized by,  life forms of real importance and hidden influence, that is the Earth’s microorganisms.

I find them quite disturbing and funny in equal measure.

Colouring My Microbiome: Update

IMG_3870 IMG_3871 IMG_3872 IMG_3873 IMG_3874 IMG_3875 IMG_3876

These are bacteria from my personal microbiome and thus, they are small part of the 100 trillion or so  microorganisms that live in my gut, mouth, skin and elsewhere. The total number of genes in my “second”  microbial genome exceeds the number of my human genes by a factor of 100-to-one.

I’m starting a project to colour my own micobiome so that I might paint, print or colour textiles with it. The processes uses chromogens.  These are colourless compounds that become brightly coloured when bacteria act upon them. So far I have made pink, blue, black and metallic black with members of my normal bacterial flora. I’m liking the idea of a living black ink made from it. Here are purified streaks of coloured bacteria that I have collected so far.

Colouring My Microbiome

IMG_3847 IMG_3848 IMG_3850 IMG_3851 IMG_3852 IMG_3853 IMG_3855 IMG_3858 IMG_3860 IMG_3862 IMG_3863 IMG_3864

These are bacteria from my personal microbiome and thus, they are small part of the 100 trillion or so  microorganisms that live in my gut, mouth, skin and elsewhere. The total number of genes in my “second”  microbial genome exceeds the number of my human genes by a factor of 100-to-one.

I’m starting a project to colour my own micobiome so that I might paint, print or colour textiles with it. Here are the very first tests. The processes uses chromogens.  These are colourless compounds that become brightly coloured when bacteria act upon them. So far I have made pink, blue, black and metallic black with members of my normal bacterial flora. I’m liking the idea of a living black ink made from it. What poems could I write with it?