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 when certain type 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

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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

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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

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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?

Helion (Woven Sunlight): a new paradigm in BioTextiles?

Cyanobacterium screening. Six species of cyanobacteria were investigated for BioMaterial production. Only Oscillatoria animalis produced the desired material.

Cyanobacterium screening. Six species of cyanobacteria were investigated for BioMaterial production. Only Oscillatoria animalis produced the desired material.

The Helion Dress, conjured from sunlight and air

The Helion Dress, conjured from sunlight and air

The Helion Dress, conjured from sunlight and air

The Helion Dress, conjured from sunlight and air

The Helion Dress, conjured from sunlight and air

The Helion Dress, conjured from sunlight and air

The Helion Dress, conjured from sunlight and air

The Helion Dress, conjured from sunlight and air

 

This little “dress” has been conjured from just thin air and sunlight.  Various groups are investigating the use of bacterially derived materials for BioDesign, and most notably, the production of bacterial cellulose using Gluconoacetobacter xylinus or Kombucha . The production of these materials, however, relies on the provision of some feedstock for the bacteria, usually in the form of refined sugar,  the production of which is energy intensive.  Here scientists at C-MOULD have grown a small dress using the  cyanobacterium  Oscillatoria animalis,  sunlight and air.

Cyanobacteria are aquatic and photosynthetic bacteria that have been hugely important in shaping the course of evolution and the content of the Earth’s atmosphere, but here one has been put to use to assimilate sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce a unique and sustainable BioMaterial.

This is a first test on a small scale but more larger scale tests are planned.

Some notes on Urschleim and the Origin of Chalk

 

A chalky suspension of coccolithophores, chalk makers

A chalky suspension of coccolithophores, chalk makers

Coccolithophores are single cell microscopic organisms that live in large numbers throughout the sunlight zone  of the Earth’s oceans. Unlike other types of phytoplankton, these organisms surround themselves with a rigid microscopic armour made of calcium carbonate. This exoskeleton comprises of at least 30 small hubcap shaped calcium carbonate scales known as coccoliths.   Whilst coccolithophores are microscopic they have had a dramatic impact on our planet. As these minute organisms live and die in their trillions, they sink to the ocean’s floor where over time their calcium carbonate  plates form rocks such as chalk and limestone. . Over geological time, these organisms have removed significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Today, it is estimated that coccolithophores deposit more than 1.5 million tons of calcite a year, making them the leading calcite producers in the ocean. As the concentration of carbon dioxide it the Earth’s atmosphere increases, and its oceans become acidified, it has been predicted that coccolithophores will be less able to generate calcium carbonate and this may have global implications for the carbon cycle.

Thomas Henry Huxley (“Darwin’s bulldog”) was one of the first to examine to detect coccoliths within marine sea muds and was the first to use the term “coccolith”. However, he initially thought that he had discovered a new organic substance and believed it to be a form of primordial matter, the source of all organic life, after Haeckel had theorized about Urschleim (primordial slime).