The Aesthetic Bacillus: co-creation across Species and Scales

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 communitiesIMG_5050 IMG_5052 IMG_5053 IMG_5054 IMG_5055 IMG_5056 IMG_5057 IMG_5058 IMG_5059 IMG_5060 IMG_5061 IMG_5062 IMG_5064 IMG_5065 IMG_5066 IMG_5067 IMG_5068 IMG_5069 IMG_5070 IMG_5071 IMG_5072 IMG_5073 IMG_5074 IMG_5075 IMG_5077 IMG_5078 IMG_5079 IMG_5080 IMG_5081 IMG_5082 IMG_5083 IMG_5084 IMG_5085 IMG_5086 IMG_5087 IMG_5088 IMG_5089 IMG_5090 IMG_5091 IMG_5092 IMG_5093 IMG_5094 IMG_5095 IMG_5098 IMG_5099 IMG_5100 IMG_5101 IMG_5102 IMG_5103 IMG_5104 IMG_5105 IMG_5106 IMG_5107 IMG_5108 IMG_5109 IMG_5110 IMG_5111 IMG_5112 IMG_5113 IMG_5114 IMG_5115 IMG_5116 IMG_5117 IMG_5118


2 thoughts on “The Aesthetic Bacillus: co-creation across Species and Scales

  1. All I can say is – Wow! I make my own watercolour paints from local pigments. I have just been levigating glauconite from sandy black clay collected off a beach near Dunedin. Got a real surprise when I discovered the black colouring came from the black glauconite grains. The glauconite is green when ground in binder. I often wonder about the bacteria living in the clay residue from the levigation. Must have a go!

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