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

 

Eight Waters: Behold the Sea Itself

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This is a project with artist Sarah Craske that seeks to explore the nature of water. The chemical properties of pure water are universal, and unchanging, and what gives natural water courses their identity and unique characteristics is what exists within it and between the spaces of its polar molecules. The project seeks to reveal these defining and usually invisible elemental signatures. The images here are from tests for processes for the project. In a still ongoing process, here samples from a variety of natural water courses have been converted into gels by adding agar. In a carefully controlled process, water is now being removed from the gels and they are now being converted into thin and transparent films which have captured the defining chemical signatures of the waters, allowing them to become visible. These films are all derived from seawater.

Eight Waters: update

Film from a tannic moorland pool

Film from a tannic moorland pool

Film from the River Thames, Trinity Buoy Wharf

Film from the River Thames, Trinity Buoy Wharf

Film from seawater from Lepe Beach.

Film from seawater from Lepe Beach.

Film from the River Thames, Trinity Buoy Wharf

Film from the River Thames, Trinity Buoy Wharf

Projection through the film from the River Thames, Trinity Buoy Wharf

Projection through the film from the River Thames, Trinity Buoy Wharf

Projection through the film from the River Thames, Trinity Buoy Wharf

Projection through the film from the River Thames, Trinity Buoy Wharf

Projection through the film from seawater from Lepe Beach.

Projection through the film from seawater from Lepe Beach.

Projection through the film  from a tannic moorland pool

Projection through the film from a tannic moorland pool

This is a new project with artist Sarah Craske that seeks to explore the nature of water. The chemical properties of pure water are universal, and unchanging, and what gives natural water courses their identity and unique characteristics is what exists within it and between the spaces of its polar molecules. The project seeks to reveal these defining and usually invisible elemental signatures. The images here are from tests for processes for the project. In a still ongoing process, here eight samples from a variety of natural water courses have been converted into gels by adding agar. In a carefully controlled process, water is now being removed from the gels and they are now being converted into thin and transparent films which have captured the defining chemical signatures of the waters, allowing them to become visible. I’m struck by the amazing diversity of the forms how they reflect the original qualities of the waters, silty, salty, or tannic

Toilet Biofilm UV Biohack

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Don’t tell Diane my partner but I found a bacterial biofilm growing under the rim of the toilet in our en suite bathroom. Using General Kitchen Agar (GKA), a bacteriological medium that can be made at home and with ingredients that can be purchased at any supermarket I cultured the bacteria from the biofilm. Here they are visualized under a UV/Blacklight (again readily available). This reveals that some of the bacteria are highly fluorescent (the ones that appear to glow blue) and are probably Pseudomonas species. Am I concerned with this apparent lapse of home hygiene? Not at all, it’s just another striking example of the ability of  bacteria to adapt to the new environments that we seem to perpetually, and unintentionally, create for them.

Paenibacillus: agar films, and projections

Projection

Projection

Projection

Projection

Film

Film

Film

Film

Paenibacillus are a species of  highly motile bacteria that  communicate and move in a coordinated manner to form incredibly complex patterns that change in response to their environment. Here I have dried out agar cultures of these bacteria to form thin and transparent agar films and projected light through these. I find the projections quite sinister for some reason. These and many other bacteria are available for exploration and C-MOULD.

New Mineralologies

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This is a novel crystalization process which  allows various minerals to from complex crystals and which also captures them for artistic purposes. Would be suitable for meaningful lampshades, stained glass, kalaidoscopes and for projections

Black Anthropogenic Slime Mould

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I visited Garry Hunter at Trinity Buoy Wharf today and was struck by the way  that today’s heat seemed to be drawing the sites old industrial archaeology into the present as bubbles of a thick tar like substance emerged from the soil, like the sporangia of a new species of a black  and anthropogenic slime mould. In the heat, for a moment I thought I was in a science fiction film as a saw my face reflected  in the liquid black jet-like globules.

