Bio-Patination: incorporating the human microbiome into sculpture?



It’s difficult to believe that these explorations are six years old now. They were made with artist Sarah Craske and myself, and I can’t remember how we both ended up doing this, but we did, and that’s the wonder and joy of an artist and scientist working together. You both end up somewhere that you never envisaged at the beginning, and totally unexpected and unique processes can emerge from this interaction. . The images here are of bronze coupons that Sarah brought to the lab, and which we inoculated with strains of bacteria from my culture collection. The image above is of the opportunistic bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa spread onto the bronze surface where it can be clearly seen to be reacting with the copper in the bronze to form blue copper salts. Patination is a widely used process of applying various, and usually harmful and environmentally damaging, chemicals to the surface of the metal in order to achieve a visually appealing  stain on its surface. Here it seems that bacteria are able to carry out a more sustainable kind of  BioPatination.

Below are images of the BioPatination generated by a mixed culture of soil bacteria and the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens

Soil bacteria interacting with bronze



Pseudomonas fluorescens  interacting with bronzebiopat3

In the age of the microbiome is it now time to revisit this process,  and to begin to generate bronze “sculptures” that are patinated with, and which will uniquely  incorporate the human microbiome into their form?

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