Lives Unstill: a creative collaboration with bacteria.

Lives Unstill: a creative collaboration with bacteria. This was a joint project with water colour artist Sarah Roberts to study the interaction of naturally occurring pigmented bacteria (living paints) with traditional water colours. Sarah painted a series of separate shapes onto an agar surface using the red pigmented bacterium Serratia marcescens and various watercolours. When the paintings were incubated overnight to allow the bacteria to grow, something remarkable occurred. Many people, including Alexander Fleming, have painted with bacteria before, but here the bacteria had swarmed over the agar surface and actually moved the water colours around transforming the painting completely. In doing so, the bacteria had converted a lifeless image into something far more dynamic. The new and vibrant painting that emerges is an expression of their otherwise invisible activity and also a manifestation of our current scientific understanding of the complexity of bacterial behaviour, how they swarm, communicate, move together in a coordinated manner, and build channels to  irregatate large bacterial communities

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