Eight Waters

The natural samples from left to right 1-8

The natural samples from left to right 1-8

The natural samples from left to right 1-4

The natural samples from left to right 1-4

The natural samples from left to right 5-8

The natural samples from left to right 5-8

The  samples from left to right 1-4 with universal pH indicator added. The red/orange and yellow colours reveal  various degrees of acidity.

The samples from left to right 1-4 with universal pH indicator added. The red/orange and yellow colours reveal various degrees of acidity.

The  samples from left to right 1-4 with universal pH indicator added. The red/orange and yellow colours reveal  various degrees of acidity.

The samples from left to right 1-4 with universal pH indicator added. The red/orange and yellow colours reveal various degrees of acidity.

The  samples from left to right 5-8 with universal pH indicator added. The  green/blue colours  reveal  neutrality and alkalinity.

The samples from left to right 5-8 with universal pH indicator added. The green/blue colours reveal neutrality and alkalinity.

The  samples from left to right 1-4 with universal pH indicator added. The red/orange and yellow colours reveal  various degrees of acidity.

The samples from left to right 1-4 with universal pH indicator added. The red/orange and yellow colours reveal various degrees of acidity.

I have a new project with artist Sarah Craske that seeks to explore the nature of water. The chemical properites of pure water are universal, and unchanging,  and what gives natural water courses their identify and unique characteristics is what exists within it and between the spaces of its polar molecules. The project seeks to reveal these defining elemental signatures. The images here are from tests for processes for the project. They reveal natural differences in the colour and turbity of different waters and after the addition of a universal pH indicator striking differences in pH. Here are the waters:

  1. Brown and  tannic  pool,  Shatterford, New Forest
  2. Red muddy ferric  pool, Shatterford, New Forest
  3. Brown and tannic pool, Shatterford, New Forest
  4. Brown and tannic pool, Shatterford, New Forest
  5. Beaulieu River water, Bucklers Hard, New Forest
  6. Seawater, Lepe Beach, New Forest
  7. River Itchen water, Tumbling Pool, Twyford
  8. Thames River water, Trinity Buoy Wharf, London

The next step in the process is to convert the waters into gels by adding agar. This will allow the water to removed, allowing their characteristic and defining chemical signatures to be captured in a thin and transparent agar film.

Droplets of pure water as extracted from the various  samples. Water is the carrier for the unique chemical signatures that define the various water courses. Pretty but it is the residue left behind by water's absence that will make the art work.

Droplets of pure water as extracted from the various samples. Water is the carrier for the unique chemical signatures that define the various water courses. Pretty but it is the residue left behind by water’s absence that will make the art work.

Droplets of pure water as extracted from the various  samples. Water is the carrier for the unique chemical signatures that define the various water courses. Pretty but it is the residue left behind by water's absence that will make the art work.

Droplets of pure water as extracted from the various samples. Water is the carrier for the unique chemical signatures that define the various water courses. Pretty but it is the residue left behind by water’s absence that will make the art work.

Droplets of pure water as extracted from the various  samples. Water is the carrier for the unique chemical signatures that define the various water courses. Pretty but it is the residue left behind by water's absence that will make the art work.

Droplets of pure water as extracted from the various samples. Water is the carrier for the unique chemical signatures that define the various water courses. Pretty but it is the residue left behind by water’s absence that will make the art work.

The waters converted into firm agar gels ready for the dehydration process

The waters converted into firm agar gels ready for the dehydration process

All That Glitters……

Gold

C-MOULD  is  a unique collection, and knowledge base, for microorganisms that have application within the arts. One of its acquisitions, the bacterium Cupriavidus metallidurans strain CH34  will  reductively precipitate toxic gold(I/III)-complexes to produce  nano-particulate metallic gold. In other words this microbial alchemist can transform certain chemicals into gold. Here it has been exposed to Auric Chloride (gold chloride) and produced gold as a small scale test for an art project to make the sheep with the Golden Fleece. I won’t get rich from this project as 1 g Auric Chloride costs £80. Remember this is art and not science.