These are bacteria from my own microbiome. Whilst they are visually striking, for a change, they have not been selected on this basis. Instead, each one produces a novel and remarkable aroma, and when these are blended together, they generate a unique mood changing microbiomal scent. In this unique perfume, 11 individual bacterial notes have been combined to generate the world’s first bacterial perfume!
I’m still exploring crystallisation processes. This dark forest is made of pure silver and its fractal-like crystals form as a consequence of a displacement reaction between silver nitrate and copper metal.
Order from disorder. A number of chemical reactions are carefully brought to a critical point where they suddenly implode from a random state into a crystalline one.
Traditionally, what we consider to be “self” is usually restricted to the collection of 40 trillion or so eukaryote cells that derive directly from the 22,000 genes of our own human genome. However, the “omic” technologies of the 21st century are radically redefining the view that we have of ourselves, so that “self” can now be seen to extend beyond the traditional precinct of our visible form, and to include our resident bacterial community. In fact, our bacterial aspect (the microbiome), containing 100 trillion normally invisible cells, and 2 million microbial genes, dwarfs our eukaryotic genetics and physiology. Recent studies are now beginning to reveal the huge impact of the microbiome on our health and even its ability to modulate our behaviour.
This project stems from my thought that for every artist, either living today, or dead, that the body’s microbiome, that is its invisible hundreds of trillions of bacterial cells, would have made at least some contribution to the artist’s work, in terms of influencing the mood or health of the artist. Here, I gave this usually invisible aspect of ourselves the opportunity to paint for itself, away from my conscious intervention. Colourless bacteria from my own microbiome were mixed with traditional watercolours (red, blue and green) and left in a warm incubator to interact with these overnight. The following morning I discovered that the bacteria had picked up the paints, and then moved these watercolours around the medium, in the same way that an artist might paint. The paintings are thus unique self-portraits, being direct manifestation of the power, activity and complexity of my other bacterial self. These microbiomal paintings were produced by the bacteria from my hand, gut and mouth, and will soon be on display at The Eden Project’s groundbreaking exhibition on the microbiome.
Q: I never know what colours go together, so I always just wear black and gray. Do you have any tips to make mixing colors easier?
A: Let your body’s microbiome, that is its trillions of bacteria, decide for you.
These are uniquely personal living pigments for textile designs, in that they are bacteria that I’ve isolated from my own microbiome.These pale pastel colours, and more as they become available, will be used soon to make intensely personal fabric designs for a unique clothing range. Here’s a swatch of black cotton with the some of bacterial bacterial pigments isolated so far.
Tibicos or Water Kefir grains are a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts entrapped within in a polysaccharide biofilm matrix created by the bacteria. The polysaccharide produced is called Kefiran which has been shown to be produced by Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp.
These preliminary experiments investigate the potential use of Kefiran as a hard bioplastic. The next steps will be to purify and culture the lactic acid bacteria…. Continue reading
I’ve been obsessed with crystals ever since reading Ballard’s Crystal World and Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle as a teenager. Here’s a type of “ice” that crystallises at room temperature. An early test for ice-nine.